Hal Higdon's 7-7-70 Quest - "They're not runners. They're too old"
In 1972, I visited England along with several hundred other Americans, Canadians and Australians to compete in the International Veteran's Athletics Meeting, a track and field meet for athletes 40 and older. It was the first major international meet for Master runners and would be followed three years later by a world championships in Toronto.
We stayed in a hotel in downtown London. During the nearly one week spent in that city, I watched each day as workmen demolished a building across the street from our hotel. I was fascinated by the precision with which they worked. They pecked at the masonry with picks and sledges. Bit by bit, pieces of the old structure came unstuck to crash below.
I could not help comparing that building to the human body. The body takes time to construct, decays gradually. Eventually, along come the wreckers to dismantle it brick by brick.
One of the attractions, however, of veterans' athletics (what in the United States is called "Masters track") is that you can beat that schedule. By conditioning yourself--and even competing as in youth--you can become younger physically and spiritually while aging chronologically. It is almost as though, after the workmen had finished their day's demolition, a new crew of masons appeared at night to raise the building higher than the day before. But this only postpones the inevitable. Sooner or later, the building tumbles to the ground.
I thought of that as, day after day, I observed the workers pecking away at the building. Eventually, it would be gone. Yet as I watched from the window of my London hotel, I could not help thinking, again, that back in the United States a tractor crane would have swung its iron ball, and the building would have fallen in hours instead of weeks.
Something I always wanted to do
Our group of Master athletes, every one of us over 40, formed an interesting group. There was Roland Anspach, for example, who worked for General Motors in Dayton, Ohio. When he turned 40 he began to run even though he never had competed in track before.
"It was something I always had wanted to do," Roland explained to me one day. "At first, I trained while delivering my son's paper route so the neighbors wouldn't think me crazy-"
After six months' preparation, Roland entered his first race, a Masters mile at Ohio University, and wheezed across the line in 5:50. Four years later, he ran on a 24-hour relay team, averaging 5:27 for 25 separate miles. He no longer delivered newspapers.
"The neighbors are used to me now," he said.
There was Thane Baker who competed in the Olympic Games in 1952 and 1956, winning silver medals in the 200 meters and a gold medal in the 400-meter relay. He retired following his second Olympic appearance but came out of retirement after turning 40 to run 100 yards in 9.8 seconds. A lot had changed during his retirement, including tracks, once all cinder, now mostly hard, all-weather combinations.
Flying across the Atlantic, Baker commented to me, "You know, I've never run on an all-weather track before. I don't even own a pair of shoes with short spikes yet!" When he landed in London, one of his first priorities was finding a sporting goods store to buy some.
Rudy Friberg of San Diego competed in the pole vault. Several decades earlier, he had vaulted for Fresno State, clearing 13' 6" and earning All-American status. That was back in the bamboo pole era. He was competing now on a fiberglass pole and wondering if this might offer him the opportunity to better even his collegiate personal best. He fell several feet short of his goal, but Roger Ruth of Victoria, British Columbia, soared well above 15 feet, which had he accomplished it in his youth would have earned him an Olympic medal.
There was Jim O'Neil of Sacramento, Calif., who had attended the University of Miami in Florida where he became number three man on a cross-country team that ran only one race a year. He was racing faster at age 47 than he did in college.
"There always have been opportunities for older distance runners," O'Neil commented to me one afternoon, "but the good thing about the Masters program is it gives the sprinters and jumpers a chance to compete again."
Mooning the stands
One well-known individual the sport attracted was Alan Cranston, who ran on the track team at Stanford University in the late 1930s and three decades later became a US Senator from California. This lofty position failed to dampen his enthusiasm for sports competition, however. Most politicians seem content to sit in the stands and watch others perform. They throw out the first ball at major league baseball games and such. But Senator Cranston appeared one winter to run the 50-yard dash at a San Francisco indoor track meet in a special race for men over 50. At the starting line, he removed his sweat pants--and his shorts along with them. The exposure did not seem to harm his next reelection campaign.
