August 08, 2022 4 min read 7 Comments
Photo by Rob Jerome.
By Ray Glier
Michael Kish over-hauled his whole training regimen in November and December, 2021. The 71-year old sprinter from Nutley, N.J., not only became more of his own coach, he also became an academist as he poured over training regimens he found on the internet. Kish re-evaluated his weight training and studied the methods of a coach who preached explosiveness over short distances in workouts. It was a all about maximizing quickness and Kish adapted those tactics to his age.
He got faster, even though he was older, which is not supposed to happen in most cases.
Of course, the drug testers and their computers—however random you want to believe they are—did not know of his devotion to workouts in the offseason, nor of his analytics. They/Them saw a lot of daylight between Kish and the second place finisher in the Men’s 70-74 100 meters at the USA Track & Field Masters Outdoor Championships and interrupted Mike’s fun last Saturday.
Kish was met at the finish line of the 100 final in Lexington by a USATF escort. She was a sort of court-ordered ankle monitor and didn’t let him out of her sight. He had to sit at the USA Track & Field headquarters and drink a certain amount of fluids and then pee in a cup.
This is the price of success in track & field, even Masters track & field where cheaters have been caught before. Drug-testing is a necessary encumbrance. When Kish krushed it and made it look too easy, well, you knew this was coming.
After running a 12.98 in the preliminaries of the 100, Kish went 13.22 for the gold medal. Long and lean, Kish catapulted out of the blocks in the 100 at seeming full stride and built a lead the first 20 meters.
Kish mildly questioned the drug test because he had to submit a urine sample just two weeks earlier in Finland at the World Masters where he also won both the 100 (12.66) and 200 (27.12). Wouldn’t that absolve him? Nope, said the dope-ministers.
He shrugged it off. The test result won't be known for several weeks, but Kish is not acting as if the Sword of Damocles is over his head making it impossible to savor his triumph.
The next day he won the 200 meter dash, also in dominating fashion, a 27.11 to a 29.05 for second-place Charles Powell.
The red meat of this story is the training and what Kish has done to get on a top shelf of Masters track. He is a retired teacher and no longer is the coach/cruise director for his kid’s activities (son was ice hockey, daughter soccer). So Kish could devote himself to this hobby.
What Kish succeeded in doing was interconnecting strength training with the speed workouts he picked up from coaches.
“I changed everything around in November, December,” he said. “I put in a lot of different ideas from different coaches I found on the internet and looked at some masters workouts from different clubs that I've seen. I adapted those to me and, through trial and error, found something that worked.”
Kish was already on an upward trajectory. He started in Masters track when he was 60-61 years old and for three or four years managed times that would put him in the top 15. Six years ago at 65, he rose into the top 10. Now he is among the elite.
It’s easy to explain, really. Kish puts in the work.
He is on the track three days a week during the season, Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
Monday is the heavy day with sets of three 80-yard dashes, a 100, a 200, a 100, a 200, a 150, and maybe another 100. Kish does these runs 80-85 percent. He is careful not to push himself too much.
“I've been able to work up to a point where it's a quality workout, I’m not exhausted, but I’m satisfied with my workout,” Mike said.
On Wednesday, Kish does the straights taught by the high school coach, those 20s, 30s, and 40s. He will do several sets of those. He figures he spends 90 minutes on a workout five days a week.
Kish also found interconnectedness with his weight training and movements.
“I was trying to find strength exercises that would complement sprinting for Masters,” he said. “It’s different for a 20- or 30-year old. Finding the correct weight level is important at my age. Is this too heavy or too light?
“I came across some weight training ideas for core, legs to hips, calves, and thighs. Track is so straight ahead so I try to move in different directions in warmups and try and get the body use to different movements.”
Kish said the payoff to his offseason work did not become evident, even to himself, until he entered races outdoors in the spring. Then, suddenly, he became a totem for fitness in later life. Kish streaked to a win in the prestigious Penn Relays and became a You Tube sensation.
Watch the video and see the leg action, like a sewing machine, and you can understand the comments from fawning viewers.
“I see a great future for this young man!”
“There’s guys in my infantry platoon that can’t do this at 19, that’s pretty damn impressive.”
“I started getting calls from people asking if I had seen myself on You Tube. I had no idea,” Kish said. “Some of the comments on You Tube were hilarious.”
The comments were also filled with Aw! Kish was not only a talisman for the aged, he was inspiring people in their 40s to be Like Mike.
He wasn’t always a superstar. He ran track at Essex Catholic in New Jersey, but Kish was a fast guy at a school that was known for long distance and middle distance runners, like the great Marty Liquori. He was an afterthought to the coaches and without any encouragement gave up track following high school.
Kish is clear-eyed about what is happening here…and we should be, too. It’s some natural ability and the work!
He was a teacher for 38 years (Special Education) and now he is teacher/student/athlete rolled into one.
“I'm surprised, but I’m not…. because the change in my running routine and the practices and adding some things really helped me,” he said. “I just feel fortunate. It's all working. Whatever I'm doing it's working.”
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