By EDWARD A. JOSEPH
(SENIOR WIRE) I started thinking about participating in the National Senior Games after seeing two seniors in their 90s competing in a 100-meter race on television. Watching those runners pumping their arms and moving their legs as fast as they could fascinated me, and I asked myself, “If they can do it, why not me?”
To participate in the National Senior Games you must qualify at a state Senior Games. Since I turned 75 in March, and the Games were in June, I thought this would be an advantage, as I would be one of the youngest competitors in the 75-79 age group.
My practice times for the three events I planned to enter, the 50, 100, and 200 meters, were close to the previous winning times, and I was optimistic I could qualify for the National Games.
The Empire State Senior Games are on the campus of the State University of New York at Cortland. The city of Cortland is about a four-hour drive from Yonkers where I live. My spouse, Susan, agreed to accompany me, and I decided it would be smart to drive up a day early.
It was a pleasant ride, but I was extremely nervous, which required more than the usual number of senior-citizen pit stops. I mean it had been over 50 years since I had participated in a track meet.
The day of the competition was gorgeous without a cloud in the sky. Each event would start with the oldest male group, followed by the oldest female group, followed by the other age groups down to the youngest, 50-54.
The first event was the 50-meter dash. It was fun watching the older groups run the race, and the athletes, both male and female, impressed me with their performances.
I had a great time warming up for my race and being on a track again after so many years. There were five runners in my age group, and Susan was ready to take a picture of what would surely be a dramatic finish.
I was nervous on the starting line, and it seemed to take forever before the starter pulled the trigger.
Hearing the gun go off, I sprinted as fast as I could and heard the crowd cheering as I battled for first place. And then my left hamstring muscle yelled at me, “Not today, big fellow!”
Two poor decisions did me in: entering a short race that required a quick start and not learning the proper warm-up exercises.
Of course I couldn’t compete in the 100 or 200 meters, and limping off the track and eventually to our car for the long ride home was disappointing and embarrassing.
Susan had to do the driving and was supportive. She never said, “You know, maybe you’re too old—or smart enough—to be running competitively.”
I did have second thoughts about participating in the Games again, but the images of those nonagenarian runners kept streaming through my brain.
About halfway back to Yonkers, after letting go of my disappointment and embarrassment, I made up my mind to compete in the next Empire State Games, this time skipping the 50-meter dash, warming up properly, and hopefully qualifying for the National Senior Games.
If the track gods are with me, I will then write “My Senior Games Experience, Part Two,” a story that, with a bit of luck, will have a happier ending than this one.
The most recent National Senior Games (it’s a biennial event) were in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2019, with 13,882 athletes competing in 20 different sports. The 2021 games were canceled. The next National Senior Games are scheduled for May 10-23, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. You can learn more at nags.com where you can also find links to the individual state competitions. MSN