Boston: the Canadian Story
|Jerome Drayton 1977
The man who would become the greatest Canadian distance runner of his time was not born Jerome Drayton. Nor was he born in Canada. He entered the world at Kolbermoor, Germany, in the final days of World War II. The date was January 10, 1945, and he was christened Peter Buniak after his father. Buniak was a Ukranian name and it was conspicuous in the Germany that still belonged that winter to Adolf Hitler. Any non-German name was. His mother Sonia was young and frightened by the war. Just nineteen she had come to Germany as a girl from a small village in the Ural Mountains of Russia. She and her husband could not guarantee their own safety bet alone that of a newborn child. (a) Friends and family, worried that a child would complicate life impossibly for the couple, urged her to have an abortion. She recoiled at the idea but did agree to have the child at home, away from the prying eyes of German authorities.
Life carried on against the backdrop of the war until the eighth month of pregnancy when she slipped and fell while boarding a streetcar. Going into labor prematurely, she was left with no choice but to enter hospital.
The birth was attended by a disinterested German nurse to whom Sonia Buniak reacted with instinctive distrust. Her fears seemed realized when the nurse held up the newborn infant dispassionately and spoke doubtfully about his chances of survival. Terrified, the new mother snatched her baby away and slapped him on the back until she heard a cry of life. Seizing the first opportunity thereafter, she stole up to the hospital nursery and fled into the night with her infant in her arms.“She had nowhere to go so she just ran, feeding me on potatoes and icicles as she went along.” (78)
The Buniaks survived the war but could not escape the poverty and deprivation it left behind. Rarely during the ensuing years was there adequate money for the shelter, care and feeding of their young son. The strain took its toll and the couple separated when Peter was six. Since neither parent could afford to look after him, he was placed in a foster home at Eggenfelden on the outskirts of Munich. A farm was attached to the home and there were occasional good times when the boys who stayed there would pitch hay or ride cows but for the most part it was a lonely and jolting experience. His parents visited when they could but Peter spent most of the time fending for himself in what was normally a noisy and quarrelsome atmosphere.
He was there two years before being moved to a second home in Munich. The change meant he was closer to his parents and saw them more regularly but the new home was rougher than the first. Inhabited by about fifty boys, it was run by overworked Roman Catholic nuns who had little time to settle squabbles or look after individual needs. Peter knew little of love and comfort in the two further years he spent in a foster home setting. Instead, he became the target of taunts and abuse from others. One reason was his size: he was small, almost frail. But the main reason was his name.
“Children are terrible at that age. I didn’t have a German name and when you’re with the same group all the time there tend to be frustrations and fights. Groups within groups tend to form and each group has its leader, and usually it’s the leader who challenges outsiders. I was challenged a lot.”
Some fights he lost but many he won, storming back against his tormentors with fists flying, dark eyes flashing hate and vengeance. He learned to live within himself, defensive, coiled, ready at an instant to strike back in anger. Fights extended even into the sacred confines of the church where Peter was an altar boy. Priests were sometimes called upon in the middle of mass to pull warring antagonists apart. It was not a happy existence and the recollections remain deeply etched in his memory.
“I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone. I wouldn’t want to experience it again but, in retrospect, it had an effect on me. The struggle made me a stronger person. You had to survive.”
Sonia Buniak, who had official custody of her son, wanted badly to be reunited with him but found that to do so she first had to leave him behind. Seeking a new life in the new world, she left Germany in 1955 for Canada where she settled in Toronto and found work at Toronto Western Hospital. Originally she had wanted to go to New York but changed her mind upon learning that her son could be drafted into the American army. Canada seemed less likely to involve him with the military or with war, she thought.
In Toronto she met Walter Huziuk, also a Ukranian immigrant, a former school teacher who was trying as well to build a new life. They were married that December and Peter finally joined them in November, 1956, a move that came for him without warning. One day he was still in the foster home, the next he was stepping off a plane in Canada and being swept into his mother’s arms.
The first major task in Toronto was to learn English. His mother and stepfather lived in the Kensington Market area and Peter was enrolled at St. Patrick’s Public School. The school was tough by Toronto standards and learning the strange new language was difficult. But it was a welcome change from the foster home. Boys mingled with girls at St. Patrick’s and there were fewer fights. Later the family moved to the west end of Toronto, not far from the windy shore of Lake Ontario, and Peter went to Mimico High School. He kept to himself a good deal and had few close friends. In summer, to save money for university, he worked at the Continental Can Company, packing tins into boxes or inspecting lids that flew out of a machine at bewildering speed. His stepfather, who worked at the plant full-time, helped him get the job.
The track at Mimico High School was not really a track in the early 1960s, more a field with a path around the perimeter. Peter paid little attention to it. He preferred to spend his time in ill-lit billiard halls, hunched over a cue ball and earning a reputation as one of the better high school pool sharks. When he turned to running it was on a whim. A friend asked him to enter the annual high school track meet for reasons that had nothing to do with sport. The motive was to attract a girl who at the time was dating the reigning high school track star. If Peter could dethrone the champion, the friend reasoned, the girl might be pried away. So Peter agreed to do his friend the favor and signed up for three events, the mile, half-mile and two-mile races. To his astonishment he swept all three, having scarcely trained beforehand. The girl remained unimpressed, disappointing the friend, but Peter was filled with excitement.
“For the first time in my life I had done something on my own.” (79)
That was in 1963. He quickly discovered he could excel as a runner.
Paul Poce, the man who founded the Toronto Olympic Club and later coached many of Canada’s best distance runners, recognized his talents and recruited Peter as a member.
“He was good,” Poce remembers. “There’s no two ways about it, right from the first time we saw him run. He swept through the high school championships and there were some good people around. He won decisively.” (80)
Yet Poce sensed a lack of commitment. The intensity required of a top runner was absent. Peter was running about three miles a workout and training only about three times a week. Other runners trained daily and ran three miles merely as a warm-up. Peter stayed for a while and then drifted away, back to the pool halls and other pursuits.
Mimico High School was a recruiting ground for more than promising young runners in the early 1960s. A motorcycle gang known as the Vagabonds sought recruits of its own at the school. Potential members were brought up through a high school chapter called the Rebels. The Rebels wore black vinyl jackets speckled with metal studs and were often in trouble with the law. Many carried switchblades and flashed them menacingly at high school dances. Peter did not become a Rebel but he came close, buying a motorcycle with his savings and hanging out with a callous crowd.
He also happened to get involved in a new sport, lacrosse, playing for a year with the Mimico Mountaineers. He enjoyed lacrosse and might not have returned to running had it not been for a tragedy that befell another Mimico lacrosse player, a handsome popular junior named Jim Smith. Knocked heavily into the boards one day during a routine game, Smith slumped to the floor with a broken back, paralyzed for life. The incident so unnerved Peter when he heard of it that he decided to quit the sport.
