Jerome Drayton one of the greats from the 70`s when marathon running at his level was a passion fueled by desire and not the lure of the big ‘payday’. Drayton born Peter Buniak in Germany in 1945, went on to become Canada’s greatest marathon runner to date.
His time of 2Hr 10min 08sec set in 1975 still stands as the Canadian record today |2011|. An athlete who was almost lost to the sport, came back to reign supreme in Canadian marathoning history with a string of performances that would cement him as a legend.
Drayton started by winning his debut in 1968, with the intention of qualifying for the Canadian Olympic team for the Mexico Olympic games. On being told that his time was not sufficient to grant him selection to the Canadian Olympic team, Drayton partcipated in the Guelph to Dundas marathon on the regional roads of Ontario. By winning this event in a new national record of 2Hr 16min 11sec, the selectors had no other choice but to send him to the Olympic games. At the Mexico Olympics he was blighted by dysentery and registered a DNF (did not finish).
The following year saw Drayton lower the national record for the marathon to 2Hr 12min 00sec at the Detroit marathon on 12 October 1969. Two months later, December 7th, Drayton won in Fukuoka again lowering the national record to a time of 2Hr 11min 12sec. At Fukuoka he defeated Ron Hill of Britain and on these performances was rated No 1 marathoner of the year by the IAAF.
1970 was to be an immensely disappointing year, recording 2 DNF’s at Boston and Edinburgh, he did however win a marathon in Detroit as well as set a new world record on the track for the 10mile distance with a time of 46min 37sec.
The next 5 years were extreme years of torment with injuries and blunders adding to a period of time sufficient to put an end to most runners’ careers. Due to the mistakes of officials, providing a course 1000m too long, at the Canadian Olympic trials Drayton failed to qualify for the 1972 Olympics. He did however win a race during this period in a time of 2Hr 13min 13sec, as well as finish 3rd at Boston in a time of 2Hr 15min 40sec.
In 1975, he stormed back with a victory in Fukuoka with a time of 2Hr 10min 08sec, a new national record, and a performance sufficient enough to earn him the ranking of No 2 in the world by the IAAF.
With 1976 being an Olympic year, Drayton poured all his energy and focus into winning in Montreal. One week before the event Drayton was to come down with a head cold, leading to further frustrations and a 6th place finish in a time of 2Hr 13min 30sec. With the disappointment of Montreal, Drayton travelled to Japan to contest the Fukuoka marathon against the Olympic champion Waldemar Cierpinski. The two athletes ran shoulder to shoulder for the first half of the race before Drayton asserted his authority to take victory in 2Hr 12min 35sec. This was Drayton’s 3rd victory at Fukuoka.
Drayton finally dispelled the ghosts of Boston to win in 1977 with a time of 2Hr 14min 46sec. It must be noted that Drayton after much deliberation was found to have a serious leg discrepancy which became severely effected the further he ran during an event, it is due to this problem and the nature of the Boston course that he was never able to display his full potential at this event.
The leg problems severely hampered his training throughout his career, however he was still able to win 12 marathon titles as well as a Commonwealth Games silver, a 3rd at Boston as well as a time of 2Hr 13min 52sec at the New York City Marathon. A remarkable achievement by a remarkable man.
A Drayton quote: “To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind”