January 12, 2023 4 min read 1 Comment
Photo: Mike The Mechanic checks under the hood of the 2000 Honda so Mike The Race Walker can make his next meet.
*This is what it looks like to love your sport.
*Mike has seen people drop out of sport. He wants them back.
*His car has 300,000 from his coast-to-coast chase.
By Ray Glier
It was 3:30 a.m. when Mike Devaney felt the bug bite as he lay in the hotel bed. He was awake anyway because the people in the room next to his were making a racket.
Sufficiently fed up, Devaney went out to his car, a Honda CRV, to get some sleep, free of bugs and noisy neighbors. He decided a long time ago it was not a bad idea to have a bed made up in the back seat for occasions like this.
Devaney is a racewalker and he was north of Tampa. He had a race to walk in the morning in the Florida Senior Games.
It was early December, which meant mild weather in that part of the country and ok for sleeping outside.
You Geezer Jocks blow my mind sometimes.
Devaney, 72, loves to travel the U.S. in a car. He was in corporate America for years and the flyovers left an empty feeling, like he was missing something.
He was missing something, the majesty of this country of ours. So he drives. Mike's bags have never ended up in Topeka when he was in Lansing and there was no maddening two-hour wait to take off inside an airplane cabin.
Geezer Jock wrote about him last year and this follow-up is to tell you that Mike still has runaway exuberance for driving and walking, even after a major injury.
That he went to Florida and won the 5000 and 1500 Racewalks—despite being chased out of his hotel room—and was awarded a plaque for lowest overall time is not news. Devaney is good at this. Mike has won a gold medal in every state but Illinois.
What’s news is that the first week of May, 2022, he suffered an Achilles tendon injury. It was bruised and bloody under the skin on the back of his leg and the doc said “no racing for a year.”
Mike must have heard the doc say, "No racing for a month" because on June 6 Mike went racing.
He felt a twinge, and did the sensible thing, which was to consider what might follow the twinge. No, he didn't drop out. Are you kidding? Mike backed off his pace in that race, but kept going….
…right through the summer.
“I’m at an age,” said Mike, “where I don’t have enough time to stay off it.”
He raced in 10 different states in 2022 traveling in that 2000 red Honda, which had 297,680 miles Dec. 10, but is likely over 300,000 miles by now.
Devaney is here to tell you not to quit. You can back off, but don't quit.
“There should be a lot more people here at this event, but Covid has knocked people out like nothing else, and I get that,” Mike said. “People get depressed because when they first come back they are not going as fast and they quit.
“They have to realize if you just keep going, listen to your body, and back off when you have to, you can get it back. Train hard when you can; you don't have to train hard every day.”
Devaney went on a cruise to the Bahamas the week before the Florida Senior Games. He walked from the cruise port to Atlantis on Paradise Island and back again, which was maybe 35 minutes each way. He walked at stops in Grand Cayman and he walked in Turks and Caicos. That's training time.
Mike loves karaoke on the cruises and he especially loves to compete in the tropics. It’s sea level and when he comes down from the higher elevation where he lives in Arizona, Devaney says “it is like walking on air" in the tropics.
“I was supercharged today. I beat some guys today by two minutes who are usually right with me," he said.
The only disappointing thing about his early December sojourn through the palm trees in Florida was that bug and the buggy neighbors. But the car is a refuge. That car is a partner in all this.
Devaney drove it two days from Arizona to Florida. There was part of a tumbleweed—from Texas, Mike said—stuck in the front grill of the red car that is his locomotive.
The vehicle is without the solid state computer gizmos under the hood, which is joy to the mechanics among us who poke around the engine. You can easily find the spark plugs, the air filter, the wiper fluid basin and, most important for Devaney, the oil dipstick and oil fill cap.
“Wow, that got low,” Devaney said when he pulled out the dipstick. Older cars burn oil, you know.
The car is a metaphor for Devaney. It is older and has some wear with a rust spot or two and faded paint. All the age is on the outside. The things that matter inside, the things that make the car run, are solid. The tires are in good shape, the distributor cap and the spark plug wires have been replaced recently, the battery is new, and the car starts right up.
Just like Mike.
The morning after he slept in the car, Mike did a personal best in the 5000 (32:45). He was faster at 72 years old than he was at 68.
“I weigh seven, or eight pounds, less than I did four years ago,” Mike said. “The weight loss offset the age gain.”
Mike has won two national titles in race walking, both at USA Track & Field Masters Outdoors. He has two silvers from the National Senior Games. When Devaney races in Pittsburgh at the National Senior Games next July he wants to be all the way down to 153.
“The competition level there is really high,” he said. “I want to win a gold.”
Mike wants to do something else, too, which is to rally people back from Covid.
“A lot of people they're questioning where they are in life and they say ‘Well Covid put me on the couch for six months, I’ll stay there’,” Mike said. “They think they have to start all over again and it is too much work and it’s not worth it.
“It’s not too much work. And it is worth it.”
Mike Devaney with "best in show" plaque at The Florida Senior Games.
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