Cranston ran on one of our sprint relay teams in London. After the race he came up to me in the stands and asked, "How did I look?"
"You looked great!" I told him.
The senator persisted: "No, how did I look against the other runners on my leg?"
While I had watched Alan high-stepping down the back straight-away, I could not recall the other runners around him. But I had a bit of the politician in me as well. "You ate them up!" I announced.
A broad smile crossed the face of the senior senator from California.
Alphonse Juilland, head of Stanford's linguistics department, also traveled with us to Europe. As a boy, he competed in the sprints in his native France, but World War II halted a promising athletic career. He began jogging again at Stanford, got to know members of the track team and attended the West Coast Relays to watch Bill Toomey perform.
The program featured a 100-yard dash for senior runners, and several of Alphonse's students pulled him out of the stands, demanding he compete. Wearing a borrowed pair of shoes, he placed second, pulling a leg muscle while doing so. But the competitive bug had struck. Alphonse set his goal at running 11.0 for 100 yards, and while 50 years old he ran that distance in 10.5 seconds.
The dangers faced by older athletes
While traveling by boat from Helsinki to Stockholm, one evening I questioned Juilland about the dangers that older athletes faced by taking part in an explosive event like the 100 yard dash. Older men traditionally have raced in long-distance events. Clarence DeMar won the Boston Marathon seven times and continued running that event until age 65. But no sane man would attempt a marathon--or even a mile--without training. Because 100 yards is so short, there remained the danger that once-fast athletes might jump into such a race with inadequate preparation and injure, or even kill, themselves.
"I'll admit some danger," Alphonse replied. "But older sprinters must prepare for competition by becoming long-distance runners first--then working down to shorter distances at faster speeds. They probably should obtain a thorough medical checkup before starting--not just a regular electrocardiogram, but a dynamic electrocardiogram in which a trained physiologist monitors the heart under exercise. "
"It's hard enough to find a doctor with time enough to take your temperature these days much less give you a thorough exam," I commented.
"True," Alphonse admitted. "But I think maybe we harbor too many fears about what men past 40 can accomplish. We age ourselves prematurely by thinking old. Take Adolfo Consolini. At age 47, he still held the Italian record in the discus and continued to throw. He was the best thrower in his country and one of the best in the world. But according to Italy's athletic rules, nobody past the age of 45 could compete. So Adolfo had to join a Swiss club and compete in his home country as a foreigner."
I understood what Alphonse meant. The average citizen does not expect people in their 40s, 50s, 60s and even beyond to compete in such a demanding sport as track and field. But then Masters athletes were not average citizens-or if they began as such, they soon lost that designation when they started to compete.
I remember a conversation I overheard while in Victoria Station one afternoon during our trip. Because of traffic, it was easier to get to the Crystal Palace Sports Centre, where we were competing, by train than by taxi. While buying tickets, we stood in line dressed in our uniforms: red-white-and-blue sweat suits with "US Masters" on the back, striped running shoes, tote bags for our spikes, some of us carrying javelins and poles.
Behind me in line, a woman asked her husband, "Who are all these people in the athletic uniforms?"
Her husband shrugged, "They can't be runners. They're too old."
They were not too old
But, of course, we were not too old. That was the lesson taught us by David H. R. Pain. If Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, is the Messiah of older athletes, Pain is their Moses. He led them out of the desert and into the green pastures of competition. He also correctly can be compared to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the Frenchman who in 1896 almost single-handedly instituted the modern Olympic movement. David Pain, in similar fashion, was the singular force responsible for the outburst of athletic activity for oldsters, not only in Masters track and field but also (through the example set in that sport) in many other athletic areas.
But then David H. R. Pain is a singular individual. Lawyer, promoter, jogger, the man who brought the Batmobile to San Diego, he embodies the characteristics of Buddha and Daddy Warbucks. It is not merely that, with head as bald as a torpedo, he bears a superficial resemblance to both. It is more his philosophy of life.