He returned to the Toronto Olympic Club, ready at last for the discipline required of a competitive runner. That was in 1965. Paul Poce welcomed him back and helped him develop, glad of the chance to work with such a naturally gifted athlete. Peter blossomed as a runner over the next two years but did not become a typical club member. He was quiet and often shunned the camaraderie of the group to head off by himself on long rambling runs down by the lakeshore or out among the hills of High Park. The solitude of running appealed from the outset. A moody athlete for a coach to judge, Peter said little and his thoughts were not easily read behind the armor of his dark brooding eyes. As time passed he acquired an air of mystery, an image enhanced by the sunglasses he so often wore to shield his eyes from the light. Poce let him train as he wanted but urged him to try for the team that would represent Canada at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
One of the athletes Peter met during this period was Andy Boychuk, a fellow club member and one of Canada’s finest amateur athletes. A marathoner, Boychuk was at the peak of his athletic career, having set a Canadian marathon record of 2:18:17 in running sixth at the Boston Marathon of 1967, and won the marathon gold medal at the Pan-American Games in Winnipeg the same year. Peter was intrigued by Boychuk’s success but not attracted to the marathon. He liked the track and wanted to excel at ten thousand metres, seeing the shorter event as his best chance of going to Mexico. Boychuk occasionally urged him to broaden his horizons and try longer distances.
“You’re not a man until you’ve run a marathon,” Boychuk once said.
The remark was casual, half-meant, but it lingered in Peter’s mind, grating like a grain of sand in an oyster shell. Gradually it grew into a challenge to his athletic manhood and he could not resist. His first marathon was the Motor City Marathon at Detroit, run June 2, 1968, on Belle Isle in the St. Mary’s River. Peter chose it with the Olympics in mind, even though he hoped to go to Mexico City as a ten thousand metres runner. Canadian Olympic officials had just announced that marathoners hoping to be considered for the Canadian team or to run the Canadian trial later in the summer must first meet a qualifying standard of 2:24:00 in another race. If he could meet the standard he would open a second potential door to the Canadian team. Peter ran the race as a classic novice, starting too fast and actually slowing to a walk in the late miles, but he managed to win the race and meet the standard by three seconds, running 2:23:57. Second place, twenty-two seconds slower, went to Andy Boychuk.
It was not necessary to actually run the Canadian marathon trial to be named to the Olympic team in 1968. If a runner performed well enough elsewhere he could be selected on that basis alone. The idea behind the two-level selection process was to send the strongest possible team to the Games.
Having just defeated Boychuk, the national champion, Peter gambled that he would go automatically to Mexico as a marathoner. So he skipped the marathon trial and went instead to Europe for the summer track season, planning to hone his skills in advance of the Canadian ten thousand metres trial. As it turned out, he was overshadowed in Europe by Dave Ellis, another Toronto Olympic Club runner. Ellis set a Canadian ten thousand metres record of 29:18 that summer and stole the headlines back home.
Peter returned to defeat Ellis in the Olympic trial, running 29:19.4, within two seconds of Ellis’ national record, then discovered to his disbelief that the committee was reluctant to put him on the team. Ellis was still the national champion and had been the better runner through the summer season so he should be the one to run ten thousand metres in Mexico, the committee reasoned. Sending both runners was a problem financially. This arbitrary ruling, making a mockery of the trial outcome, provoked such controversy that the committee relented and agreed to give Peter another chance. A second ten thousand metros trial was arranged.
He ran it alone in 29:17.2 to break Ellis’ record, then learned to his dismay that the track had been mismeasured. It was twenty-seven feet short. Again, the committee refused to bend. Ellis remained the superior runner and he alone would go to Mexico, it ruled. For Peter the blow was as crushing as it was unfair.
Meanwhile, Andy Boychuk had run and won another marathon, redeeming his reputation with a time nearly five minutes faster than he had run in Detroit and displacing Peter as the committee’s first choice for the marathon. Once again, Peter discovered, he was about to lose a berth on the team. As with the ten thousand metres, the committee balked at sending more than one marathoner to Mexico. Instead of representing Canada in two events at the Games it looked suddenly like Peter might not go at all. He was angry and hurt. Such a cavalier selection process seemed incredible. Others felt the same way, and the committee again relented and agreed to give Peter one last try.
A second marathon was arranged, over the same regional Ontario roads between Guelph and Dundas that Boychuk had run. The date was August 25, 1968, only five days after the last ten thousand metres trial, a scant fifteen after the first. A poorer way to prepare for an exhausting marathon would have been hard to devise but Peter was in no position to bargain.
He ran the trial like a man possessed, knowing he faced a formidable challenge. Put simply, he must run the fastest Canadian marathon ever or he would not make the team. Anything less would leave Boychuk with the title of national champion, still the obvious choice of the selection committee. Two other runners started the race to make it official but dropped out early, leaving Peter to his lonely quest. He reached down and found reserves he did not know he had. In those twenty-six miles, alone with himself and alone with his dreams, he became a marathoner and a champion. When the clock stopped as he crossed the finish line at Dundas it read 2:16:11, a new national record by more than two minutes. He would go to Mexico at last. Boychuk, fittingly for a Pan-American Games champion, went as well. The committee concluded that each had earned a rightful place on the team.
“From then on I felt that maybe the marathon was my best race. It’s amazing what you can find out about yourself when you want something so badly. You’ll do anything to get it.” (81)
he Olympic marathon was run October 20, 1968, from the Plaza de la Constitucion in downtown Mexico City to the packed Olympic Stadium in the south of the densely-populated metropolis. An account of the day described the scene:
“The spectacle was something that wasn’t easy to explain. Gathered in the square were 83 guys without their pants. They came from places like Kuwait and Guatemala and Zambia and Chad, and their attire, indeed, was unconventional. Some complemented their underwear with hats. Others wore headbands and still others berets, caps, handkerchiefs and bandanas. You pictured the puzzled Mexican observer nudging his friend and asking uncertainly, ‘Amigo, what’s happening? Is this a march of the peons?'” (82)
Neither Canadian was considered likely to challenge for an Olympic medal in 1968 and neither did. Boychuk, a straw hat perched on his head, ran a respectable tenth but his time was a disappointing 2:28:40, slowed by the rarefied air in the high Mexico City altitude (b). Peter fared less well. Stricken by dysentery, he dropped out of the race at fifteen miles.
Mexico was a keen disappointment for Peter but he was deeply affected by the spectacle the Games had been — the sense of high drama and ultimate athletic challenge. Even as he winged home to Canada his thoughts were on the medals he had seen the Olympians wear in Mexico. He too wanted one day to stand atop the Olympic podium and wear about his neck that dazzling circle of metal that said he was best in the world at something. The event did not matter. If it must be the marathon, if that was what physiology dictated, so be it. He would accept the challenge, submit to any discipline to achieve the goal.
Athletics transformed Peter’s sense of self-worth, lifting him out of the obscurity he felt as an immigrant and uncovering qualities in his character that surprised him.
