My kids introduced me to track meets while they were in school. While I focused on watching them participate in their events, there were many other events to watch. I learned to appreciate and enjoy the different running, throwing and jumping events. I was able to renew some of that joy during the Illinois Senior Olympics in Springfield.
Not a Sprinter
Sprinting is not my strength, but something I need to work on to improve my overall running performance. So, I signed up to participate in the 800 and 1500 meter running events. The Senior Games track meet started with field events which gave me the opportunity to watch athletes of all types throwing a variety of implements and jumping, long and high.
Observing the Field Events
It amazes me to see the number of participants in the field events. Throwing the javelin seems like one of those primal skills that humans should carry from their ancestors. But it’s more difficult than it appears. Especially since the implement must stick the landing to be successful. The grip is unusual, the arm motion is awkward and running with a sharp stick goes against everything momma taught me. Yet men and women from all age groups line up to throw the javelin.
The same principles apply to the discus. The arm motion is the complete opposite of throwing a Frisbee (my main frame of reference) plus the implement is much heavier. Then there’s the spin. Who in their right mind instructs people over fifty years of age to spin around before throwing two pounds of wood and steel as far as they can? It doesn’t seem like a well-thought plan.
I admire those who compete in the throwing events. My daughter was a thrower, so I’m familiar with the implements and techniques. Success is realized more from the technical aspects than the brute strength used to propel items through the air. Therein lies the other question I ponder. Where and how do senior adults practice throwing sports? It requires dedication and determination to hone these skills.
I consider myself in the minority of active seniors who has a javelin, hammer, shot put, and discuses in my garage. That alone isn’t enough to send me outside to a wide-open space where I can play one-man fetch. So, a tip of the hat to those who do. Kudos also go to the volunteers who mark, measure and retrieve the thrown implements at these competitions. Aside from the obvious hazard of being a potential target, it’s more physically and mentally demanding than it appears. Having done it, I speak from experience.
If you’ve followed this blog, you may feel the Illinois Senior Games series could be subtitled “Stalking Marty Morris”. Actually, the guy was everywhere that weekend. At the track meet, Marty helped measure and record distances for the discus throwers. There is more skill involved than balancing a clipboard while rolling the disc back to participants. A thrower’s appearance is not a good indicator of how far the disc will travel or how near the segment it will land. And each thrower wants their effort marked and recorded accurately, or at least no less than their perceived distance.
Seeing Familiar Faces
One of the great things about Senior Games is the camaraderie among the athletes. I was familiar with several participants from previous events. It was good to talk with Barry Edison again. Brian Ferrell was one of the more active athletes I met, participating in many track and field events after swimming on Saturday. He even earned a Bronze Medal for rope skipping, just behind Marty Morris and Barry Edison.
I have participated in several senior events in Missouri and Illinois with Gary Pirch and Curt Davison. Gary placed second in the high jump and then threw the discus and javelin. Curt is in his nineties and still jumps and throws further than many younger participants. He also runs the hundred-yard dash.
Several participants from Saturday’s road race also competed in Sunday’s track and field events. Nyle Robinson followed up his gold medal 10K run with running and jumping. Maria Schreiber, Sara Dutton, and Rita Kilker all medaled both days.
I ran the 1500 meter and felt like I was keeping a decent pace as I approached the start of the final lap. Ever the optimist, I was buoyed by the cheers of the crowd in the stands. Little did I know I was about to be lapped by the lead runner. People were actually cheering for David Lee who finished the 1500 in 4:57. I was still pleased to finish the race at 6:42. My performance in the 800 was similar, finishing in 3:26. That was good enough for 11th overall and 7th in my age group.
A big thank you goes out to the Illinois Senior Olympics and students from Bradley University for providing free screenings to participants at the track. Flexibility, balance, gait and range of motion were measured along with heart rate and blood pressure. The screenings were in conjunction with a study through the Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy.
While I have a problem identifying with anything geriatric, I’m getting to the age where name-calling and labels don’t hurt my pride. It’s good to have some baseline measures and to interact with young people excited about their career path. The interaction is positive for both groups as aging boomers represent a huge opportunity for those who work to keep us active.