Time to take temps: 7 polls for Masterstrackland, and my self-indulgent stories

That's me leading a 4x120 shuttle low hurdle relay — going against the barrier in 1970.That's me in 1970 leading a 4x120 shuttle low hurdle relay — going against the barrier the way we feel 50 years later.

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.)

My point?

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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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!

11 Comments on "Time to take temps: 7 polls for Masterstrackland, and my self-indulgent stories"

  1. Russ Dickenson | August 22, 2020 at 8:33 pm | Reply

    Ken, I’m in Melbourne and we are the bad boy of Australia enduring a second wave. We nearly got back to local competition but got locked down again. Some of our States are on top of it with minimal infections but what happened here shows you can never be confident until we get a vaccine. I suspect that there will be a shit storm there too with anti vaxxers. Got my fingers crossed for Tampere but I wouldn’t book just yet.
    Regards Russ Dickenson

  2. The questions suggest nothing is going on, but overhere I had already the fourth official meet today. Without much public, no drinks available, but nevertheless serious meets. Less than normal. I’ve jumped 1.31 today.

  3. USA, I’ve had meets in four states. Will add a fifth state this weekend. Training hasn’t been affected, but I sure miss seeing everyone at the big national meets.

  4. African Competitor | August 24, 2020 at 9:23 am | Reply

    Ken, Thank you for your interesting posts covering masters athletics activities for many decades. But it isn’t very polite of you to ignore African Masters from your choices in your Polls. I am one of your dedicated readers since 2002, and I am from Africa. While most of your readers are from US, but you can be proud that some others come from very far countries. We consider you a speaker of the whole international masters community. Reality is, I am not a supporter, because I am preparing for my semi-retirement like you and I am accustomed to have news and knowledge from free sources. Old habits are difficult to be changed.

    Last year, the African Masters Athletics Championships was held in Tunis, in Feb, 2019. It was one of the most successful event ever held for masters, at least for me. I seized this opportunity to participate and win six medals in six events including two golds in my age category, not bad for a self-trained person. My records are not public “marks are top-secret”.

    There are lot of other factors that affect participation in masters events than the fear of COVID-19 like financial and administrative matters, visa requirements for instance. In the worst case of the spread of the pandemic, the probability of dying from COVID-19 will still be less than 5% of dying from other death reasons. Compare it to HIV/AIDS epidemic that continues for decades to infect millions new cases yearly, without no cure, with high mortality rates and under complete silence, and nothing done against changing the bad conducts that increase 30 times its spread.

    By coincidence, I train in the same age and events as your specialties. May be we might meet in one of those coming international events and you congratulate me after my winning. The advice is to keep training at the highest possible level and to be always ready. Till the time comes, May the best men win whether in track and field or better yet in other fields of life. Keep active.

  5. Remember. First and foremost, Masters, originally was an organized ( Track and Field ) form of exercise . The competition was second. The main principle and belief was, we all had the rest of our lives to try and maintain and achieve our goals. The pandemic will pass in good time. But there in is the dilemma with the Masters. Time is running out on each and everyone of us. With time being the competitor.

  6. Also, Bob Lida passed away about 2 months ago. One of the greatest masters athletes ever. I thought it was worth a mention, if not an full-on post. RIP Bob.

  7. I’ve been digging these ATL meets in Marietta, GA. Just pros and masters. When does a 60 yr old ever get the chance to race a 9.93 sprinter and hang with world and olympic champions. Last meet this Sat. Was looking forward to Nationals as I moved into a new age group, but this happened. I guess taking a few WL is an ok consolation. Terribly disappointed to not race at the Armory this March. ; (

  8. I’ve been digging these ATL meets in Marietta, GA. Just pros and masters. When does a 60 yr old ever get the chance to race a 9.93 sprinter and hang with world and olympic champions? Last meet is this Sat. Was looking forward to Nationals as I moved into a new age group, but this happened. I guess taking a few WLs is an ok consolation. Terribly disappointed to not race at the Armory this March. ; (

  9. Ken

    I think meets will resume as normal for 2021 outdoors with the assurance we will have a vaccine available in the next 3-4 months. You can’t wait for herd immunity and if you ever visit here in Texas you will see packed out high school football games along with other sports. Locking down doesn’t fly here in Texas and the quality of life of the 99.9% of Texans that aren’t affected by this virus offsets the lockdown mentality of many other parts of the country. If a person is in a high risk category and in poor health they must be responsible for their own safety until a vaccine is produced for their safety. More than half this country that is in decent health won’t get the vaccine (notice I don’t mention age bc I believe this is a virus that, as a whole, only affects those in very poor health no matter what age). The country must modify and move forward as this virus will be one that stays with us. Once we get a vaccine it will be a less powerful flu as it generally only targets the severely unhealthy population as where the flu targets all the population. Hopefully outdoor nationals in 2021 happens in Sac along with outdoor world nationals in Finland. I am excited and have been training for a comeback after laying off for the past 10 years and finally graduating my last child! If we don’t have this “new way of life” figured out by next July then we have more problems to worry about than Covid. It’s time to move forward this spring.


    Bart Thomas
    M40 Pentathlon American record holder ?

  10. I really enjoyed your story and message Ken stone great photos of you hurdling too and super times. I envy those of you who still have local competitions as they really help you improve and release the curiosity of the unknown results! Well done on your 1.31 high jump this late in the season and I am sure it was an over sight rather than something done on purpose Mr African American champion as it is hard to forget so many African champions that motivate and inspire us all in the past. I don’t see colour religion race or age myself just company a year training alone and social distancing I wouldn’t mind including you all in a race no barriers or borders just lets be happy we are alive healthy and striving towards a brighter future than where we are right now

  11. Tim McMahon M60 100H/300H/Decathlon | November 20, 2020 at 10:18 am | Reply

    Thanks Ken for running this poll….demonstrates the optimism of our AG’s. Great news these last several weeks from Pfizer/BioNTech on their respective vaccine progress. As an (early) retired HS Chem teacher, I had felt confident back in Summer 2020 we would have a vaccine candidate by Halloween; I was 8 days off in my prediction. The unprecedented cooperation/collaboration among these 9 main pharma companies is awe inspiring. Presently we have 2 vaccines ready for FDA approval, perhaps as early as today. Give me the vaccine & I’ll board a flight to Finland for Worlds. Hope these pharma announcements buoy/lift/inspire everyone’s training leading up to Sacramento & Finland.

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