When called upon, as he often was in competition, he found he could summon as much willpower, forbearance, even courage, as any athlete. For the first time in his life he had faith in himself and believed in his own abilities. The layers of inferiority, built up over so many years as an outsider, began to fall away. The process accelerated when he became a national champion and began to see that he was, in fact, an athlete with few peers. He was proud of his achievements and proud of his new identity, finding that he had entered a new life, one that was good and worthy and entirely of his own making. In March, 1969, he startled friends and family with a bold symbolic act declaring his new identity to the world. He changed his name. By the stroke of a lawyer’s pen he expunged his old name and became Jerome Drayton. At his mother’s request he retained Peter as a middle name but that was his only concession to the past.
Buniak was not a name to which he had ever felt attached. For as long as he could remember, back to the hostile days of the German foster homes, it had been a liability. Even in Canada it marked him as an immigrant, something less than a full member of society. ”Peter who?” people would ask. He resented having to spell and pronounce it.
The cost of shedding his ethnic past and becoming a Canadian clear and free was two hundred dollars in legal fees. The new name pleased him with its solid new world ring. When combined with his Caucasian skin, his western speech and dark hair it allowed him to blend perfectly into the crowd. Friends were unsure what to make of the change and some refused to stop calling him Peter. But he was adamant about his new identity and in time won his point.
A myth developed, the result of an inaccurate newspaper story, that the name was taken from two black sprinters, Harry Jerome and Paul Drayton. Though untrue it persisted through much of his athletic life as new sports writers rooted through old files and typed it into print again. The truth was that he chose Jerome because it was a name he had always liked and Drayton because he thought the two fit well together.
“If I was nutty enough at the time to take the names of heros they would have been distance runners,” he says. ”My heros in my younger days were Ron Clarke and Abebe Bikila. (83) (c)
When he graduated from Mimico High the one obsession in Drayton’s life beyond athletics was to find a career. While others of his generation sought answers in LSD and marijuana, he enrolled at the University of Toronto, hoping to learn the drug business from another perspective, that of a pharmacist. Two years later he abandoned the idea and, unsure of what he wanted, returned to the place he knew from summers past, the Continental Can Company.
The work allowed him to save money but he grew impatient with the monotony of the production line. One day, fed up at his slavery and the heat of the plant, he shut off his machine and stalked out. The act dismayed his stepfather who felt responsible and Drayton later returned reluctantly, the weight of his heavy training schedule being offered as an explanation of his rash behavior.
“They convinced me to come back, probably to make my stepfather feel more comfortable, and also because of the possibility of going back m the summer months again. In case I wanted to. It was really to leave with a good record.”
Subsequently he tried his hand at accounting, working for a period with a small Toronto firm and taking courses in his spare time. This led in turn to an interest in business administration and he decided to return to university, a step that brought an offer of a track and field scholarship at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico. The offer was appealing but he turned it down to enroll at McMaster University in Hamilton. The factor that persuaded him was Game Plan, a program for talented athletes run by the federal government. It is a decision that Drayton still regrets.
“That was a terrible mistake. It was just a mess for me. I had to fight for the $1,800 grants each year. The frustration and financial problems got to me emotionally. I was trying to train twice a day while worrying about the grants.” (84)
To make ends meet he once drove a bakery truck, rising at 2:30 a.m. in Toronto so that he could be in Hamilton in time to load the truck and make his rounds before classes. The strain showed. His body broke down from injuries and his studies suffered as well.
“Obviously I had to skip some classes. I had some friends who would provide me with their notes. For long periods of time I couldn’t train certain parts of the day.”
It was 1975 before he finally resolved his financial problems, finding a permanent niche with the sport and recreation branch of the Ontario government. Once the yoke of worry was lifted the results were spectacular.
Drayton came to international marathon prominence on a cool October day in 1969 at the Motor City Marathon in Detroit, the same race he had run and won a year earlier in response to Boychuk’s taunt. Better trained this time and running with the confidence of a champion, he attacked the flat five-lap island course, going through five miles in less than twenty-five minutes, ten miles in 50:30, fifteen in 1:16:05 and twenty in 1:40:38.5 (85)
When he burst across the finish line, more than fifteen minutes up on Ron Wallingford, another Canadian who finished second, spectators were scarcely ready for his arrival. The clock read exactly 2:12:00. Not merely a new Canadian record, it was also a North American record, the ninth fastest marathon ever run. The achievement sent Drayton’s name rippling through the marathon world and earned him an invitation seven weeks later to the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan, the race then considered the world marathon championship in all but Olympic years.
No other international marathon through the 1960s and 1970s attracted as fine a field of athletes. The organizers, the Japan Amateur Athletic Federation, and the Asahi Newspaper Syndicate (circulation seven million) scoured the world for the best runners available.
Still held each December, although its influence has waned with the emergence of major marathons in North America and Europe, the race is run through the streets of the southern Japanese port city of Fukuoka. Television cameras carry it live to the country and as many as a million spectators turn out in Fukuoka itself to watch and applaud.
Drayton flew to Fukuoka in 1969 direct from Toronto, an exhausting twenty-hour trip broken only by refuelling stops. When he stepped off the plane it was to the unaccustomed blaze of flashguns. A clutch of Japanese reporters was waiting. Drayton paused for an impromptu press conference, then tumbled gratefully into bed, glad that his Toronto travel agent had arranged for an evening arrival. With a single night’s sleep he was able to adjust to the jet lag caused by flying through thirteen time zones.
Drayton was good enough to be invited to Fukuoka in 1969 but he was not the race favorite. That honor went to Ron Hill, the British runner who that year had won the European championship. The Japanese newspapers featured Hill’s photograph along with the likes of Mamo Wolde, the Olympic champion, Akio Usami, the swiftest Japanese runner of the day, and Kim Chung Chi of South Korea. Drayton was an unknown by comparison but his anonymity ended with the crack of a gun at noon Sunday in Heiwadai Stadium.
As a field of seventy-nine of the world’s most intensely-trained runners set out in a cold gray rain, circling the track twice before striking mto the streets, Drayton took the lead.
“The track was under water. It was a clay track. By the time we got on the road my socks and shoes were completely soaked. I was in first place when we left the stadium and I just never looked back.”
He ran with an economical stride, upper body almost motionless, arms pumping just enough to maintain rhythm. Thick thigh muscles, developed to the point that they seemed disproportionately large for his pared down body, propelled him forward at deceptive speed. He devoured miles like a machine. Twenty-six miles later, having run out into the countryside and resumed to the heart of Fukuoka, he remained in the lead, no other runner able to catch him. Hill tried with a gallant closing surge but could only narrow the gap to forty-four seconds. Drayton circled the stadium track to an ovation and crossed the line in 2:11:13, another Canadian and North American record. “I’m not tired, but I’m cold,” he said. A blanket was wrapped about his shoulders. A few weeks later Track and Field News, the authoritative magazine of his sport named Drayton the top marathon runner of 1969.
