70-year-old Bala Cynwyd man sets marathon world record

Gene Dykes crosses finish line in record time at Jacksonville Marathon (Courtesy Mark Grubb)

Gene Dykes crosses finish line in record time at Jacksonville Marathon (Courtesy Mark Grubb)

A Philadelphia-area man set a world marathon record in Florida.

Gene Dykes of Bala Cynwyd ran the Jacksonville Marathon in 2:54:23 — a new record for men age 70 to 75. His time was 25 seconds faster than the old one.

“This time at Jacksonville, it started out being good, but the worst nightmare a runner could ever face. I’ve run a strong race I’m a minute ahead of world record time, I’m in sight of the finish line 400 yards away and I got a severe cramp in my calf,” recalled Dykes.

He shook it off but his time ended up slower than it might have been, but still enough to break a record set in 2003. Just in October, he came within 34 seconds of setting the record, so he kept trying. He and the previous record holder are the only ones 70 or older to run a marathon in less than three hours.

Dykes runs every weekend with races ranging from 1 to 100 miles.

“My philosophy is — just run. So many people say ‘how can you run a marathon on Saturday and then come back and run another marathon on Sunday?’ Have you tried? How do you know it’s impossible,” he said.

While he’s been working to break the marathon record, Dykes says he purposely varies the length of the races he runs.

“There isn’t any distance of running I won’t have a go at, well nothing shorter than a mile. I would ruin my hamstrings if I ran the speed necessary to compete at half mile for instance,” he said.

For now Dykes says the pursuit of another record will probably wait until he’s 75 and moves into another age division.

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