Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for USA Track & Field

ATHLETIC COMPETITION THROUGH LIFE

Do you yearn for more physical activity in your life – perhaps a sport from your youth? You may have a secret passion for something you have not yet tried.  Opportunities abound at any age, so why not explore them?

There is a world of friendly competitive sports out there for the senior athlete, be you a novice or from the world of the elite. From alpine skiing to weightlifting, there is a sport (or two) for each of us.

Many organizations open opportunities to train and compete with those in our own age group. To offer you a smattering of those, let’s start with the Senior Games.

National Senior Games Association

The National Senior Games Association(NSGA) offers competition at the state and national level in 20 different sports categories for athletes age 50 or over.

Athletes compete in games at the state level in even numbered years, i.e., this year and meet the minimum performance standards shown on the website in order to qualify to go to the national games in the odd numbered years.

Contact information for each state is listed on the NSGA website. The 2019 national games will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico in June 2019. You will have plenty of company as the national games usually draw 10,000 – 12,000 participants.

Sound interesting? Take a look at the state game schedule. Not every state offers every sport and most states will allow qualifying for out-of-state athletes. For example, my state doesn’t offer road racing, so in past years I have participated and qualified at the Delaware State Games.

Huntsman World Senior Games

The Huntsman World Senior Games have been around for more than 30 years and hold competition in 20 different sports. Where NSGA changes the locations of the biennial games, the Huntsman Games are held annually and always in Utah. Again, they are open to athletes age 50 and over, through 100+ years.

The Huntsman Games use the NSGA minimum participation standards. Contact, registration and information on each of the sports offered is available on the Huntsman website.

USA Track & Field (USATF)

Where other organizations catering to senior athletes offer a variety of sports, USATF is specifically track and field events, which still provides a wide variety of venues.

The Masters category starts at age 30 with USATF. Keep in mind though that competition is held within 5-year age groups. Currently, I’m in the group Female AG 70-74.

USATF Masters events are held regionally and nationally. Information on international venues for Masters is also available on their website.

Beyond Athletic Competition

Travel Opportunity

Many organizations have events locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. If travel is one of your joys, sports make a wonderful excuse to take a second vacation.

After your competition or training, spend a bit more time in tourist mode, kick back and enjoy. And while you are busy preparing for your event, the rest of the family can take in some local color.

By example, several of my siblings accompanied me to Senior Games in Minneapolis one year where they happened across hundreds of bicyclists coming down the street in the ‘Freedom from Pants’ Bike Ride, which was pretty much like it sounds. We followed that up with a much more sedate evening with the Minneapolis Orchestra accompanied by a choir from Cuba.

Family & Friends Support

Get your family and friends into the spirit. I’ve seen two and three generations of families supporting their senior family members in competition.

After many seasons of freezing on the sidelines or sitting on hard grandstand seats in support of your children or grandchildren, give them the opportunity to be there to cheer you on. What an example you will set.

Senior Athlete Websites

Websites that cater to senior athletes offer inspirational articles about people like ourselves who have been late starters or recently renewed their interest in sports. Others offer information on training specific to the older athlete, in addition to health-related issues.

Join as a Spectator

If you are not yet ready to jump in as a participating athlete, attend and enjoy any of the above as a spectator. USATF has the most accessible regional competitions with many indoors where there is the opportunity to witness our counterparts sharing competition and camaraderie.

What do you do to stay fit and healthy? Have a chat with your health care professional and get the green light. If you have recently embarked on a new activity or participated in a senior competition, what was your experience? Please share it with us in the comments below.

This is an adapted version of my article previously published on http://sixtyandme.com.

 

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USATF Masters Championship 5K

Funny thing about running, new experiences can occur after decades of racing the same distance.  Running a weekend 5K generally isn’t noteworthy.

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Last weekend’s Syracuse Festival of Races was for me – for at least three reasons. It was:

1) a first experience running in a USATF Masters race (I’m a little late in starting, since I was age-qualified 26 years ago).  The Festival of Races hosted the USA Track & Field Masters 5K Championship Race for 2013.

2) a first experience standing within four feet of the Start line before the race start.  USATF Masters participants lined up at the Start in front of runners in the general 5K.

3) a first experience having my shoe come untied during a race, not just at a 5K but at any of the hundreds of races I have run.

Within 20 feet after crossing the start line, I felt the sting of a shoestring tip snapping against my shin.  My initial hope was the shoestring belonged to someone running beside me.  No such luck.  I was near the outside of the course and quickly hopped to the curb to avoid becoming a hazard to any of the other women running.  Within 30 seconds, my shoe was retied and I worked myself back into the moving stream of runners. but not before the Masters pack had left me far behind.  Now, I was where I usually start at a 5K – back in the middle of the pack.

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F65-69AG awardees Sue Gustafson (24:32) , Jan Holmquist (22:08),  Lenore Webber (25:04) with USATF LD Runners Div. Chair Don Lein

That 2) and 3) would occur at 1) was a disappointment.  That I finished 5th out of 7th in my F65-69 age group with a 27:05 was not. The level of performance among the Masters runners was inspiring.  I felt honored to be running with such talented women.

Stumbling across this race was a gift to begin with. My travels were taking me through Syracuse NY and as usual I looked for a local running group or race.  I could have registered for the 5K without registering for the championship, but why not step it up?  I looked through the information on registering. To participate in the Masters 5K, registrants were required to be U.S. citizens (✔) , members of USATF ( ✔) but no performance standard required (✔).

I’m pleased I made that decision.  The USATF staff were welcoming.  At the reception room pre-race evening, I picked up training trips from other runners, both members of track clubs from around the country, including runner and author John Farah, and a few unaffiliated runners like me.

John Farah after a 23:47 finish in the 70-74 AG

John Farah after a 23:47 finish in the 70-74 AG


Race day, USATF had a tent for Masters runners offering water, coffee, bananas and a temporary dry space as sporadic rain came down. We left warmup clothes in that space as well. I could get spoiled with this treatment.

Awards were presented at an optional brunch following the 5K. I could rave about some of the finish times announced, but will instead leave you with a link to the results

If USATF membership and their races, Masters and overall, are of interest to you, take a look at their 2014 National Championship Series race schedule.ffl