Paul Poce was driving his car along the lakeshore in Toronto, trailing a group of runners out for a misty Sunday morning run, when he flipped the radio dial to the noon news and first heard the word from Fukuoka. He let out a yell and banged the steering wheel with his fist. Coaching a national champion was one thing, coaching the champion of Fukuoka quite another.
“Drayton has been slow to mature as a runner,” Poce said at the time.(86) “He’s an independent sort of guy. He doesn’t need too much coaching. He just logs miles and miles of training.”
Sixty-two years had passed since Toronto had known an international marathon hero. The last was Tom Longboat in 1907, when he resumed from the Boston Marathon. Tens of thousands had choked Toronto streets to welcome Longboat. He was paraded in an open car to City Hall, flags draped about his shoulders. Bands played. Fireworks exploded. Torches burned in the night air. That was in 1907.
When Jerome Drayton resumed home with far larger laurels in 1969 little notice was taken beyond a couple of routine newspaper accounts. Few were interested. The attention of the modern public was taken up with team sports that lent themselves to television and money, major league baseball, professional football and that greatest of all Canadian sports passions, ice hockey. The marathon was remote and obscure by comparison, its practitioners freaks, its champions scarcely worth noting.
One sign of the times was the Canadian National Exhibition Marathon of 1970, which attracted an international field including Jack Foster of New Zealand, the eventual winner. Crowds hurled caustic comments as the runners left Exhibition Stadium, although there was some applause along the route, and when they returned it was to almost empty stands. The Johnny Cash show, the feature attraction of the evening, ended half an hour early because of a timing botch-up and the crowds departed. Once the first couple of finishers arrived the grandstand lights were switched off. So dark was the place when the last runner came in that a match was struck to record his time. (87)
Drayton passed up the CNE Marathon in 1970 to run a ten-mile race two weeks later on September 6, also at Exhibition Stadium. The results showed why. Lapping all others in the twenty-one-runner field he flew through the distance in 46:37.6 to break Ron Hill’s world ten-mile record by more than six seconds.
“I didn’t expect a record but I started to think of one when there was just two miles to go,” he said. “At the first it felt like I was dragging my feet and I thought I would slow down. But I got stronger as the race went on.” (88)
For a while it seemed that no distance record was safe from this hawk-like Canadian with his fierce athletic resolve. Yet the ten-mile record was his last major achievement for five years. A frustrating sequence of injuries, coupled with bad luck and the strain of trying to find money for university, reduced Drayton to what he once described as ”an average Canadian distance runner.”
Problems lingered from a bone graft operation done years earlier when he rode a motorcycle and toyed with becoming a Rebel. The machine had a forward kick start that bounced back against his shin. A cyst formed from the repeated battering of the lever against his leg and had to be removed. The cast he wore at the time caused muscles in the affected leg to shrink, creating an imbalance that would go uncorrected through most of his athletic career. Shin splints, aggravated joints and a broken toe added to his woes. The solving of one problem seemed only to herald the arrival of the next. Even when he was able to run disaster seemed to strike.
The worst blow came once again from the Canadian Olympic Association as Drayton prepared for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany. He was anxious for several reasons to compete in Munich, not the least of which was that it was the city of his troubled boyhood. Returning as an Olympian offered a symbolic means of rewriting the past, the way he had rewritten his name. Munich also beckoned for another reason, one that went back to an indoor track meet in the prairie city of Saskatoon in December, 1970. Someone in the stands, probably a member of the local Ukrainian community, recognized Drayton and connected him with his original father, still living in Germany. Drayton had not seen or heard of his father since 1956, when he was swept off to Canada so abruptly they were unable to say farewell. The track fan in Saskatoon remained anonymous but wrote to the father of the son’s accomplishments. Some weeks later, to Drayton’s shock, the postman delivered a letter from his father to his home in Toronto.
They corresponded briefly and with difficulty, Drayton having forgotten most of his native German. Only at Munich, he finally decided, when he went for the games and the two could meet face to face, only then could contact realistically be re-established.
The Canadian marathon trial for Munich was planned for Montreal, the city that four years later would host the first Olympics in Canada . The race route was the one already mapped out tentatively for the 1976 games. A standard of 2:17:00 had been set by the selection committee and Drayton felt confident of meeting it easily. The trial was run on the evening of June 24, the St. Jean Baptiste Day holiday in Quebec, and Drayton led from the outset, running at a methodical pace calculated to bring him home comfortably within the standard. At thirty kilometres, well into the race, he was a full minute ahead of schedule. Brian Armstrong, a rising Toronto Olympic Club member, was a distant second. Then came the thirty-five-kilometre checkpoint and the news that Drayton had suddenly fallen a minute and a half off pace.
At first he thought the timers were wrong. Then he suspected the terrain of the marathon course, part of which had taken runners into open farm country outside the city. Drayton was used to running in urban streets where he could gauge his speed by the proximity of buildings and nearby objects. His pace felt as fast as ever but he thought he must have slowed. Discouraged, he abandoned hope of making up the time and reduced his speed to the minimum required to win. He finished in 2:23:13, Armstrong having closed the gap between them to just thirty seconds. (d)
All top runners, without exception, posted unusually slow times. The results were explained away by various factors, including the summer weather, but doubts lingered. Days later the truth of the matter leaked out despite attempts to conceal it by embarrassed officials. The course had been mis-measured. It was a full kilometre too long, a preposterous error for an Olympic trial race. Yet the selection committee was unbowed. It refused to accept the results, arguing that the times would not meet the standard even if adjusted for the error. The argument was specious and self-serving, ignoring the psychological factor to runners of being given incorrect time splits on the course.
“I had the feeling at the time that everything was lost,” Drayton recalls. “I thought, ‘What’s the point of pushing any more? Just win the thing.’ That’s what was going through my mind.”
The committee announced a second trial which Armstrong ran, again failing to meet the standard. Drayton declined to enter. The Olympic marathon was just weeks away. Even if he had qualified in the second trial the effort would have left him too drained to perform in Munich. His athletic dreams were dashed and the chance to see his father along with them.
“You couldn’t argue. It was the fault of whoever organized the marathon and set up that route. You think of quitting. You don’t care about the sport any more. But I almost immediately picked up running again.” (89)
The 1972 Olympic marathon was a landmark event for the sport of distance running. For the first time in sixty-four years it was won by an American, Frank Shorter. Not since Johnny Hayes was awarded the 1908 Olympic marathon in London, after Italian Dorando Pietri was helped across the finish line, had an American triumphed in the most prestigious of Olympic events. Shorter’s victory, watched on television by millions, touched off more than any other single factor the great mass running boom that swept North America in the 1970s. The marathon quickly became a symbol of personal excellence, not only for gifted athletes but for ordinary fitness runners. Marathon races that previously attracted only a handful of entrants were overwhelmed with hundreds, then thousands, of eager new runners.
