by Matt Guild
It was a happy accident when I found myself at the Vermont Senior Games track meet in South Burlington on June 28, 2014. I had signed up just a week before and had no idea what to expect from myself or the meet other than vague hopes of breaking 5 minutes for the 1500 meters. It had been decades since I last ran in a track race and although I had recently turned 50 I wasn’t yet used to thinking of myself as a “senior.” Even though I was a rookie, everyone I met was so welcoming and encouraging I felt right at home. My performances on the track exceeded my expectations and I qualified for nationals in the 400, 800 and 1500 meter races.
Among my conversations that day was one with Jim Flint, who shared his experience running in the 5K road race at the Cleveland national games the previous year. The seed was planted and I began considering a trip to Minneapolis in 2015. When the postcard arrived in December announcing that it was time to sign up for Nationals, I went right online and filled out the entry and started making plans.
I arrived in Minneapolis a day early so I got to watch some of the action on the track in the older age divisions. It was inspiring to see Barbara Jordan of Vermont win the W80 50-meter dash in a photo finish and 100-year old Frederick Winter of Michigan run to gold in the M100 50-meter run. That night I took part in the Celebration of Athletes ceremony where I walked with the Vermont contingent Olympic style into a minor-league ball park where senior athletes of all ages and sports were recognized and welcomed to the Twin Cities.
I spent three days competing on the track where I went from last to fourth in the second lap of the 800-meter final while running a post-50 personal best time; ran another 50+ PB to get a bronze medal in the 1500; and finished a surprising seventh in the 400 while coming close to my 1 minute goal time. It was great to meet and compete with athletes from across the country (and the world) who are, like me, trying to defy the aging process.
Since Minneapolis I have competed in state senior games track meets in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Florida and, of course, Vermont. I love being in a competitive race and being challenged to get better. I am looking forward to the National games in Birmingham this June.