First, in his quest for physical fitness, he seems to follow the principles of Buddhism, namely, that right living, correct thinking, and self-denial will enable the soul to reach a divine state of release from earthly sorrow and bodily pain. Second, as Daddy Warbucks might, he not only assumes a paternalistic attitude toward Masters track ("I can talk in terms of my program"), but he also does not hesitate to use force (a karate chop here, a lawsuit there) to bring the fruits of a better life to everybody.
"People who are nice never accomplish anything," states David Pain. "Anytime I've tried to be nice-on those rare occasions somebody has spit on me. I learned as a lawyer you have to be willing to turn the screw. If not, you're in the wrong business. "
David Pain never has hesitated to turn the screw. One time, he talked the San Diego Track Club into grabbing sponsorship of the profitable San Diego Indoor Games, causing the ousted meet promoter to label him a "bald pirate." On another occasion, the police arrested Pain for refusing to stop jogging on a municipal golf course. The arresting officer accused him of being a "ding-aling." In 1968, he organized the first national track and field championships for men in their 40s, earned $15,000 but ended suing his cosponsor.
David Pain also feuds frequently with the press. A sports commentator acting as guest speaker at a San Diego Track Club banquet advised recruiting name athletes to club membership for their publicity value. Pain took the microphone afterward and retorted that anyone with a girth as ample as that of the commentator should not lecture on physical fitness. The commentator stormed out.
"Dave is brilliant as far as ideas," says Club member Bill Stock. "In diplomacy, he's zilch."
At a banquet for an amateur theatrics group, Pain found his conversation hindered by a rock band and asked them to play more softly. When they refused, he pulled the plug on their amplifier. On our tour to Europe in 1972, David and I had dinner following a cross-country meet in London with a number of competitors. The wife of one of the runners lit a cigarette. David told her, please put it out or leave the room!
"David is a bit feisty and just like a woodchuck," suggests San Diego Track Club member Bill Gookin. "Have you ever encountered a woodchuck? They're constantly busybodying."
Ken Bernard, another SDTC member, nods his head: "Wherever there's a windmill...."
David Pain first turned to promotion in the early 1960s when his law firm had as a client Silver Gate Productions which organized the major custom car shows in Southern California. David became involved part-time in management of the company, thus his encounter with the Batmobile. At the height of the Batman craze, he contracted for the appearance of that car one weekend at the San Diego Custom Car Show. Unfortunately, by opening night Friday, the TV producers had fallen behind schedule and the Caped Crusader was still driving the Batmobile around a Hollywood set in his fight against the forces of evil.
"We displayed a notice that the Batmobile would not appear," recalls Pain. "We gave rain checks to anybody who complained. The next morning, we got confirmation that that car was on a flatbed truck coming down from Hollywood. I got the bright idea to ask the Highway Patrol to let me know when the Batmobile reached the San Diego County line. Sure enough, around 10, I got word that the car had passed San Juan Capistrano. I immediately called the local disc jockeys and alerted them that the Batmobile was on its way, and as the car moved down the coast I kept getting more reports from the Highway Patrol who thought this was something of a lark. By the time we opened the doors at noon, there were 5000 people waiting. The fire marshals finally had to close the doors because of the crowd."
While moonlighting as a custom car entrepreneur, Pain first encountered Al Franken, a sports promoter from the Los Angeles area. Franken sponsored many of the major track meets on the West Coast.
In 1964, Franken started a major outdoor meet in San Diego. The following year, he helped bring the National AAU Track and Field Championships to that city. He founded the San Diego Indoor Games. And in 1966, he allowed a San Diego attorney to talk him into allowing an event for runners over 40 in his outdoor meet.
