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He Refuses To Be Average

February 17, 2024 5 min read 3 Comments

He Refuses To Be Average

Dave McNair (M65-69) winning the 300 meter hurdles at the 2023 USATF Masters Outdoor Championships last July. Photo by Blake Wood/SoCal Track Club. 


By Ray Glier

Dave McNair, 67, has a built-in biological doctrine. It may seem borderline eccentric, but in a good way.

His doctrine is this:

Do not settle for average.

You have read about this bio-type before, but McNair really means it.

For instance, Dave couldn’t just jump rope. He had to jump rope at least 2,200 times every day – and then took it to 2,750 jumps a day and then 3,000 jumps a day – for seven years and nine months without missing a day.

Dave couldn’t just play golf. He had to play Hickory Golf (circa 1908) using clubs with hickory wood shafts and 100-year old heads with less sweet spot than the modern club. He has played with hickory on 1,121 courses, and on at least five golf courses in all 50 states.

And then there is this.

When he trains for speed and endurance in his best Masters track event, the 300 meter hurdles, McNair can’t just run a pedestrian and flat 400. He puts two hurdles at the end of the 400, so he has to glide over those hurdles to test his finishing power for a race.

It can make your head hurt to see someone so zealous and indoctrinated to a purpose, but this is why we get superstars like Patrick Mahomes, LeBron James, Mike Trout, Serena Williams, Wayne Gretsky, Bill Russell, Roger Federer, Simone Biles and….Geezer Jocks like Dave McNair.

Do you really think they came out of the womb fully-formed to win Super Bowls and gold medals and play old-fashioned golf coast-to-coast?

They put gas in their motors.

“What I've discovered is that many of the people that compete in masters events, whether it be track, swimming, tennis, cycling, or any other sport, aspire to be exceptional,” McNair said. “I've always tried to have that as my mindset.

“And because of that I thought it was possible to be number one in track. The challenge is making a plan to achieve a goal and then following through with that plan.”

The man with a plan has reached some goals.

In 2023, McNair was No. 1 in the U.S. in the 300-meter hurdles (M65-69) 2023 and No. 2 in the world, according to www.mastersrankings.com.

In 2022, Dave won a gold medal in the sprint hurdles (16.88) and a silver medal in the 300 hurdles (49.44) in Finland at the World Masters Athletics championships (M65-69).

Dave is 5-foot-5 and he is not a pure athletic specimen. It’s his training, his doctrine, whatever you want to call it, that allows him to achieve.

McNair lives in Louisville, Nebraska (lewis-ville, not Looey-ville or Lou-a-vull). Among other training activities, such as work with weights, he had an outdoor regimen once a week in 2023 that a 40-year old would be proud of.

After a 40-45 minute warm-up, Dave would run a 400, a 300, then a 200 and then another 200, 300, and 400.

These are the workouts when he places the hurdles at the end of the 400 and has to finish the rep with those hurdles while fighting fatigue. In 2023, McNair did that workout four times in May, four times in June, two times in July (because of tapering for the national meet), four times in August, and three times in September.

Dave would have time goals for each repetition. Toward the end of the workout, when his legs are on fire, McNair hears that voice we all hear when we are bearing down on something.

“You’ve worked hard enough, take it is easy, these last reps aren’t going to make a difference in your times.”

“Those bad thoughts creep in and that's when you really have to step up and remember what your goal is and challenge yourself,” Dave said.

The reps with fatigue really did matter. Dave’s times kept improving during the outdoor season and he became No. 1 in the U.S. in the 300 hurdles October 6 at the Nevada State Senior Games (47.53 seconds).

“I know that there are people out there that are faster than me, and I know there are people out there that are smarter than me, and I know there are people out there that are stronger than me,” McNair said. “But there's nobody out there that's gonna outwork me.”

Dave was out-working people in his street job in the educational publishing business when he retired in 2016. He was still playing hickory golf as his primary hobby, but then he started running 5ks to get in better shape. He heard about masters track around 2018 and, naturally, McNair had to be prepared. He searched You Tube and came up with a training session by Penn State’s Jaret Campisi, a Big Ten champion in the 400-meter hurdles who drives a Lamborghini.

Dave’s doctrine of never settling for average took over from there.

McNair wrestled in college so he knew how to stretch and use multiple body parts at once. He knew endurance. So he eventually picked the hurdles as his focus because of the challenge of the multi-disciplines involved: speed, sprinting, endurance, jumping technique.

“I just love that race,” Dave says of the 300.

He already had the ingredient that has nothing to do with speed or strength and that was the willpower to be above average. McNair got some of that from his dad, also named Dave, who loved all sports. It’s how younger Dave came to love something as rudimentary as the jump rope.

You might have wondered why, or how, Dave’s jump-roping streak ended at seven years and nine months.

He was jogging in Chicago and stepped in a pothole and sprained his ankle.

“I tried to jump rope on one foot, but that didn’t work,” McNair said.

Now you understand Dave and how he can be on the track training indoors three or four days a week and five or six days a week outdoors. The daily warm-up of 40-45 minutes and the discipline to finish reps hard is how a 67-year old man can run full speed at the hurdles.

There is nothing average about that.

Dave at the USATF Masters Outdoors Nationals last July. Photo by Blake Wood.

Dave said his proudest moment was on the podium with a gold medal as the National Anthem played in Finland at The World Masters Athletics championships.

Dave didn't just play hickory golf, he lived it with the newsboy cap and knickers.

 

Dave prepares to hit a shot by the sea in a hickory golf tournament.

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3 Responses

Wayne Fisher
Wayne Fisher

February 23, 2024

I am a M69 athlete who just started to run the 300m in 2022. Always enjoy being in the same race as Dave although all I see of him is his back. He is inspirational and his times in the 300m are exceptional. Thanks for sharing his story.

Joe Hoover
Joe Hoover

February 17, 2024

Great story as usual! Dave is so fun to watch and modest to talk to. Unreal that he is so good but has been in masters track for such a short time! Very inspiring!

Rick Allen
Rick Allen

February 17, 2024

I’ve known Dave for a few years now and he is a really, really good dude. He’s the kind of guy you would like to hang out and chat with after a workout. I’m just not sure if his workouts ever end! Keep inspiring us Dave!
And, thanks for another great story Ray!

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