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A Hole In One Hand, Gold In The Other

August 19, 2023 3 min read

A Hole In One Hand, Gold In The Other

By Ray Glier

Betsy Miller, 65, had a hole in her right hand. A knife slipped on a Thursday night less than 24 hours before her 1500 meter race at the National Senior Games. Instead of cutting open an avocado she cut open flesh, bottom to top.

Long ago, Miller was emancipated from the gnawings of being fragile when something went sideways, like a knife. She has been a runner for 53 years and has gone on some long treks on two legs, which included mountains and mishaps.

This is what Geezer Jocks are famous for: getting on with it.

A day after sharpening the utensil on her own skin, Miller won the 1500 in 6:26.030 beating Suzanne Mittermeier who went 6:30.840.

There was blood and an ER visit and stitches and Miller, who lives in Dallas, Oregon, not only showed up for the Friday race, she showed out. It was what they call a clean laceration, no bones clipped on the way through, so she ran.

“I just knew it was okay and it wasn't going to bother me,” Miller said. “So I just put it out in my mind. I never looked at it during the race.”

Some of us might have taken repeated glances and wondered when the blood might start to seep, then flow, and then…somebody calls the meat wagon and rushes us to the ER. 

Betsy was way past that trauma. She held her hand under the sink for what seemed like an hour the night before trying to stem the blood. Then a doc sewed it up and it held firm the next day, which is what she mostly does in racing, holds firm with pace, no distractions allowed.

“I checked and I could feel my fingers and I didn't see a reason why I wouldn't be able to run, I was wondering, did I hit anything that would affect the movement of my hand?,” Betsy said. “One of my first questions ‘Can I run?’ and the doc said ‘Yeah’.”

What happens is athletics is that an injury can change our doctrine, make us do things we wouldn’t do. When Mittermeier led early on the second lap of the mile, Miller considered upping her pace.

“It was on my mind.” Betsy said. “I was just running relaxed. I wasn't trying to go too fast because I didn't want to tie up. My goal was to run even.”

Runners have this regularity about them and I don’t just mean putting one foot in front of the other. Their pace is their pace and Betsy kept her rhythm and wouldn’t be pushed the first half of the 1500.

Many runners want to hold their fire until that gun lap, but when Betsy almost clipped Mittermeier’s heels on the second lap and sensed her competition slowing down, Miller pushed her pace little and took charge of the race.

“I was prepared if I needed to go harder, it’s always in the back of your mind somebody’s going to come up, but I was probably ok that wasn’t going to happen.”

What’s interesting to me is that Geezer Jocks around 60 to 65 years will debate themselves when to back off training because of age. Miller has settled that debate/torment with herself. Instead of eight 400s she might do in training, she now does two or four.

She bikes and swims instead of constant running, but that is not the extent of her, what do you call it?, cross-training. She backpacks, kayaks, gets on cross-country skis, garden’s, and plays the piano and, well, she cooks, too.

“I’m not as intense with running and that has seemed to help me,” she said.

Intensity bubbled up with Miller for decades. She was competitive enough to earn an athletic scholarship to Bowling Green in cross-country. When her then-husband was invited to join a Nike team, Athletics West, they moved from Ohio to Eugene, Oregon, the jewel of distance running in the U.S.

Running still has her in its grip with competitions in the cross-country nationals and Grand Prix road races. As long as Betsy’s keeps a grip on sharp tools, we should be reading about her for years to come.

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