The winning time in this first-ever "Masters mile" was slower than five minutes, and finishing more than a lap behind was gentleman jogger David H. R. Pain, the attorney who suggested the race. That Masters mile proved so successful that other meet promoters eventually copied it, and the avalanche of athletic competition for oldsters had begun. Although David Pain had no way of knowing it at the time, this avalanche would propel him into a position of leadership in the track world.
The remarkable Pain
David Holland Rose Pain was born in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England, on July 31, 1922. When he was five, his family moved to Windsor, Ontario, where his father worked on a Ford assembly line. They later settled in California because of David's health.
"Smog hadn't been invented yet," he comments, "and California was considered the ultimate place for people with consumption."
He started his own gardening business while attending North Hollywood High School, prospering to the point where he had four assistants caring for 22 yards. His senior year, he quit attending classes, though stopping by daily for assignments. He would have graduated anyway had he not, early in 1941, enlisted in the Navy, which assigned him to the SS Washington, a luxury liner converted into a troop transport. On the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Pain stood on the fantail of his ship off the South African coast and watched two torpedoes, fired by a lurking German submarine, narrowly miss blowing him to pieces.
The Washington sailed into Singapore under fog that prevented attacking Japanese airplanes from locating them and deposited the last reinforcements to that city, men whose later prison experiences inspired "The Bridge on the River Kwai." The ship next sailed to Port Said to pick up the famous "Rats of Tobruk," Australians who had spent two years defending that city against Rommel.
For three years, the SS Washington sailed the South Pacific, transporting fresh troops one direction, wounded the other, with David Pain more an observer than a participant in the shooting war. He finally applied for a commission through the Navy's V-12 program, attending college at Occidental and UCLA. Ninety days before earning his commission, he became eligible for discharge. Having previously dropped out of high school, he now dropped out of college, but nevertheless earned entry to the University of Southern California law school, where he met his future wife, Helen. He married Helen the following spring, honeymooned one weekend in San Diego and after graduation (his first) began practicing law in that city.
While establishing his own firm in Ocean Beach, he supplemented the family diet, and satisfied his own competitive urge, by surfing and spearfishing. "To this day I can go out and get my limit of abalone," he says. Helen learned how to make abalone pancakes, ab-waffles, ab-spaghetti and ab-burgers. Before the birth of the first of their four children, David got bored waiting in the hospital, and went out and caught a 15-pound lobster.
His law practice gradually expanded, and he added several partners, including Bob Pippen, who climbs mountains in his spare time. "He's a good lawyer in the courtroom," claims Pippen. "He's tenacious at digging out details" Pain is tenacious enough to have been threatened more than once for contempt of court. "The only thing Pain doesn't get chewed out about is long hair," says Pippen. Several years ago, Pain helped win the largest wrongful death verdict in San Diego County: $470,000 to the widow of a man killed in a commercial airline crash.
All four feet
Too-frequent colds caused him to abandon surfing and skin-diving. He learned to fly. As a Los Angeles Rams season ticket holder, he often went to games by air. On one occasion, he found himself lost above the overcast in his twin-engine Beechcraft Bonanza with a failing battery, a nonfunctioning radio and his entire family. Fortunately, a hole appeared in the clouds, enabling him to land in El Cajon. The experience sobered him. He sold the plane, a decision made easier by the arrival in town of the San Diego Chargers.
He had begun playing handball and soon was serving as club handball commissioner, organizing competitive trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"David can't be involved a little bit in anything," says friend Merle Hamilton. "When he goes in, it's with all four feet."
Pain fought with the club directors who refused to install different sidewalls despite their being ruined by paddleball players, quit the club and eventually dropped handball.
"First, I wasn't getting enough exercise," he says. "Second, it was too much of a hassle reserving courts and locating opponents. Third, I was getting home too late evenings. I started jogging mornings with my dog. "
It did not take David Pain long to locate other joggers. One of them was Augie Escamilla, a student counselor at San Diego State, who worked out Sunday mornings with a group of older runners. For 12 years, Pain had spent Sunday mornings singing in the choir of the First Presbyterian Church.
