The Caffeinated Athlete likes the Senior Games. The competition is good, but the competitors are better. While participants come to compete in sports they are passionate about, there is an air of friendly camaraderie rather than cut-throat competition. This was very apparent to me during the Illinois Senior Olympics held in Springfield, IL.
National Senior Games Qualifier
Events were very well run with good organization, plenty of helpful volunteers and respect for the competitors’ time. It did seem like participation levels were elevated because this year’s event qualified participants for the National Senior Games in Albuquerque. Competition was strong as well with record-breaking times in several swim events, a sub five-minute finish in the 1500-meter run and good results in the 5K and 10K road races.
Senior Games Road Race
The course for the Road Race was a nicely laid out 5K that formed a bit of a figure 8 through Washington Park in Springfield. This allowed all participants to compete together with those running the longer distance completing the well-marked course twice. The route was diverse, scenic and well-protected along tree-lined roads and sidewalks that gently rolled through the park.
Even though I had the address and was confident that I knew the location, I gave myself over an hour to make the twenty-minute drive which included a stop at Grab a Java for an Americano. I struggled to find the site and needed every minute, jumping out of my car as the pre-race briefing was finishing. Race official Marty Morris was kind as he gave me a race number and shirt along with a quick briefing of the course. Another competitor, Barry Edison had similar problems finding the race site and rolled in just ahead of me. We chatted a bit prior to the start and again after the race. Barry is a retired ag teacher from near Quincy, IL and was acquainted with Dick Lowe, the gentleman who taught me how to drive a tractor in high school more than 40 years ago. Mr. Lowe still goes to church with my mother.
Once all the volunteers were in place the road race began with a couple dozen runners. Weather conditions were great, the course was well marked and the field was fast by my standards. Several front-runners quickly separated from the pack and soon there was plenty of room as people settled into their paces. The course had a few curves that allowed participants to see those running ahead and behind.
Overall winner of the 5K run was Brian Curtis with a time of 21:32. Age groups for the senior games are five years increments beginning at age 50. The oldest participant in the road race, Norris Flagler was in his early 80s. He finished the 5K in a very respectable 25:07. Seven of the twenty-one men were in the 60-64 age division, putting me in the largest age division. Many times I’ve said that I can’t control who shows up or how they’ll perform. I can only control myself. Running felt good and I was pleased to finish the 5K at 25:29. My second loop was pretty consistent leading to a 51:25 finish time for the 10K.
On to the Next Event
After the road race awards, I had time to go back to the hotel for a shower and a quick bite to eat before heading to the swim meet. I double-checked the location of the pool and still left in plenty of time to warm up properly ahead of the first event.