Winning the 800 Meters at USA Masters Games
I came to the USA Masters Games in Greensboro feeling pretty good. I had a good month of training after I had to take 3 weeks off in early June. As a result, I was not in quite as good shape as I was last summer when I got my time for the 800 down to 2:13. I had run 2:19 for the 800 in May, but I had only run a disappointing 2:23 in my last tune-up meet in early July, so I really didn’t know what I would be able to do here. And the intense heat and sun made it very difficult and intimidating conditions (glad I had plenty of Ultima to hydrate in that heat).
I planned to take it out reasonably hard on the first lap to put myself in contention and see what I could do on the second lap of the two lap race. At the gun, I didn’t get a quick start, but at the break at 100 meters where people can cut in from their lanes I was able to get into first place. At this point, Dave Cannon, who I knew was the best runner in the field tucked in behind me. We had spoken before the race and I had told him my stretch goal was to run 2:16 so I could earn All-American status and Dave had said he hoped I would push him to get the All-American honors too. So when he tucked in behind me I was not surprised. Now I had to focus on maintaining the pace. I came through the 200 in about 31. I felt very good at that point and knew I was having a good day. As we came up the home stretch on the first lap I still felt strong and when I could see the clock ahead, and it was at just 58, then I knew I was having a very good day. By the time I got to the line for the end of the first lap the clock was around 64-65. I’ll call it a 65 first lap. Dave was still right on my shoulder. This was now the critical part of the race. I knew I had to maintain focus and not let up or Dave would come blowing by.
Down the backstretch, I was really feeling the pressure. With around 250 to go I said to myself just get me to the 200 mark and I can make it from there. At 200 to go, I started to pick it up a little bit. I still had something left. I was feeling good about my chances now, but it was nerve-wracking to lead the whole way like this and not know if Dave was going to start a kick. I waited for the right moment to start my kick. With 150 to go, I put on a surge. Suddenly, I could feel that Dave had lost contact. But this was most dangerous part of the race. Dave could come charging back without me knowing and take the lead at any second. I had to keep driving toward the finish line. At this point, I was suddenly invigorated by the thought of how I had been nipped at the tape and lost a photo finish exactly 11 years ago this week in the World Masters Games 1500, and I was determined to avenge that loss by holding on this time. I charged all the way to the end and crossed the finish line in first. I raised my arm in victory for the first time in a national masters competition. Dave was right behind me finishing in 2:16 and earning All-American status as well.
Needless to say, it was very exciting to come here to the first USA Masters Games and win. And to win it by holding off another top masters 800 runner made it even more special.
Article by: Len Ferman
To find out more about Masters Track & Field athletes, check out the official ranking website: World Masters Rankings
Len Ferman recently ran a sub-5 minute mile at the Florida Senior Games and is a World Champion Joggler. He founded his business, called Ferman Innovation, a marketing consultant firm.