"I enjoyed it," he says. "I don't think I missed a Sunday." But he dropped out of the choir to jog with Augie's group.
"For me to go to church on Sunday now is a total drag," admits Pain. "I'd rather go out and run for an hour. I have received more mental comfort from my running than from all the sermons I previously heard. There is something about being able to run on a beach or in a park in the quiet of nature that totally relieves you of the burdens of modem living. You develop an inner peace. You eliminate the turmoils and emotional stresses. I don't think runners make good churchgoers, and it's for this very reason."
Running also caused Pain to abandon his seat on the 50-yard line at Charger games. "I'd rather be a participant than an observer," he says. Jogging, however, failed to satisfy Pain's natural competitive urge the way handball did. Handball players were much better organized competitively. They even had special categories for players over 40, as David Pain then was. The handball players adopted the term "Masters" to describe players in that category.
The US Handball Association added a Masters category to its national championships in 1952 in recognition of the fact that handball, because of the many bounces a ball can take off four surrounding walls, was a very difficult game to master. Once a player learns the angles, however, he often can play a control pattern game, rarely having to move more than a step or two in either direction. Shrewd, mature players thus can play handball against faster, yet less experienced, players without excessive strain. Masters competition proved so popular that the US Handball Association later added Golden Masters (50 and over) and Super Masters (60 and over) divisions at its national championships.
David Pain reasoned logically: If such age divisions worked for handball, why wouldn't they be appropriate for track and field? He approached Al Franken, promoter of the San Diego outdoor meet, with this radical idea in 1966. Franken agreed to add a mile run for older runners.
It was an idea whose time had come. The Masters mile was reasonably popular with spectators but even more so with competitors. During the President Kennedy-inspired fitness boom in the early 1960s, older runners had been inspired to run in gyms, on tracks, along roads, in parks, with no way of measuring their achievement-and very little applause. Masters miles soon sprung up in other parts of the country. Two years after the first one in San Diego, David Pain took one step further and organized a full-event Masters track and field meet.
Spotty and ludicrous competition
Competition at this first national championships for older runners was spotty and sometimes ludicrous. One runner appeared for the start of the 100-yard dash wearing house slippers with elastic bands to keep them on his feet. A shot putter sewed lace on his gym shorts. A smattering of Olympians--George Rhoden, Bob Richards, Bud Held--added class to early meets, but most participants had not competed in 20 years, and others never had tried the sport. They were reconstituted joggers: grandfather jocks.
As the Masters movement progressed, competition became tougher. Yet while improving in excellence, the Masters program did not lose its humanity: joggers still remained much a part of the scene. Division into five-year categories helped equalize competition. The Masters program also created an anomaly: men in their late 30s eagerly anticipated their 40th birthday.
Pain discovered he was not alone in being bored with being a spectator. He originally planned his veterans' tour of Europe in 1972 to attend the Olympic Games, with Masters track meets in England and Germany only diversions. When it seemed Olympic tickets at Munich might be scarce, he arranged alternate competitions in Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen. Olympic tickets later became plentiful, but most tour members by then had decided they would rather run in Scandinavia than watch in Munich.
The early Masters meets in San Diego may not have been artistic successes, but incredibly they earned large sums of money--largely because of the promotional zeal of David H. R. Pain. His Silver Gate Productions once had sponsored a Christmas ice show to benefit the Arthritis Foundation, using a telephone soliciting company to sell $42,000 worth of tickets. Never one to abandon a good idea, Pain convinced the Arthritis Foundation to cosponsor the first Masters meet. After all, what better publicity vehicle for such a charity than a bunch of old men running around a track? In the meet's first two years, this relationship earned the San Diego Track Club $5000 and $10,000 respectively.
"Lord knows what I would have made the third year if the club hadn't found out what I was doing," he says.
According to Ken Bernard, "It was the boilerhouse promotion outfit David had selling tickets: 50 solicitors in cubbyholes telephoning everybody in town. But people who bought tickets in January wouldn't come to the meet in July. This irritated many members."
