I love a beautiful long distance run. But, I’m hedging my bets that my body will one day revolt against the marathon and ultra distances. So, why not learn a little bit about running some shorter distances?
I’ve learned some about track from friends who get together on the occasional evening and do a bit of speed work when a local track is available. Although I knew my skill and my knowledge was thin, I couldn’t resist when I saw the Pennsylvania Senior Games were being held within an hour’s drive from me.
I took a deep breath before taking the plunge to register online, then did a few speed sessions to gauge whether I would manage to qualify for the National Senior Games (NSGA) to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico Summer 2019.
Arriving at the Pennsylvania Senior Games, I saw that a number of track and field events were being held simultaneously. This gave me an opportunity to see a couple of non-running events and meet some other runners waiting for their events to be called.
The shot put clearly required strength, particularly in the upper body. The movement of those competing in the long jump is quite elegant, requiring changes to gate or steps as they approach the pit.
But, back to the track where I would be lining up. I did a warmup mile while the race walk event was held. I learned from conversation among other competitors that there were some national record holders at the competition. There were also several people more like me, no track experience but interested in giving it a try.
Amongst those new to track, they included distance runners who were looking for a different running experience in the hopes it will improve their half-marathon and marathon times.
To participate in the state senior games and with NSGA, competitors must qualify at state games in the even-numbered year to participate in the national competition in the odd-numbered year. They must also be at least age 50. At the track events in Pennsylvania, runners ranged in age from 51 years to 91 years.
Qualification times for NSGA 2019 are by 5-year age groups with specific minimum times. I had registered for three distances which I felt were within my reach.
In high humidity under clouds that threatened rain, we lined up for my first experience with the 1500-meter event. I was successful in finishing about 50 seconds ahead of the minimum performance standard. I could have pushed harder, but with two more events to go I just worked to come in under the standard.
My second event, the 800-meter, was also a success with a finish about 15 seconds ahead of the minimum performance standard.
Then came the moment of truth at the 400-meter (can you hear the wah-wah-wah music in the background?). In this shortest distance for me, I finished with a 1:55:78, missing the minimum performance standard for my age group and gender by nearly 20 seconds. I understand I would still be qualified because I finished second in my age group. (We had a light age group field (with me finishing second out of two in my age group. Even so, before I would take the 400-meter distance on at nationals I would need to do considerable training.
So, as Meatloaf tells us in his lyrics, two out of three ain’t bad. I will be preparing to run competitive times in the 800-meter and the 1500-meter distances in Albuquerque.
5 and 10K Rules Changes for NSGA:
I also plan to compete in the 5K and 10K events. And a tip for those of you who, like me, live in a state where the State Games do not currently include the 5K and 10K distances: there is now a process to submit your qualifying time (use their Limited Event Verification Form found with the Rules document on their web page) at a race that you have run at that distance in 2018.
Another rule change with these distances is that a running and qualifying time at either the 5K or the 10K distance allows you to compete in both distances at National Senior Games.
So, I’ll be sending off my application and hope to be in Albuquerque in 2019, expanding my participation from the 5K and 10K to include track competition.
Will I be seeing you in Albuquerque? If not participating in running events, perhaps in one of the 50 or so other sports offered, including three non ambulatory categories this year? A link to every state games site can be found on the NSGA website, so check it out!