Frank Shorter also dominated the Fukuoka Marathon in the early 1970s, winning four years in succession from 1971 through 1974. So unbeatable was Shorter at Fukuoka that the Japanese declined to invite him back in 1975, fearing that others might lose interest in the race. Invited instead was that other American star, Bill Rodgers, the slender blond athlete from the Greater Boston Track Club who that spring had swept to victory in the Boston Marathon with a new American marathon record of 2:09:55.
Also invited was Jerome Drayton, back in form after five years of financial problems and recurring injuries. Drayton had a steady job with Bob Secord at the Ontario government’s sports and recreation branch, obtained with the help of fellow runners Abby Hoffman and Bruce Kidd, and he had a new and effective training regimen, developed with the help of Paul Poce. That year at Fukuoka everything came together again.
Small things can stamp the character of a marathon. For Drayton that year it was the fact that he wore new shoes. A Japanese manufacturer wanted him to wear its latest model. He refused initially, explaining politely that it would take two weeks to break in a new pair from the factory. Not so easily put off, the company offered to build him a special pair, tailored to the contours and peculiarities of his feet. Drayton, assuming he would receive them months later at home, agreed to have measurements taken. He underestimated Japanese ingenuity.
“Five hours later they had a pair, made to my specifications. I felt I had no choice but to wear them. I felt obligated.” (90) Six miles into the race he knew he had made a mistake. The soles felt fine but something in the upper portion of the shoes caused his feet to turn outward, threatening leg injuries. The fact that it was raining, as it had in 1969, did not help. His mind flashed ahead to the 1976 Olympics. Even more than had been the case with Munich he wanted to run well in Montreal. The shoes could threaten his chances if he got injured so he held back, not pushing the pace. Yet at eighteen miles he still found himself with the leaders. Despite the fact that he could feel his legs beginning to tighten, he gambled and surged to the front, setting the pace for the next five miles. Then Dave Chettle of Australia shot past with three miles remaining and all seemed lost. Drayton let him pull away and looked instead for the flatest part of the roadway, seeking to ease the strain on his legs.
Then with a mile remaining he caught sight of Chettle eighty yards ahead and hope soared again. With a final push he closed the gap and regained the lead. Turning into Heiwadai Stadium Drayton’s legs felt so unsteady he feared he might fall. A roar filled the stands as he swung into view and circled the track. In his weariness he did not sense the electricity crowds generate in the presence of great performances. The atmosphere was alive with excitement.
Drayton, who always ran without a watch, had been unaware of his pace for several miles, although he knew from the effort that it had been fast. Exactly how fast came as a surprise. He won the race in 2:10:08, the fifth fastest marathon ever, averaging less than five minutes a mile the entire distance. It was a Canadian record that would stand for years to come. Only Bill Rodgers, on the strength of his great Boston victory that year, was ranked above Drayton in 1976 world marathon standings.
The victory returned Drayton to the top ranks of marathoning and set the stage for the Montreal Olympics. Now thirty years old he sensed it would be his best chance for a medal. The last Canadian to challenge seriously for an Olympic marathon medal had been Longboat in the storied 1908 London race awarded to Johnny Hayes. Yet it was not to be. Drayton managed to weather a new round of injuries and reach peak form for the Olympics. But disaster struck five days before the race. He came down with a head cold that stole away his high fine edge of fitness. Canadians watched via television as Waldemar Cierpinski of East Germany ran through the streets of Montreal to victory. Frank Shorter was second and Karl Lismont of Belgium was third. Drayton ran sixth and wept. It was a bitter blow.
So he did the only thing that was left to do. He went back to Fukuoka, back to the faraway city that was the scene of his greatest moments. Although Drayton remained little known in Canada despite his accomplishments, it was not the case in Fukuoka. He was the defending Fukuoka champion in 1976 and was hailed as such. Not even the presence of Cierpinski, fresh from his Olympic triumph, detracted from the stature in which Drayton was held by the Japanese. They shook his hand and sought his autograph. They bestowed upon him a nickname, Rainy Drayton, in honor of his two memorable runs to victory through the rain-soaked streets of their city. And it came as no great surprise to them when this great athlete from Canada proved his mettle anew and won their race for a third time.
Drayton and Cierpinski ran shoulder to shoulder for the first half of the race, until passing the turnaround point near Fukuoka Airport on the outskirts of the city. Then Drayton took command. Not once during the long run back to Heiwadai Stadium was he seriously challenged. Warm weather slowed his winning time to 2:12:35 but it was fast under the circumstances. To Japanese sports fans he was a genuine hero.
Ironically, his status with Fukuoka organizers quickly took a drastic plunge. The reason was a small incident that occurred the following day at a reception for Drayton and other visiting marathoners. A Japanese speaker talked during the ceremonies of the “disgraceful and dishonorable” performance of Japanese runners in the Montreal Olympic(91) and expressed embarrassment that they seemed unable to do any better at home in Fukuoka. His spleen vented, the man sat down and promptly fell asleep, awakened only by a burst of applause sometime later.
Annoyed at hearing runners disparaged, Drayton made a speech of his own, defending the Japanese marathoners and expressing surprise at hearing them attacked. His hosts listened in stony silence, angered that a guest would voice such criticism. Nothing further was said but the incident was not forgotten. Drayton was not invited back the following year.
“I think the tone of what I said got lost in the translation. I was being sincere but it sounded harsh from their point of view.”
The athletic peak Drayton reached in this period carried over to the Boston Marathon of 1977. After four unsuccessful marathons in Boston, the best being a third-place finish in 1974, he finally won the world’s most celebrated footrace. Success when it came was almost casual. After Fukuoka the previous December, Drayton went back to the track, concentrating on his speed at three thousand metres. Only four weeks beforehand, less than half the time he would have set aside normally to prepare, did he decide to run Boston. It was testimony to his remarkable athletic confidence at the time that he believed he could be competitive. He discussed it later.
“The confidence comes from my physical fitness,” he said. ”When I go to a race like Boston or Fukuoka, if there were no injuries in the last three or four months and my training has gone well, I’m very confident. As far as my training is concerned I know what I’m doing. I know the different phases of training, the time frames for each and the order within each phase. I know how to map out a program for myself. But you have to have Lady Luck on your side too — no injuries and all this. I have been having a lot of luck lately. And when I know that I have gone through the whole cycle of my training, and I come toward the end and reach the rest phase, then I taper off and get this rejuvenated feeling that sweeps through my body. You can sense it, you can feel your body coming to a peak.” (92)
The romantic appeal of Boston was something that had always escaped Drayton. He ran the race because of its reputation but he rarely enjoyed it. The rolling terrain, with its net drop in elevation, clashed with his running style. Coming down the hills he landed hard on his heels, putting a strain on his thigh muscles. In 1970, after a fierce battle with Ron Hill, he dropped out at ten miles. In 1975 he held on for twenty-four miles in a memorable race with Bill Rodgers but again was forced to quit. His legs had turned to cement. Drayton also disliked the casual attitude of the Boston Athletic Association toward the organization of the race.
