In late 1971, a cold winter in Omaha, I was a high school hurdler in a hurry. My senior track season was approaching and I was determined to crush my 14.9 PR in the 120 highs as a 16-year-old junior. So I did what any laser-focused prep would do. I blasted through a two-semester class before Christmas.
Let me explain. Biology was my last class of the day at Harry A. Burke High School, a fully-enclosed new campus only miles down the road from famous Boys Town. And since I wanted class time for training, I took advantage of the rules. It was a self-paced class in which you could advance as fast as you wanted if you passed the tests and did all the labs. So I did. I aced the course and got written up in the Burke Beat student newspaper.
(I had a fair senior year, getting down to a school-record 14.4 and winning three medals in the Nebraska state meet that May. Then I recruited myself to Kansas, and ran two lackluster walk-on years there. But that’s another story.)
Flash forward to summer 1984. I was working on the copy desk at The Daily Review in Hayward, California, south of Oakland, and I was determined to attend (as a spectator) the Los Angeles Olympics. But I was a week short of vacation time. So I went to my boss and said: “Hey, if I can get seven people on the desk to work for me, can I extend my vacation?” He handed me the schedule book and said: “Sure. You make it out.” So I found seven colleagues to pull six-day weeks. When I returned, I worked seven six-day weeks in a row. Never regretted it.
(I witnessed every session of the track meet portion of the Games except three. Saw Mary Decker fall, Greg Foster hesitate and Daley Thompson do a backflip in the pole vault pit.)
Flash forward to my 55th birthday in June 2009. I was running repeat barefoot 100s on the grass at a local high school when I decided to add one more full-blast sprint. Of course, I pulled a hammy. Big time. But I was determined to run at Lahti worlds. So I found an expert in a deep-tissue massage technique called active-release therapy. After maybe a half-dozen excruciating sessions (at $45 a visit), I could run.
(Two months later, on the last day of Lahti, I earned my first and only world-meet medal — a bronze with the American M55 4×100 team, anchoring and holding off Germany and Australia. See video.)
Even someone as lazy as me can overcome adversity to achieve a goal. And every day on Facebook, I’m awed by masters showing their mettle. You guys are amazing. The Beast won’t keep you from training and planning. Many are finding ways to compete via virtual meets. All amid untold emotional and economic issues.
I’ve made the decision to sit out 2020 (while continuing to train, fitfully, at a local high school whose track remains open). But as I’ve argued, I don’t expect a world meet until 2024, based on the assumption a vaccine and herd immunity won’t be widespread enough to afford safe conduct of an international event.
But I’m curious: How are y’all meeting the moment? Take some polls, unscientific as they are, to help get a fix on our fascination for geezertrackstardom.
Feel free to expand in the comments below.
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