Update: 2021. Well the next National Senior Games are postponed to May 10th to 23rd 2022 in Fort Lauderdale. The following is how I met my competitor and friend a few years ago.
I first met Michael Devaney when they called race walkers to the starting line at the Georgia Golden Games last year. He said he was from Arizona and he was planning on going to all the state senior games and then the National Senior Games (held in Birmingham, Alabama, June 6-8, 2017). He already knew my name because he had made note that we are in the same age bracket and have similar times.
So far Michael has gone to 36 state senior games. He has won medals in every state visited, many times the gold medal in race walking, a sport both he and I enjoy.
We hooked up on facebook to keep in touch. I posted that I was going to be race walking in the Singleton 5K by The Atlanta Track Club in nearby Norcross, GA and he posted back that he was making plane reservations and would be joining me. I told him this was not a judged race walk, but a general running event, but we both liked the idea of a race on a road course like we will have at the National Senior Games and it would be timed as well. A little friendly competition also.
This was great news since my last competitive race walk was last October, even though I have been in a couple races since without competitors. Racing without competitors is not the same.
Yesterday morning, I left home at 5:15am on my journey down to Norcross. At the Atlanta Track Club check in table they told me 2100 people had registered for the race, starting in Thrasher Park going out on a 5k long loop. It was Chronotrack chip timed event with the chip embedded in your race bib pinned on all four corners to the front of your shirt. When you cross the starting line an electronic mat that you step over reads your chip and starts your time. When you cross again, it records your race time.
I met Michael at the registration area and we warmed up. It was amazingly great weather for a race and all the people were buzzing around.
Most were much younger than we were and were runners, so we found ourselves in the D heat, which was the last to start. Mistake! We were in the back of this D heat when it started and the slowest runners/walkers were in front of us. We crossed the starting line and our time was activated. As we turned on to the race course we couldn’t pass the much slower people, shoulder to shoulder in front of us! I let out a curse. Micheal said lets hit the sidewalks that went around to the right. I tried to follow and was blocked so I went to the left.
The blockage went on for almost three minutes until we converged side by side ahead of and free of those slow pokes. We were off and race walking. Micheal took the lead for a while, then I took the lead for a while. He took it back. On the hills I would do better, because of my training on hills here at Village at Deaton Creek. Going down hill he would do better and catch up.
About a mile out from the finish line I took the lead going up a long hill. We topped the hill to take a right on the main road to the finish line and a race official said it was only one half mile to the finish, downhill from here. It wasn’t. Turning on to the main road it was uphill again. That’s OK with me because I was still in the lead. I was really breathing hard but it wasn’t far I kept telling myself.
The hill peaked and started downhill. With 200 yards to go, Micheal pulled up to pass me going pretty fast. He was a sprinter back on his college track team and that is his specialty. I wanted to go faster but couldn’t. He crossed the finished line and I crossed 7 seconds later.
Micheal looked at his watch and we couldn’t believe the time. I looked at my Garmin GPS watch and was shocked. We had both done our best times ever! 33 minutes and 56 seconds was my time. That beat my previous best time last year of 34 minutes and 20 seconds by 24 seconds. We both said at the same time “And that was with that hold up at the first of the race!”
We went over to The Flying Biscuit for breakfast where Micheal took the photo at the top of this page. We talked and shared our race walking experiences, tips, and talked about life in general. We talked about how grateful we both were to be able to do this, when so many our age have mobility problems and there is no guarantee about the future.
Micheal is planning on going to another 3 or 4 states this coming month to compete. I told him about a 1500 meter race walk in Lawenceville on May 6th and he made a note. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him there. If not, I will see him at the starting line at The National Senior Games on June 6th.