They became further irritated when Pain had to sue the telephone soliciting company to recover the money. The San Diego Track Club quietly severed relations with its cosponsors.
David Pain made several additional contributions to the meet, first getting the Amateur Athletic Union to recognize it as the national championships beginning in 1971, then getting the AAU to amend its rules to permit former professionals, assuming they were over 40, to compete in Masters competition. Former professional boxer Chuck Davey, who once fought Kid Gavilan for the world middleweight title, now competes as an amateur runner. Wes Santee, barred by the AAU in the mid-1950s for accepting money for running the mile, returned to competition. Many track coaches, also considered "professionals," found they could run again. Among them was Stanford and Olympic Coach Payton Jordan, who had been a world record-holder in his youth. He soon began setting world records for sprinters in their 50s.
Pain found other windmills to test with his lance. San Diego runners frequently took early morning workouts on private golf courses where they attracted little more than friendly waves from greenskeepers. On municipal golf courses, however, they often were abused by the management and chased from the fairways. Particularly, this was true at one public 36-hole course not far from Pain's La Jolla home: Torrey Pines, the site of the annual Andy Williams tournament.
To protest this situation, Pain appeared at a park board meeting with Olympic champion Billy Mills. The board merely referred to committee their suggestion that joggers be allowed on public courses. Pain began to escalate the conflict, making certain he ran past the first tee, and the manager's office, on his morning run. On one occasion, he led a group of club runners through the grounds on a jog-in. Another time, a high school athletic breakfast at Torrey Pines provided the occasion for a mass workout on the fairways. Several times, the manager chased Pain in a golf cart and even tried to use a truck to run him down. Pain became adept at broken-field running.
Finally, one Sunday morning a policeman appeared, called by the management, to issue Pain a misdemeanor ticket for being on the golf course without having paid a greens fee. As he talked with the officer, Pain continued to jog in circles around the police car. The officer, dizzy, suggested they meet at the club parking lot.
"The officer was quite polite," remembers Pain. "He was only doing his job."
But then a police lieutenant arrived with another officer in a second squad car and began screaming at Pain,using obscenities, and calling him a "ding-a-ling." He ordered Pain spread-eagled and frisked. David's dog, Suzie, normally the most docile of animals, began barking loudly.
"Grab that dog!" snapped the lieutenant, and when one of the officers obeyed, Suzie bit him on the hand.
Pain was handcuffed, thrown into the back of the squad car, allowed to simmer in the hot sun, driven to the county jail, thrown into a cell with several drunks sleeping it off, and only several hours later was permitted to phone his wife.
" Hi, Helen," David began. "You'll never guess where I am."
Helen had no cash on hand and had to run to their oldest son Randy to borrow the money. Randy considered the request for a moment: "Now would Dad bail me out under similar circumstances?"
The arrest made the front page of the San Diego Tribune and was carried across the country by the wire services, not because of any sympathy for David H. R. Pain, gentleman jogger, but because Suzie had bitten the arresting officer. Later, Pain appeared in court where the presiding judge declared him not guilty of the misdemeanor of not having paid a greens fee since the course management could not sell joggers tickets, anyway. At a later meeting of the park board, the public golf courses were declared open to joggers as long as they did not interfere with the golfers. There is some sentiment among runners to have a brass plaque erected on the course commemorating the Battle of Torrey Pines.
A means of keeping score
Runners now train freely on public golf courses, but dogs still are banned. Pain usually runs mornings at a park near his office. Evenings after work, he runs on the beach at LaJolla Shores or at a nearby track. When he lived in LaJolla, he sometimes ran from his home to his office in Ocean Beach, a distance of eight miles. Before he installed a shower in his office, he would pause on the doorstep to squirt himself with a garden hose.
"He once had a meeting with two little old ladies," recalls Bob Pippen, "and all he had on was trunks. The average attorney doesn't do that."