Although the Boston field had grown with the running boom to a cast of thousands the BAA still ran things in the same way it always had. Crowd control was loose, vehicles sometimes got in the way, water stations were set up irregularly. On the morning of the 1977 race, as the first bus prepared to leave Boston for Hopkinton, Jock Semple stood at the door, stuffing two-dollar fares into a carpetbag. The night before a reporter had tried without success to get information at the press room.
“The Boston Marathon is like a fire,” he was told. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t ask for press information before a fire. (93)
Drayton was used to Fukuoka where the Japanese ran things with military precision and the sole concern of the runners was running. Boston hardly seemed worth the effort. The weather in 1977 only made matters worse. Patriot’s Day was bright and clear and the mercury soared.
Three thousand runners thronged to Hopkinton that morning, half again as many as the year before despite the stiff qualifying standard of three hours. They engulfed the town and caused a chaotic jam on Hayden Row where the starting line was located. Even the elite runners struggled for room at the front. The noon gun to begin the race was fired, so far as Drayton could tell, without warning. Two rows of runners leaped away before he had time to react. Someone grabbed his shirt. He was kicked and elbowed. For a moment he feared he would be trampled. Matters were not helped by the sharp right turn onto Main Street only yards from the start. Drayton managed to regain lost ground and take his place with the leaders but other problems lay ahead.
The first and most critical was water. Although the BAA had arranged for eight aid stations along the route they were useless to Drayton. Most he never saw. Those he did were stocked with Gatorade, a commercial preparation that upset his stomach. From previous years he recalled a water table at Ashland, the first town down from Hopkinton, but this year it was nowhere in sight. He turned to Bill Rodgers, the idol of the masses, who already had been handed one drink by his wife.
“Don’t they have any official water stations?” Drayton asked.
“No, you’re sort of on your own here,” said Rodgers. ”You have to depend on the spectators.”
The thermometer at that point was nearing eighty degrees at the asphalt level along Route 135.
“I just became enraged,” Drayton recalls. “If I would have seen one of the Boston officials on the sidelines I would have gone over and squeezed his throat. I tell you, I was just livid. At that moment the whole scene just became unpleasant to me. Here I am trying to pound twenty-six miles in the blazing heat and it’s up to me to find water.”
Drayton managed to snatch a cup from outstretched hands here and there but he never knew what it would contain. Rodgers provided the only fluid he could trust. On a couple of occasions the blond-haired favorite shared his water with the thirsty Canadian. Yet it was Rodgers, not Drayton, who eventually succumbed to the heat. Dehydration struck as he entered the Newton Hills with about eight miles to go and soon afterward he dropped out.
When it happened Drayton suddenly realized that the race was his. He and Rodgers had built up such a lead on the rest of the field that Drayton knew he would not be overtaken unless forced to quit himself. For the rest of the way he ran at a pace that was just fast enough to maintain the lead, not much different than one of the regular long Sunday runs he logged over the trails and hills of High Park back in Toronto. He concentrated on finding water, scarcely aware of the throngs that cheered his passage. Hal Higdon wrote later in Runner’s World magazine that the Boston crowd of 1977 was the largest ever to watch an American sporting event. He compared it to those he had seen at the Indianapolis 500 auto race.
“It is very much an Indy crowd. The pot smokers, the girl-huggers, the boy-huggers, the drunks clutching beer cans are out in force, and the race becomes, for them, what’s happening today. The race offers a reason to party, and today they cheer, wildly and with sincere enthusiasm, for those funny people in shorts. Tomorrow they may roll down the window of their Plymouth Road-Runner cars with dual carburetors and hurl abuse and empty beer cans at us, but for now crowd and runner become one.” (94)
Drayton swept unchallenged into Boston, his destination the tall beckoning Prudential Centre off Boylston Street in the distance. Packed thousands sent up a cheer that rattled downtown Boston as he swung into view at the intersection of Hereford and Boylston, then turned into the finishing chute and came down the incline to victory, the red maple leaf on his singlet drooping with perspiration. The winning time was 2:14:46.
A Boston policeman took Drayton’s arm and tried to lead him to the victory podium where Mayor Kevin White was waiting with the laurel wreath. Drayton, spent, waved him off and sat down by a pool of water on the asphalt. He pulled off his shoes and soaked his feet. No joy was evident in his face and he felt none inside. When questioned about the race at the press conference that followed he was critical.
“I won’t be back to defend my title or to run Boston again under these circumstances,” he said. “You’d figure that after eighty-one tries here they’d set up official watering tables. It’s just unfair. What’s the point of training for this event when you can get beaten by circumstances beyond your control. Basically, the organizers have to make up their minds if they want quantity or quality. I don’t understand the three thousand entries. If you want to make money out of it . . .” (95)
He had gone too far. Jock Semple, who had first run Boston in the 1930s and had been bound up with its history ever since, interrupted.
“Don’t kid yourself, lad,” he snapped. “There’s no money to be made out of this.”
Never had a champion seemed so ungracious, so devoid of pleasure in victory. The Boston media reacted with shock. Television plucked out his angry quotes and aired them again and again. Newspapers ran sensational headlines. ‘He won but he’s angry,’ one read. ‘I shall not return,’ said another. The massive coverage surprised Drayton. As far as he was concerned he had done nothing more than speak candidly about circumstances. It had been the most frustrating race of his career. Even as he spoke at the press conference the bad luck continued. The large trophy he was awarded on the victory stand, where he also received the traditional laurel wreath and gold medal, was stolen. It was never recovered.
The Boston Athletic Association was bitter.
“I am very disappointed,” said Will Cloney, the long-serving BAA president whose affiliation with the marathon ran as far back as Semple’s.
Drayton should realize that Boston isn’t Fukuoka. Boston is for the average marathoner, too, which is one of the reasons we won’t lower the time standards (e). If I wanted another Fukuoka, all I would have to do is raise money from Boston businessmen and hire the Draytons and Shorters to run. But that isn’t what Boston is all about. (96)
In retrospect it is arguable that Drayton did more than any other single person to push Boston into the modern marathon era. Once the hurt feelings caused by his remarks subsided the BAA set about making improvements. Little by little conditions were upgraded. Five years after the fact, Drayton’s role was acknowledged by Joe Concannon of the Boston Globe.
“When Drayton was brash enough to suggest that the race could ‘turn into a disaster’ if its administration remained amateurish he was saying what people didn’t want to hear but what had to be said,” Concannon wrote. (97)
Drayton did return to Boston in subsequent years and the improvement was evident. The start had been moved from the cramped confines of Hayden Row to the main street of Hopkinton. Aid tables were conspicuous and looked after by droves of Boy Scouts. The race had a better feel. At the high school gym in Hopkinton a room was set aside for top runners. Semple was manning the door once when Drayton arrived. For a moment he failed to recognize the runner behind the sunglasses that Drayton so often wore.
