December 29, 2023 5 min read 4 Comments
Even with a wrapped left hamstring, Flo Meiler, 89, completed 10 events in two days August 12-13 to become the oldest woman in the U.S. to complete a decathlon. Photo by Rob Jerome.
By Ray Glier
It is impossible for me to pick a Geezer Jock Of The Year. Everyone's story was delightful to me and an inspiration to others.
I just went eeeny meeny miiney mo, drew from a hat, etc., to pick six snippets of stories for readers to look back on and be amazed. Below are little 150-word highlights you can breeze through to get revved up for 2024.
Andrea Collier, who is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in the 100 and 200 meters outdoors (W55), works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and travels. She was in New Jersey on assignment in January and did not have access to a track to train for the 60m hurdles indoors, which she was running in Poland March 23 at the World Masters Athletics championships. Her ultimate goal in 2023 was to medal at WMA.
So Collier went to a Dollar Tree store and spent $15 so she could make six hurdles using garden fence and those foam rollers we use to flop in the pool.
Andrea stuck those dummy/proxy hurdles into the frozen ground at a New Jersey park. And she was able to train on the road.
It is an example of insourcing and Collier won a bronze medal on the world stage.
Andrea Collier's home-made hurdles she used to train on the road.
Evelyn Block, aka Stevie Fleetwheels, blew the whistle and did what roller derby referees do to misbehaving athletes. She put the offender in the penalty box. The girl had taken out her mouth guard while skating on the track, which is against the rules.
The child, who was five years old, burst into tears at the penalty.
“We are loose with the rules, usually, with kids that age,” Block said.
“I felt terrible, I destroyed her world, but it was a safety issue.”
A safety issue? What do you call a 75-year old woman who referees roller
derby on skates and is feet away from a scrum and getting knocked over, or knocked out?
“A bad ass,” Block said. “My son calls me a bad ass.”
Evelyn Bock, aka Stevie Fleetwheels.
Running for your health takes on a whole different meaning when you are running in a war zone. All of Ukraine, every inch east to west, north to south, is a war zone because Russian missiles fly wherever the invaders want them to fly.
So you are really running for your life, not just your health.
That means you watch your step in Ukraine, as 63-year old Nikolay Sagaidakovsky does. Daily. That's a lot of steps to watch for this ultra runner.
A retired engineer and consumer analyst, he lives in Lviv, in western Ukraine, and he makes sure he runs far enough away from power plants so he keeps his label as “runner” and doesn’t add another label “collateral damage.” The Russians seek out the power stations and oil depots and routinely blow them up, an attempt to either freeze people to death, or outright murder them with munitions.
“Some portion of risk exists, for sure, but it’s good to judge it using criteria of probability,” Nikolay said. “I keep in mind places to be bypassed.”
Then 63-year old Nikolay Sagaidakovsky, who lives in Lviv, in western Ukraine.
For years, Ray Tucker’s love of competitive running was impenetrable, but an Achilles injury and nagging hamstrings transformed him from runner to someone who runs. Once rated as among the best high school milers in all of North America and, in his 30s and 40s, a highly-competitive Masters runner, Ray's injuries saddled him with pedestrian pace in his early 50s.
“I said to myself ‘maybe I’m through competitively’ and I kind of resigned myself to that,” Ray said. “I would do just easy running and not push it. That was hard mentally.”
When his wife died Dec. 27, 2018, suddenly at 3 in the morning, Ray needed to be a runner again.
Carol and Ray had been married 50 years. She was the reason Ray had turned down a chance to train at the university level in Toronto in 1965 where the coach thought the teenage Tucker could be the first Canadian to run a sub-4 minute mile and challenge the great Jim Ryun, who was the same age. Carol meant so much to Ray he could stay home and give up an opportunity like that.
When she died, Ray felt the despair that comes with unanticipated silence. “I had never been alone,” he said.
Ray was quiet for a moment before he said, “I was afraid of becoming a hermit.” He had a right to be afraid of the decay that comes with seclusion.
In his world of grief, Ray turned to a next love, which was running. In the first few months after Carol’s death, he felt some peace in his light jogs along the Grand River, which winds through Brantford, Ontario. At least he was getting out.
One day, Tucker added to the cadence of his jog. A few days later, he added some more pace. The Achilles held. The hamstrings stayed calm. He felt more peace. He could count on his legs.
Ray Tucker was no longer someone who runs. He was a runner. Again.
This is how you mold the future, obliterate stereotypes, and get people to sit up to the edge of their seats. Somebody like Flo Meiler comes along and she does something out of the ordinary, like the Decathlon. At 89.
Meiler, who is from Shelburne, Vermont, went to the USA Track & Field Masters Outdoors Combined Events National Championships August 12-13 in Walnut, Ca., and became the oldest American woman to do the Decathlon in a sanctioned meet. Over two days, Flo competed in the 100-meter, 400-meter and 1,500-meter runs, high hurdles, the long jump, high jump, pole vault, discus throw, shot-put and javelin throw.
“I’m exhausted,” Flo said three days after the event. “It was fun. I’ll do it again.”
Flo heaves the javelin at 89. Photo by Rob Jerome.
The man in the picture is 5-foot-11 and once weighed 330 pounds. He did not have a pizza/beer/candy problem. He had a congenital lung problem. John Weeks, 61, could not so much as walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air. While he sat and sat, John was given large doses of steroids and gained weight. He could be hooked up to a ventilator in a hospital for oxygen, but he obviously couldn’t take the machine home with him.
John’s earliest memories in the 1960s as a child included staring at the ceiling of a hospital room where he spent most of the first five years of his life.
Then science—and John Weeks—rescued John Weeks.
In 2005, the industrial-sized ventilator was replaced by a smaller, bedside ventilator he could use through the night to supply oxygen for the next day, and every day after that. Weeks came off the steroids. He could exercise.
John’s life was reassembled after 43 years. His weight dropped from 330 to 165 and has held at approximately 180.
Weeks, who is fighting with Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome (CCHS), is planning an ultra run in 2024 of 100 miles. He has done marathons in all but 12 states. John has done half-marathons in all but six states. He has done the Big 6 marathons of Boston, New York, Chicago, Berlin, Tokyo, and London.
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