Sprinters in 90s honor David Pain’s birthday with world records at 400 meters

At 90, Earl Fee thinks he'll remain the oldest man to beat his age in the 400-meter dash.At 90, Earl Fee thinks he'll remain the oldest man to beat his age in the 400-meter dash.

Wednesday would have been David Pain’s 97th birthday, and I’m marking the occasion by posting video of his funeral I shot April 6, 2019, at Faith Presbyterian Church in San Diego. Earl Fee, Diane Hoffman and Diane Friedman didn’t attend — but their latest ninety-something world record performances in the 400-meter dash are a virtual memorial to the founder of masters track.

At Toronto WMA regionals July 19, Earl notched his 60th world age-group record, clocking 89.15 in the 400 at age 90 — and becoming the oldest to beat his age over the one-lap race. “In all probability I will remain, for some time, the oldest person in the world history to go under their age in the 400,” Earl wrote on Facebook. “To knock me off this perch would require a faster world record at age 90 — not possible at a higher age since performance declines too increasingly rapid from 90 to 95 and higher as noted above, and besides there are no recorded specific age records, e.g., for 91 etc. [At least not officially] Also, a faster record at age 90 would require a greater than 110% age graded performance, which is very rare.”

Over the weekend, we’ve seen two other amazing 400 performers — Diane Hoffman, 91, running 2:44.25 to better the listed WR of 2:46.56 by Colombia’s Emilia Garcia de Fontán at 2015 Lyon worlds. (She also claimed ARs in the 100 of 24.19 and 200 in 56.33.) (See results here.) And Diane Friedman, 98, clocking 3:21.00 to shatter the listed W95 WR of 4:29.64 by American Hollyce Kirkland in 2017. (See results here.)

Last Saturday, I joined maybe 50 other tracksters at the San Diego USATF Association masters meet, combined with the annual Chuck McMahon Memorial Meet. It was thrown together in recent months and left out a lot of standard events, including the 100, vertical jumps and several throws. But Paul Greer, a local coach acting as emcee, noted on the PA that the first USATF masters nationals were held any the same site — Balboa Stadium at San Diego High School — nearly the same weekend in 1968.

No ARs or WRs were set Saturday in San Diego — unless you consider my 200 time a record for the worst ever run by a 65-year-old.

In any case, you gotta appreciate the geezers kicking butt on the record books. David Pain would have been pleased.

Not to be overlooked: At the same meet where Hoffman ran wild, Karolyn Bowley ran 1500 meters in 4:47.71 to beat the listed W50 American record of 4:51.86 by Marisa Sutera Strange in 2015. At a USATF-sanctioned all-comers meet, W45 Allison Wood high-jumped 5-5 for another AR.

And I never got to note the M35 world record 100 by 37-year-old Justin Gatlin, who smoked a 9.87 at the Prefontaine Classic. (At Ames nationals, the announcer said Gatlin’s record was 9.92, clocked a week later at Lausanne IAAF meet.) Sadly (or oddly), Justin was a DNS at Des Moines open nationals.

Here’s some recent coverage.

Earl posted on Facebook:

My Outdoor 400m World Record

I report here on my 400m age group 90-94 outdoor world record attempt yesterday at the big NCCWMA meet at the Toronto Track and Field Centre–since I like to write and also to keep my close and faraway friends up- to-date.

The conditions were not ideal: 33C and “feels like 45C”, (Globe and Mail), but I had taken loads of water in the hours before, so the heat did not trouble me. Also, the schedule was more than an hour behind due to a rain delay, with more than 30 minutes in the call room just before the race. On the walk to the start, 8 of us 80 years and up–I the oldest– past the crowded stands, the announcer introduced me as “the incredible Earl Fee”, putting some pressure on me.

I take the lead immediately. For many days before I have been thinking: don’t step on the lane line to avoid disqualification, use powerful arm action the last 100 metres, and make sure to run through the finish line. At 300 metres I feel my race is going fairly well, but the finish line seems too far-far away so I forget all about the powerful arm action and concentrate on the next 50 metres and then the finish. I run about 4 metres past the finish as planned, but my main competition the speedy 80 age group Rogers from Trinidad is suddenly there and beats me by 0.05 second. But immediately it is announced Earl Fee has broken the 400m world record in 89.15 seconds. I had broken the 90-94 age group record by 0.20 seconds. Based on my training, I expected my time would be close to the existing record.

One of my best races ever since age graded at 110%, my highest ever indicating it (the 89.35 by Shimizu of Japan at the Malaga Worlds) was definitely a hard record to beat. I feel blessed and fortunate in spite of several potential problems which could have occurred.

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at TrackCEO@aol.com or kens@timesofandiego.com. Story tips always welcome!

4 Comments on "Sprinters in 90s honor David Pain’s birthday with world records at 400 meters"

  1. Weia Reinboud | August 1, 2019 at 1:05 am | Reply

    Unofficial single age records on 400m Men (not collected by me):
    89 Earl Fee CAN 19290322 1.30″22
    90 Yoshiyuki Shimizu BRA 19280714 1.29″35
    91 Toshio Kameama JPN 19251018 1.40″50
    92 Toshio Kameama JPN 19251018 1.44″82
    93 Orville Rogers USA 19171128 1.49″37i

  2. Gatlin ran the first two rounds at Des Moines, one more than he needed to be selected for Doha, and then skipped the final.

  3. Bill Pontius | August 1, 2019 at 2:18 pm | Reply

    There is a deep poignancy between remembering David Pain to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude and the these inspiring athletes to whom we offer thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Greatest difference has to b 12.74 seconds. Age 70 – 57.26
    Amazing record by Earl. Could be a good 5-10 years before that is challenged.
    I think there is a range from 50 (49) to 95 (94) in terms of running under your age in seconds in the 400m. Allie will retire by then- according to him, so not sure if we will see a :94 by a 95 year old for quite a while.

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