”You can’t go in there,” Semple blared.
Drayton laughed and pulled up his sweater. Underneath was the same white shirt with the red maple leaf that he had worn in 1977.
“Jock!” he said. ”Don’t you remember me?”
Semple almost laughed but not quite.
“Oh, you again,” he said. ”You give me a lot of trouble.”
When Drayton ran Boston that year, and in subsequent years, injuries rather than organization were his undoing. Twice he dropped out; once he limped to the finish line in two hundred and fiftieth place. The problem was the hamstring muscle in the back of his right leg, just below the hip. In every marathon the pattern seemed the same. The leg was fine at the outset but tightened with frustrating regularity in the latter miles. After running with the leaders for much of the distance Drayton was forced again and again to ease up and let them go. No amount of training seemed to change things. The most frustrating episode occurred at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. The leg forced him to scratch altogether from the ten thousand metres race in which his chances of winning were strong, and then cost him victory in the marathon.
Run on a clear August evening, and televised live across Canada, the marathon followed an out-and-back course from Commonwealth Stadium. Those watching saw Drayton pass Toronto Olympic Club teammate Paul Bannon at thirty-nine kilometres and pull into the lead. What they could not know was how much the leg was hurting. He was running at maximum pace, unable to increase his speed further should anyone challenge. With less than a kilometre remaining someone did. Gidamas Shahanga, a pencil-thin Tanzanian runner, unknown before the games, appeared as if from nowhere. Scarcely one minute away from the stadium, where crowds waited in hopes of seeing Drayton finally win a major marathon in his own country, Shahanga swept past and ran to victory, crossing the finish line in 2:15:39. Drayton, assured of the silver medal, slowed to ease his leg, finishing in 2:16:51.
“They say a runner takes twenty-six thousand steps in a marathon,” Drayton said wearily. “If that’s the case I must have died thirteen thousand times with my bad leg.” (98)
Years later he would learn that the problem was the imbalance in leg size that back to the bone graft surgery of his youth. The right hamstring was weaker and tended to pull under heavy stress, often not much but enough to cause a small tear. Over time the damage became so extensive it caused scar tissue to form over much of the muscle. By the time it was finally corrected his best athletic years were behind.
Arguably, Jerome Drayton could be ranked the finest Canadian athlete of the 1970s. Three times he ran to victory at Fukuoka, regarded in all but Olympic years as the world championship of marathoning. He won the Boston Marathon and earned a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. He first set the Canadian marathon record in 1968 and subsequently lowered it by more than six minutes. His fastest marathon, 2:10:08 in 1975, remains the Canadian record. After fifteen years atop the national standings, and in the face of an unprecedented boom in marathon running, a Canadian has yet to equal his accomplishments.
The marathon is no ordinary sport. It is as old and arduous and universal a sport as there is, demanding exceptional physiology and extraordinary commitment to excel.
Drayton is a physiological marvel. His pared down body contains a mere five per cent fat. A normal male would have at least fifteen. At five-foot-nine, he weighs just one hundred and thirty pounds. An average person might be able to feed thirty millilitres of oxygen a minute through the lungs, heart and bloodstream to the muscles for each kilogram of body weight. Drayton can process close to eighty millilitres, one of the highest readings on record. Conversely, his resting pulse is one of the lowest. So powerful is his heart, so much blood can it pump at a single stroke, that his pulse dips occasionally to twenty-eight beats a minute. For other athletes the low might be fifty, for ordinary people seventy. Asked what it was like to inhabit such a body Drayton once replied that it was like driving a car without rattles.
Since he became a serious runner in the 1960s Drayton has averaged one hundred miles a week, sometimes covering up to one hundred and seventy-five miles. He runs once a day at least, most days twice, a short run at noon, a longer run after work, summer or winter, rain or shine, at home or away. Nothing interferes. He trains in disciplined phases, six in all, that can last up to eight weeks each. The first consists solely of long, slow runs to build up his aerobic base. Occasionally he will travel more than thirty miles in an outing. Hill work follows. Three times a week he will pick out a hill on his training route and assault it repeatedly to toughen the workload. In the third phase he varies the routine not with hills but timed quarter-mile intervals on the track. Twelve, fourteen, sixteen times he will circle the track at a pace that takes him to the edge of his anaerobic threshold, the point at which his body begins to slip into oxygen debt from the stress. This usually occurs with laps of about 65 seconds, a 4:20-mile pace. Between each interval he walks to recover.
In the fourth phase he deliberately pushes his body into oxygen debt, running quarters at maximum effort with almost no rest in between. So stressful is this form of training that it can exhaust an athlete of Drayton’s stature in fewer than half a dozen laps. At least two, often three, track workouts a week are included in his schedule. Then follows the fifth and most taxing phase in which Drayton combines both aerobic and anaerobic intervals in the same session. Quarters that previously took sixty-five seconds to cover without going into oxygen debt he now flies through in just fifty-seven seconds, the pace of a world-class miler. Through all these phases his total training rarely drops below one hundred and thirty miles a week.
The sixth and final phase comes when Drayton “rests” by tapering back to about seventy-five miles a week and substituting short weekly races for the speedwork of the track. Competition sharpens him mentally and prepares him for the ultimate challenge toward which all phases of the cycle have been directed, usually a major marathon. It is in this phase that he reaps the reward of his discipline, that all the effort and sacrifice pay off. That sweet feeling of rejuvenation sweeps through his body and all the stressed comers of his being come together in climactic unison. The sensation is one of vitality and strength that few human beings know.
In the more than fifteen years Drayton has been a serious distance runner he has logged something like seventy-five-thousand miles, the equivalent of a yearly trip across Canada or three times the circumference of the earth at the equator. To anyone but an elite marathoner such mileage is difficult to comprehend. Drayton no longer bothers to keep track of it. One hundred miles a week is simply the amount he must average to remain at the top of his physical powers. The cost has been a solitary life that few would accept. He married early in his running career but it lasted scarcely two years. “I wasn’t ready to take on the responsibilities of husband and father,” he admits. Running filled his needs instead.
“During the first Olympic preparation period I realized that my running was not solely limited to competition. Running was a world unto itself and it became part of me for the rest of my life. There’s something about it that you can’t explain. Trying to explain the non-competitive attraction to a non-runner is like trying to explain colors to a blind person. It’s a question of discovery — the discovery you can only make when you reach a level of running that is physically comfortable for you. Running gives me an opportunity to step outside the rest of the world. I reflect on, assess, or solve matters relating to my professional, personal or athletic life — with the added comfort of knowing that I’m moving toward some competitive goal.” (99)
Another time he put it this way:
“I like the solitude. I like this one to two hours to myself once a day when I don’t have to do speedwork and I can go for a long run. This mental activity has helped shape my attitude toward life. I’ve come to the conclusion that people who are involved with a high degree of consistency, in a high-level activity such as sports, they just seem to enjoy life more. They seem to have a zest for life.” (100)
The media have found Drayton a perplexing figure, often portraying him as a moody recluse who seems happiest with the world shut away. A magazine writer who visited his apartment after his victory at Boston noticed the drapes drawn and concluded that he was obsessed with privacy. The image is too narrow. Those acquainted with Drayton know a more rounded person.
