The journey to the National Senior Games takes over a year. It starts in your district where you qualify for the state meet. Then you compete in Nashville to qualify for the national meet which is held every two years in different cities across the United States. Last year was a qualifying year. Next year is a qualifying year.
I started my journey in 2010 at the district meet in Kingsport. I qualified for the state meet in the 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1500. In July I ran in Nashville, breaking three of my Tennessee State records and qualifying for the National Games in all five events.
But as you know, a lot can happen with your running in a year. I was running pretty well until I got sick a couple of days before the Surgoinsville 10 Miler. It was just a cold, but I had that lingering, awful cough for two weeks. I was almost well and even signed up for the Chasing Snakes 10K. Then my sister called the Monday night before to tell me that our Mom had had a brain aneurysm and they were flying her up to the Columbus hospital. My Dad took her off life support the next day and her funeral was the morning of the 10K. For the next six weeks my two sisters and I took turns staying with my Dad in Ohio until we sold the house and he moved to Cincinnati with my younger sister. I was thankful to be running every morning while I was in Athens, just to get away from all of the sadness.
On April 7th, while I was back in Johnson City, I got injured. I slowed my pace and ran through the pain, but finally I had to stop and take a few days off. I thought that I was healed, but on the 28th I re-injured myself running the same course. I looked my symptoms up on the internet where everyone seemed to be in agreement - NO HILLS. After taking almost a whole week off, I started back slowly running only on the track. But I was "running" out of time. It was six weeks before my trip to Houston and the National Senior Games.
The second week of May I began running three days of speed work which consisted of 200's, 300's, 400's, 500's, and 800's. At the end of May I ran the district Senior meet to run against competition and to get used to wearing my spikes. I was pleased with the speed of my shorted races.
In June I began running 200's, 300's, or 500's every other day. The other days I did a two mile Tempo run. I wanted to be sure that I could race injury free, so Tim and I didn't make our hotel and plane reservations until a week and a half before we needed to be in Houston. Finally on June 15th, with a four hour delay while a severe storm went through the tri-cities, we arrived in Texas. On the 16th we went to downtown Houston to pick up my credentials, race schedule, and of course to buy souvenirs.
June 17th was my semi-final in the 400. The one thing that I didn't prepare for was the heat. I was training every morning and the past few workouts I had warmed up with a jacket on. The race was at noon and it was 98 degrees. It was one of the hardest races that I've ever run. First I was assigned lane seven, running blind. (I like lane one because I can see the entire field of runners). As usual, I started out fast and a woman on the inside blew by me on the back stretch. I tried to hold my speed all of the way to the finish, but coming off the last curve down the homestretch, my legs wouldn't go. It felt like I was picking them up a quarter inch off the ground. It's the worst feeling. I knew this wasn't working so I would have to change my strategy for the final. I had the next day off.
The 800 semi-final was scheduled but there were less than eight participants, so it went straight to the final. On Sunday the 19th, I ran the 1500 at 8:00 in the morning. The temperature was cooler at 85 degrees. Two years ago in California I really had to work for my gold medal in this event. This year I beat the number two woman by 54 seconds. I didn't run all out after the second lap and cruised to the finish. I knew that in two hours I had the 400 final. I was the second seed in the 400 and in lane five (the fastest woman was in four where I couldn't see her until it was too late). My new strategy was to go out fast, stride down the backstretch and with 100 meters to go, sprint with everything I had left coming off the last curve. I had to tell myself to be patient. The eventual winner passed me on the backstretch again. "Be patient" When I came off the last turn, I was in fourth place. I shifted gears and passed one woman right away. I really didn't think that I had a chance of catching the next woman, but as I was gaining on her, she was slowing down and tying up. A friend that I met two years ago from Louisiana stood near the finish and started screaming at me to pump my arms. I caught the woman right before the line and used my college track experience to out lean her for second place by .06 seconds. The next morning I ran the 800, beating second place by seven seconds.
Another State of Franklin Track Club member, Lana Butler, was also in Houston while we were there. She had a good meet finishing 5th in the 800, 7th in both the 400 and 1500, and getting a bronze medal in the 4 X 100 Relay.
You wouldn't believe the times that the 55 -59 year old women were running. That will be my age group next time. I'll really need to bring my "A" game. Qualifying for the 2013 Senior Games in Cleveland begin next May.
The National Senior Games is the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors (50 - 100 +). This year, the biennial event was held in Houston, TX from June 16 - 30, 2011. 25 different sports, including track and field and 5K and 10K road races were featured.
Karen Seiferth is a former Queen of the SFTC King & Queen Competition. She is also the current Tennessee age record holder for 49 year olds for the mile and 46 year olds for 4 miles. Seiferth was an SFTC board member from 1998 - 2000 as the District 1 (Johnson City) Rep.