Greyhound Masters Track and Field Club
After watching a Greyhound training session you may wonder if they found the Fountain of Youth.
New research shows that physical activity, especially t he high-intensit y inter val training common to track and field, reduces inf lammation in the body and even reverses aging at a cellular level. The proof is in the club’s trophy cabinet: the club collectively holds over 118 national and world records. Founded in 1999, 80 per cent of the 93 members are aged between 50 and 95. At age 80, Christa Bortignon would be considered “middle age” and she holds world records in 400m, long jump, triple jump, 80m hurdles, 200m hurdles, pentathlon and heptathlon. The club hopes to add to their hardware this September when 40 members compete at the 55+ B.C. Games in Vernon.
“People are always surprised of the number of meets that we can participate in. These meets are all over North America and the world. People do not realize how serious we take our training,” says David Wall, age 61, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Americas Games. “Win or lose, I always still believe I have some PB’s left in me.”
“When I emailed The Greyhounds coach, he asked how old I was,” remembers Cindy O’Brien Hugh, now 58, who competes in the 100m, 200m, 400m, long jump, high jump and relays. “I responded that I was 56 and he said it would be great to have another “younger” woman – I liked him right away.”
Members credit their world class coaches Sam Walker and Harold Morioka as patient and wise beyond measure – even though their workouts are often cursed by the athletes. Morioka, the club’s founder, was inducted into the B.C. Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016. Now 73, Morioka was crowned the fastest man in B.C. when he was in his 30s. Competing in the 46- to 49-year-old masters circuit, he ran the 400m in 50.60 seconds and broke the world record in the 100m at 11.11 seconds. At age 50, he set three world records in the indoor 60m, 200m and 400m races at the U.S. Nationals.
Morioka’s drive and determination are common characteristics among The Greyhounds.
“As a master, I am still very competitive, not so much against runners but more so with myself. Success to me is seeing the results of all our hard training,” says Elaine Whidden, age 62, who set the Canadian record in the 4x100m among other B.C. records.
Urith Hayley, 66, club president, joined after she read about a couple of Greyhounds who took up track and field during their retirement. “I am running as fast now as I did 10 years ago when, theoretically, I should be slowing down,” said Hayley, who also distributes the unofficial annual Face Plant Award, which recognizes the best fall in competition. It was named after a 400m competitor who crawled across the finish line after going too fast out of the gate.
Jokes aside, injury is a major concern, so club members ensure recovery is part of their regimen. Training means being a little more conscious of things your body tells you and taking better care of yourself, adds O’Brien Hugh.
At this time, researchers say exercise is the only evidence-backed activity t hat generates new cells in the brain. With smart training, these masters are guarding against the projected symptoms of old age while fighting stereotypes.
“Track keeps me growing as a person. Try running a 400m – this race is the hardest athletic endeavour I have ever done,” says Wall. “It is a metaphor on life, I cannot give up even though the lactic acid is burning up my legs and arms are hurting…I must continue on. I hate this race!” Tania Haas is a regular contributor to Canadian Running. She lives, works and runs in Toronto.
GREYHOUNDS MASTERS TRACK AND FIELD CLUB SURREY, B.C. Club Stats