“When he’s out with a bunch of people,” says Paul Poce, ‘”he’s the person who always sits in the background. He’s with the group but he’s not a part of it. Then once in a while he’ll surprise everyone with a thought or suggestion and everyone will be following him. He’s a really friendly fellow when you get to know him.” (101)
When not cast by the media as stiff and ascetic, Drayton has been portrayed as angry and unforgiving, the way he was that day at Boston, or lacking heart, a suggestion that wounds his pride. Just before the 1976 Olympics, with his career at its peak, Track and Field News called Drayton an erratic runner ”inclined to quit when the going gets tough.” He was stung by the words. Cited in evidence was his failure to finish several races, going back to the 1968 Olympic marathon in Mexico City.
“They never bothered to ask me why I dropped out of those races. When I drop out of a race it is because I have reached a point where further competition could mean permanent damage. I know the philosophy about ‘good old Joe’ who kept going until he was no longer fit to compete. He didn’t win but he got a pat on the back and probably never was able to run again. I don’t buy that.” (102) Another time he said simply, ”I won’t put anything above my health.” (103)
Physically, Drayton is a classic ectomorph, that body design identified by psychologist William Sheldon as thin, bony and linear. Sheldon believed that the human race was composed of three basic body designs, endomorphic, mesomorphic and ectomorphic, and that each possessed a distinct personality. Sheldon’s theories have been revived and popularized in running circles by George Sheehan, a New Jersey cardiologist, author and marathoner. Where the endomorph tends to be round and fleshy, loving of talk, food and comfort, and the mesomorph tends to be muscular and confident, outgoing and built for action, the ectomorph is none of these, Sheehan believes. Instead, as his slight, furtive structure suggests, the ectomorph is apt to be detached, tense, anxious, private, introverted, reflective, precise and reserved. (104) Any of the adjectives might be applied to Drayton.
A writer once said Drayton could get lost in a crowd or hold up a bank and witnesses would give police ten different descriptions. The same writer thought him frail at first glance and then changed his mind. ”Look more closely and the impression of frailness disappears. He is all coiled springs and simmering energy.” (105)
Drayton plans to remain a serious athlete until he is certain that no attainable peaks in world class competition have been left unscaled. He could excel in the masters category, which begins for athletes at age forty, but the prospect holds no attraction. When he is no longer an elite athlete he plans to run simply for fitness, perhaps as little as five miles a day.
In the meantime he will go on training, coping as best he can with a professional workload that tends increasingly to interfere. The job that began with part-time contract work has expanded to the point where he now administers two Ontario programs for elite athletes and acts as a consultant to the government for eight sports. At times he lives without a social life, accepting it as a necessary price. That will come later, he hopes, and with it perhaps marriage again, and fatherhood. When he has the luxury of free time he journeys out to the west end of Toronto to visit his mother and stepfather. The pride they take in their son is enormous. Yet after two decades as a competitive runner Drayton has yet to convince his mother to come out and watch him race. They sometimes laugh about it.
Her reluctance is illogical but real, probably rooted in the concerns she felt for his safety when he was still an infant in Kolbermoor. She fears that he might be hurt. For her it is better to wait for news until the race is over, to learn then that all is well. Drayton doesn’t press but he would like his mother to see at least one race before he stops competing.
“If I could plan the perfect ending to my career, I would run into Olympic Stadium at the head of the marathon. My mother would be sitting in the stands and I would win the gold medal.”
Jerome Drayton’s Marathon Record
(* winner) (CR Canadian record) (WR world record) 1968 Detroit Marathon (June 2) 2:23:57 * Guelph to Dundas (August 25) 2:16:11 (CR) Olympic Marathon, Mexico City (October 20) DNF 1969 Boston Marathon (April 21) DNF Detroit Marathon (October 19) 2:12:00 (CR) Fukuoka Marathon (December 7) 2:11:12* (CR) (Ranked No. 1 marathoner in the world by Track and Field News in 1969) 1970 1970 Boston Marathon (April 20) DNF Edinburgh Marathon (July 23) DNF Detroit Marathon (October 19) 2:23:08* Toronto Ten-Mile Track Race (September 6) 46:37.6 WR 1972 Montreal Olympic Trial (June 24) 2:23: 13* 1973 St. John's, Newfoundland, Marathon (Sept. 15) 2:13:26* Fukuoka Marathon (December 2) DNF 1974 Commonwealth Games Marathon (January 31) 2:29:20 (Christchurch, New Zealand) Boston Marathon (April 15) 2:15:40 Detroit Marathon (October 27) DNF 1975 Boston Marathon (April 21) DNF Fukuoka Marathon (December 7) 2:10:08* CR (Ranked No. 2 among world class marathoners by Track and Field Newsfor 1975) 1976 Olympic Marathon, Montreal (July 31) 2:13:30 Fukuoka Marathon (December 5) 2:12:35* (Ranked No. 5 among world class rnarathoners by Track and Field News for 1976) 1977 Boston Marathon(April 18) 2:14:46* New York City Marathon (October 23) 2:13:52 (Ranked No. 7 among world class mararhoners by Track and Field News for 1977) 1978 Boston Marathon (April 16) DNF Commonwealth Games Marathon (August 11) 2:16:13 Edmonton Toronto Marathon (October 8) 2:18:07 1979 Boston Marathon (April 16) 2:14:47 National Capital Marathon, Ottawa (May 13) 2:18:05* 1980 Tokyo Marathon (February 17) DNF New York City Marathon (October 26) 2:17:58 Maryland Marathon, Baltimore (December 7) 2:19:45* 1981 1981 Boston Marathon (April 20) 2:28:49 1982 Montreal Marathon (May 30) DNF 1983 Toronto Marathon (October 2) DNF 1984 Houston Marathon (January 15) DNF
(b) Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia won the 1968 Olympic Marathon in 2:20:26, eight minutes slower than the winning time of the Tokyo Olympics four years earlier and of the Munich Olympics four years later.
(c) CIarke was a great Australian middle distance runner and marathoner; Bikila, a legendary Ethiopian, won the Olympic marathons at Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964.
(d) Armstrong emerged in 1973 as the second best marathon runner in Canada, completing three marathons faster then 2:14:00. His best was 2:13:30.
(e) The dimensions of the modem running boom forced Boston in 1980 to tighten qualifying standards further to two hours and fifty minutes for men under forty. Lesser requirements were set for others.