TORONTO (Reuters) - Ed Whitlock, an English-born Canadian runner who became the first septuagenarian to run a marathon in under three hours, died on Monday aged 86.

Whitlock, and accomplished British club runner who grew up in London before moving to Canada after university, died of prostate cancer in a Toronto hospital a week after his 86th birthday, his family said in a statement.

Whitlock, at 72, became the first septuagenarian to crack the three-hour mark with a world marathon record of two hours 59 minutes 10 seconds at the 2003 Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

He then set world master's marathon records for ages 75-plus, 80-plus and, most recently, 85-plus with a time of 3:56.38 in Toronto last October.

"This is an enormous loss to Canada and the global running community," Alan Brookes, race director of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon said in a statement.

"Somehow we thought Ed would just go on setting records forever. We are especially saddened at Canada Running Series."

After university, Whitlock put the sport on hold while he embarked on an engineering career in Canada and only returned to running in his 40s. He held daily training sessions at a cemetery near his home in Milton, Ontario.

Whitlock was popularly known not only for his endurance but also his modesty. He had said he was often uncomfortable by all the attention he garnered from other runners, many who considered him an inspiration.

"I don’t know how to respond to them. Well how do you respond to that?” he once said. "I suppose it's nice for people to say I inspire them but I am somewhat embarrassed and I don’t know what the appropriate response is to that."

(This version of the story was refiled to fix a typo in the second paragraph)

(Reporting by Frank Pingue. Editing by Steve Keating)