Five pearls of wisdom I personally received from the legendary 'Payton Jordan'...

Life in the Fast Lane

Payton Jordan racing the 200 M 80 age group: 30.1 secs National Masters Champs San Jose, Ca. 1997

It was the summer of 1997, a hot day on the blue oval at San Jose City College in California. I was a developing runner under the tutelage of Coach Brock running for the Reebok Aggies. The track meet was the USA National Masters (and submasters) Championships.. I was relaxing on the infield under a canopy when I heard the meet announcer call the Men's 200 meter final for the 80 year age group...although it was just one race of many races that afternoon for some reason it captured my attention and drew my interest...I peered around the canopy and watched this amazing group of athletes prepare themselves to race, settling into their respective blocks...specifically my eyes were drawn to the man pictured above*, a physically imposing, impressive, handsome man with a shock of white hair and sinewy muscular body; the stuff of legend and lore!

"Set" said the race starter milliseconds before the sound of his starter's pistol....they were off and immediately thus 'adonis' was out clear in front...I knew they were 80+ because I heard the heat called but that was the only clue...certainly the way this amazing athlete and his peers looked and ran betrayed their age..I could not believe what I was seeing...the pace, the grace, the power, the speed, a perfect drive phase, a swift controlled turn and then the power and drive down the back this unfolded I now was jogging across the infield diagonally to watch the race unfold- where ya going? I faintly heard a teammate of mine ask but I paid no mind...I kept on my way and in a flash, my new hero crossed the finish line in an astonishing 30.1 couldn't be, could it? If I had not of witnessed it, I am not sure I would have believed it, but I knew I needed to know more...

At this stage of my early coaching career (yes I had started coaching by this time) and in the developing stages of my racing career I wanted to know how? ! How was this possible? What were the secrets? So many questions flashed across my mind...I quietly walked over to the finish Press area. I had access as I had my race bib on my singlet and I patiently waited for the local radio and local beat writers to conclude their respective interviews with 'Superman'.

His grace, energy and smile and commanding voice and use of the English language was as impressive as it was infectious...finally I had a chance to speak with him- at this time I forgot all about the 1500 meter race I had to warm up for in about forty five minutes time- it was no matter- this I knew for now was more important, the sum was greater than the parts and this was for the greater good for my running and coaching future...

" Excuse me sir I said" "Yes young man this victor said" "I wanted to ask you a question if that is ok?'....."Certainly" came the response...." How, how did you do that, it was amazing?" "Thank you, but I am not happy" I could not believe he was not happy...."What is your name?" he asked me. I responded immediately...After I told him, he replied " My name is Payton Jordan, call me Payton". "Yes sir" I replied..

At which point Payton asked me what event I was racing and I nervously told him the 1500..."Stay focused" he said...I was grateful for the advice...

He then asked me if I truly wanted to know why he was unhappy but also how he was able to do what he was doing...I said "absolutely" !

Payton explained he was ready to break 30 seconds for 200 meters but caught a spike on his start and he stumbled momentarily and this was why he was not happy...BUT in the big picture, these are the five pearls of wisdom that he shared with me that day that I am delighted to be able to share with you...

  1. Have fun ! Always always have fun...

  2. As you grow older, always always work on your flexibility...

  3. Always work on your breathing capacity with deep breathing exercises....Payton said when he was stuck in traffic around Palo Alto he would breathe in for four seconds and out his mouth for eight seconds)

  4. Never stop working on strength- get in the gym and specifically run hills- sprint hills

  5. Never ever betray your speed- speed, speed, speed, fast, fast, fast, quick, quick, quick, keep working on your speed !

So there you have it....I had the pleasure of seeing and chatting with Payton the following Winter when he was a key lecturer on 'sprints' at my USA Track & Field school weekend...

These pearls of wisdom have held firm and true for me ever since and I hope they will for you too....thanks for listening to my story and Run Tall, Run Easy !

* The picture above is just a matter of moments after I first heard the announcer summon all competitors for the Men's 80 age group 200 meter event. This picture is from that race on that very afternoon.

For more information on the life and history of this wonderful, gracious All American human being please click on the link below:

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