In his law practice, Pain mostly has abandoned the general work to his partners while accepting only large cases that personally intrigue him. "I'm quite benign in my practice of law now," he admits.
He is less benign when it comes to athletics. After an operation in the spring of 1972 to remove a malignant mole on one leg, he returned to running too soon, ripping the stitches.
"All of us need releases of one form or another," he says. "For some it's alcohol or women. These character problems become apparent particularly after men get into their 40s. This is when men turn to booze, split up with their wives, become overaggressive in business. As a lawyer, I run into these men all the time. They are totally amoral in their pursuit of the dollar, the making of the deal, the crunching under of their business opponents. These men are not necessarily interested in personal riches. Making money is merely a means of keeping score. They would just as soon put you in bankruptcy if they were playing for matches."
Pain cites the example of one wealthy businessman who briefly became active in Masters track, ran extremely well, won several races, but lost others and eventually quit competing possibly because he could not stand being second in anything. "He approached running by hysterically jetting from one race to another and standing on the starting line with a telephone in one hand, talking to his stockbrokers. He completely missed the point of running: using it to get rid of excess tension. Instead, it was making him more tense."
Pain also suggests that running can act as an aphrodisiac: "It can help men with their sex problems. Men who turn 40 frequently have real ego problems associated with sex and approaching inadequacy. In my law practice, I've handled hundreds of divorce cases. Very frequently, the woman's complaint was that their husband, even while very young, never got any exercise. He just let himself turn into a vegetable."
The secret of age-group competition
As the manager at Torrey Pines can attest, David H. R. Pain has not entirely sublimated his own aggressive tendencies in his running, but he is trying. "David always was bullheaded," admits Helen Pain. Pain's bullheadedness, however, has been the main reason why Masters track became established as a permanent fixture in the athletic world.
He refuses to claim all the credit: "It's not enough just to have a good idea," David told me recently when I visited him in San Diego. "It has to come along at the right time. But I do think Masters track is the most significant new thing to arise in a very old sport. People now can continue to participate even though their abilities have diminished. And this is the secret of Masters track, something that we must never lose sight of. It's the secret of age-group competition. We have had age-group competition for years with kids. Now we have all these old guys competing and having a wonderful time, because now they can win an event instead of being at the end of the pack.
"It's a chance to relive their youth. Either they missed athletics as a youth, like me, or they were in athletics and enjoyed it and this provides a chance to get back. There is a certain camaraderie in the sport, which is what gives me the motivation to try and stay fit. I don't think I'd train as hard if it were not for some upcoming races, like our trip to Sweden (for the World Veterans Championships) this summer, for example. I probably wouldn't travel. I'd stay home or go backpacking somewhere on holiday. Now, I've become a world traveler as a result of the Masters program.
"The danger is that a sort of elitism is developing, particularly among people who only want to win, and see the program as merely a means of amassing more trophies and more medals. I think the American Medical Joggers and the National Jogging Association have the right approach, and that is to include everybody and not be so obsessed with individual performances. The only trouble is that track and field doesn't lend itself to not trying hard. You can't say, 'Well, fellows, let's run a mile on the track and not pay attention to who wins or your times.' That's not track and field.
" If you are going to have a program in track and field where you are measuring in hundredths of a second with electronic timing and measuring field performances in centimeters, people are going to look at those performances. It's inherent in the beast. I've been trying to run a five-minute mile since the day I got into Masters track. I've never succeeded. I got to 5:07 once, and that's my best. But five minutes is still my objective, and its people who are stimulated by such challenges who are led into the Masters program."
David H. R. Pain paused as he said that, perhaps realizing that he had become the Baron Pierre de Coubertin of the grandfather jocks. "You know, " he finally said, " I get more compensation out of the Masters program because I can feel paternalistic about it. I can talk in terms of my program, and there's an ego trip involved in knowing you are somewhat instrumental in creating a program that's not only rewarding to yourself but rewarding to others."