Jerome Peter Drayton (né Peter Buniak), marathoner, long-distance runner (born 10 January 1945 in Kolbermoore, Germany). Jerome Drayton is considered Canada’s top male marathon runner and best male distance runner of all time. He set the Canadian men’s marathon record twice, with times of 2:16:11 in 1968 and 2:10:08.4 in 1975; the latter record stood for 43 years. Drayton competed for Canada at the 1968 and 1976 Olympic Summer Games and won the silver medal in the men’s marathon at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. He is the last male Canadian runner to have won the Boston Marathon (in 1977). He also set a world record in the men’s 10-mile run (46:37.4). A member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Drayton earned 12 national titles and set 13 records in various distances.
Jerome Drayton was born Peter Buniak in Bavarian Germany to Ukrainian parents on 10 January 1945. An only child, Peter had a difficult time growing up in a country that had been decimated in the Second World War. His parents were not Jewish, but they were placed in a concentration camp because they had tuberculosis. As an infant, Peter was fed frozen potatoes and icicles. He was placed in a foster home at age six and lived there for four years. He had a hard time there because he did not understand German. “Not speaking German, I got in a lot of fights,” he told Canadian Running magazine in 2009.
After his parents were divorced, Peter’s mother, Sonia, brought him to Canada in November 1956. She found a job as a hospital worker in Toronto. Upon moving to Canada, Peter was known as “DP” — short for displaced person. He had a difficult time fitting in with his Canadian classmates while growing up in Ontario.
Early Athletics Career
Peter started running in high school. At the age of 18, he entered his first track and field competition at the 1963 Mimico High School Track and Field Meet. He won the half-mile, 1-mile and 2-mile events. He was then recruited by the Toronto Olympic Club and trained with Canadian national distance running coach Paul Poce.
Peter tried running an 8-mile event and did not enjoy it. He subsequently quit the Toronto Olympic Club in 1965. However, he rejoined later that year after Pan American Games marathon champion Andy Boychuk told him, “you’re not a man until you’ve run a marathon.”
1968 Olympic Games
Peter Buniak initially met the Canadian Olympic standard time of 2:24 at a marathon in Detroit on 2 June 1968. But it was Andy Boychuk who was named to the Canadian Olympic team, as he ran a faster time than Buniak in another marathon competition. However, Buniak qualified for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City when he posted a Canadian national record time of 2:16:11 in the Guelph-to-Dundas marathon in Ontario. Unfortunately, at the 1968 Olympic Games, Buniak was unable to complete the marathon due to a case of dysentery.
In March 1969, Peter Buniak officially changed his name to Jerome Peter Drayton. He wanted to cut ties with his youth in Germany and came up with the name after going through a phonebook and a book of names. It has been speculated that he chose the names of two of the world’s best sprinters at the time — Canada’s Harry Jerome and American Paul Drayton — but he has insisted that the names are a coincidence. “I always liked the name Jerome,” he once said in an interview. “I picked Drayton from about 20 others…. I tried putting Jerome with all the others and Drayton seemed to fit best.”
Success in Japan
At the 1969 Motor City Marathon in Detroit, Drayton set a North American record with a time of 2:12:00. At the 1969 Fukuoka Marathon in Japan, Drayton won the race with a time of 2:11:12.8. Drayton had not only beaten his North American record; he had posted the fifth-fastest marathon time ever. On 7 December 1975, Drayton had continued success in Fukuoka, as he set a Canadian record time of 2:10:08.4. His record stood until 21 October 2018, when Cam Levins of Black Creek, British Columbia, posted a time of 2:09:25 at the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon.
1977 Boston Marathon
In 1977, Drayton became the 11th Canadian to win the Men’s Open Championship of the Boston Marathon. He posted a winning time of 2:14:46 and beat his nearest competitor by nearly a full minute. (Veli Balli of Turkey finished second with a time of 2:15:44.) Drayton was highly critical of certain aspects of the race, which led to what many saw as much needed improvements. Drayton is also the last male Canadian runner to win the Boston Marathon. Jacqueline Gareau of L’Annonciation, Quebec, won the women’s race in 1980.
Other Points of Interest
Drayton’s success was not limited to marathon running. On 6 September 1970, he broke the world record in the men’s 10-mile run. He posted a time of 46:37.6 at a Canadian National Exhibition event in Toronto. Drayton earned 12 national titles and set 13 records in various distances.
From 1971 to 1974, Drayton battled injuries and financial problems. He did not compete for Canada at the 1972 Olympic Summer Games in Munich. At the 1976 Olympic Summer Games in Montreal, Drayton finished in sixth place. Two years later, Drayton won a silver medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton; he finished behind Gidamis Shahanga of Tanzania. Drayton was one of two Canadians to medal in the men’s marathon at the Games, as Paul Bannon won bronze. Drayton had hoped to represent Canada at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, but he was unable to compete because of the Canadian boycott. After winning the Maryland Marathon in December 1980, Drayton retired from the sport. He then served as a consultant with the Sports and Fitness Division of the Ontario Ministry of Youth, Culture and Recreation, a position he began in 1975.
Following the 1969 Fukuoka Marathon, Drayton was ranked the best marathon runner in the world by Track and Field News. According to Canadian Runner, he is “the only Canadian marathoner ever to do so.” After winning the Boston Marathon, Drayton won the 1977 Norton Crowe Trophy, which is presented to Canada’s senior male amateur athlete of the year. Drayton was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1978.