There's no asterisk in running

OPRC runners' times at 50-years-old yield interesting results, trash talk

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Paul Oppenheim

Running Columnist

It started when Oak Park Runners Club vice president Geri Bensen turned the big 5-0 at her last birthday. She wrote a piece for the club newsletter, pondering some deep thoughts about the significance of that particular age (which to me seems pretty youthful).

One hypothetical query Geri mentioned in her newsletter piece was, what if all of our OPRC members were age 50 at exactly the same time and same place?  

That comment then set off a small flurry of activity with some of the older guys digging through old running logs to check their results from age 50. But what would seem to be clear and straightforward turned out to be a bit more complicated, and there was a fair amount of trash talk.

The trash talk came primarily from Don Jensen, who had the gall to submit an asterisk in place of his 10K result for age 50, using the alibi that he was injured then and didn't have a particularly good result for that distance in his 50th year.

Like that great line from Tom Hanks in the movie "A League of Their Own," there's no crying in baseball! – Hey Don, there's no asterisk in running!

The format I came up with is for each runner to list the date of his or her 50th birthday, then insert the best times for that year at 5K, 8K/5 Miles, 10K, 10 Miles, Half Marathon, and Marathon.

Thoughtfully, I also added a space for alibis, excuses or other "explanations" for abnormal race times.

Some stretched the parameters a bit, sending in various results covering several years when they were "approximately" 50 years old, and a few claimed that they hadn't kept good records from that long ago. I'm not sure I buy that, since most runners I know have very precise records of past races, total training mileage or detailed logs of every run.

However, it has also been said that "the older I get, the faster I was," so I'm hoping that no one is perhaps stretching the truth.  

In my case, the best 10K time for that particular year fell on the exact date of my 51st birthday. But since I don't know the time of day I was born, I'll assume I was still age 50 when I posted that time at the Wright Run 10K. And at least a couple of guys posted faster times when they were older than 50. But hey, the rules are the rules – and there is still that column for "explanations."

What first sounded like an easy comparison has turned out to be more complicated, but so far the results have been interesting.

Those who have been great runners over the years were predictably fast when they were 50. But with the passage of time, some of those performances have been forgotten, so it's interesting to see sort of an apples-to-apples comparison. I have maybe a dozen names on the list thus far, and I'll probably include these initial results in the club newsletter.

I can't predict what will happen then – will it set off a flurry of new results from other club members, or will those who were perhaps a bit slower become intimidated and not bother to send in their numbers?  

Or maybe it will generate a whole new round of trash talk.

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