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80 With Stamina. A Farm Boy Works Full-Time And Overtime.

June 29, 2024 4 min read 9 Comments

80 With Stamina. A Farm Boy Works Full-Time And Overtime.

You can't see his face, but the man clearing this hurdle is 80 years old. Photo by Julie Toll.

By Ray Glier

I’m going to talk about the stamina of an 80-year old, but this is in no way meant to be political (re: the octogenarian in the White House). I didn’t even ask Stephen Peirce if he leans left or right.

I only asked Steve how he leans into it. Period.

I mean he really leans into it.

It is exercise.

On June 8th at the 52nd annual Portland Masters Classic, Peirce competed in 18 track & field events from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

18.

I am not kidding.

He did the 100 meters, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 3000k race walk, steeplechase, 80 meter hurdles, 200 meter hurdles, shot put, discus, javelin, high jump, long jump, triple jump, hammer, weight throw, and super weight.

It was amusing that Mile Split had each listing under "Boys Result 80-84".

“Well, Ray, in some of those throwing events, I made just one or two legal throws then went on to the next event,” Peirce said.

Still, he had to get off his butt, walk to the shot put circle, and chuck that thing.

“I was the only person in my age bracket in the 800 so I didn’t have to push myself too hard for that one,” Steve said.

He still had to run two laps around the track. Steve didn’t ride on somebody’s shoulders.

Peirce sounds so unprivileged. He sounds like just a guy.

He’s not just a guy.

Steve, at 80, still works six days a week as a family and marriage counselor in the Portland, Oregon, area. Peirce is a role model because if he can do all this what can you do? I’ll put that out there. What can you do? Two or three events? Great. Go for that and don't make too much of the result.

Just do it is a way of life out there in Portland, close to the home of Nike, the masterminds behind that slogan Just Do It.

How does he just do it?

"I try to do a lot of high intensity interval training," Peirce said "So I will run a quarter of a mile as hard as I can, and then slow jog for a quarter of a mile then and run a quarter mile as hard as I can, and then slow jog a quarter mile.

"I'll do a couple of miles like that."

HIIT seems to be working. He has entered 103 meets in 26 years of Masters track. He has won 1,138 total medals in those years. That breaks down into 642 gold, 316 silver and 180 bronze.

Through the years, Peirce has learned to love the intermediate hurdles and high hurdles. If he was paying attention, and he's not, Steve would find he is nationally ranked in the hurdles in the M80-84. And the steeplechase.

**

Steve, you won’t be surprised, was a farm boy. His family grew wheat. What doesn’t fit with the narrative was his mom and dad, Francis and Walter, were graduates of Kansas State University. Not many women earned university degrees in the early 1930s. Mom helps explain the achieving.

Peirce was valedictorian of his high school class of 24 in the plains around Hutchinson. He lettered four years in football and three in basketball and four in track and then went to K-State, then seminary, and then the University of Kansas for his Phd.

“I've been running most of my life,” Steve said. “I'm very, very competitive in everything. I like to be the best of everything; card games, board games, any game at all. I like to be the best."

One reason for this competitiveness is the older brother syndrome. They had to be kept up with at all costs and they weren’t just two or three years older than Steve. They were six and eight years older.

What is central to this story is the "farmer mentality." You worked six days a week. You learned how to grind.

"And so I still kind of have that mentality," Peirce said. "I try to take what I would call a long distance runner's perspective where I try to find a pace that I can maintain for the long haul, rather than a sprinter. Now, sometimes I do have to sprint a little bit, but most of the time I'm back in a place where I can just maintain."

Most of us have that we just don't know how to apply it, or what to call it. We grind. We maintain.

And we appreciate life. He has two stories about appreciating life.

Steve was 10, and neighbors were helping his dad put silage into an old silo.

"My dad was up at the top of it trying to spread it out to get the last little bit and  someone called up to him and said, 'You know, you better come down, this silo doesn't look very sturdy right now. My dad got down and the whole silo collapsed. I could have lost my dad at an early age.

"I can say it helped me appreciate everything, like those 18 events and working six days a week," Steve said.

At 79 years old, Steve had a snow skiing accident. He had five rib fractures on his left side, a fracture right behind the pinky finger on the left hand, a broken scapula, a broken clavicle, five neck breaks, a break in the thoracic region of the spine and a break in the lumbar region. The damage was 15 breaks.

Peirce was in a body brace for 12 weeks that went from his neck down to his waist and he had to wear it whenever he was out of bed. Three months.

Steve went to bed one Friday night with the neck brace. He took it off the next morning and went out and jogged 2 miles. He then came in and took his first shower in 12 weeks.

That explains how a man 80 has the stamina to do 18 events in seven hours.

Steve Peirce, 80, did 18 track & field events in seven hours. This picture was taken after he got out of the full body brace from his skiing accident.


9 Responses

Eldon Garner
Eldon Garner

July 10, 2024

Steve, will you bein corvallis next month for the senior meet?

Becky Hatch
Becky Hatch

July 09, 2024

WOW Steve!! That is Great!!

David Dunn
David Dunn

July 08, 2024

Not only grit and determination but a great example. Blessed to call him Dad. (Father in law) Less biased but equally impressed. :-)

Jeffrey Doman
Jeffrey Doman

July 08, 2024

Incredible accomplishment. Extremely impressive. Stephen Pierce is setting a great example for people of all ages and especially seniors.

Erica Piccolo
Erica Piccolo

July 06, 2024

Steve is an impressive athlete, excellent example of grit, and a wonderful friend. Great read!

David Warnken
David Warnken

July 06, 2024

Steve and I spent many Sundays together after church. Good memories and you rock Steve

Leah Rewolinski
Leah Rewolinski

July 02, 2024

Truly inspiring. It takes so much dedication and love to achieve at this level.

Florence L Meiler
Florence L Meiler

June 29, 2024

Great Story

Phil Shipp
Phil Shipp

June 29, 2024

Steve is phenominal. Doing a decathlon over two days fails in comparison

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