Hall of Famers Among Us

One of the themes of this blog is that running will make better people out of us. I would like to share the stories of two exemplary runners it has been my privilege to know, train and compete with.

Over the years, the Arizona Senior Olympics along with the Arizona Masters Track & Field venues have crowned many state champions and ushered through many potential National and World champions. Rarely, however, have we had two Hall of Fame Athletes step onto the same track to contest the same event. Enter Jack Rickard (75-79 age group) and Dave Doerrer (70-74 age group).
Although competing in different age groups, these two luminaries are set to toe the line for glory in the gruelling 400-meter run. Like many older athletes of their ilk they each bring to the line stories of dedication to their sport, laudatory professional lives, and significant contributions to their fellow man.

Halls of Fame
Jack Athletic Hall of Fame for Track & Field for The College of Emporia, Kansas
Dave The Arizona Track Coaches Hall of Fame

Championship Credentials
Jack current Arizona Olympics 200 and 400-meter champion (age group 75-79) also 400-meter champion in 1997, 2002, 2003, 2007
Dave Gold medal winner at the USA Masters Track & Field Championships in both the 400-meter hurdles and the decathlon.

Jack and Dave in their own words
RFYL: You both have so many accomplishments. Name one you are proud of.
Dave In 1973 I took over the Thunderbird Invitational, the oldest high school cross country meet in the state with usually over 500 participants. (Dave ran this meet until after he retired.)
Jack My sprint medley relay team set a national small college record ath the Kansas University Relays.

RFYL: What made you decide to be a runner?
Jack: When I was eleven and twelve years old we lived on a farm west of town. There was a high hill on the road and everday I ran up that hill imagining that several pretty girls from town were standing at the finish line cheering me on…”
Dave In 7th and 8th grade I was better at the warm up laps we ran before basketball pratice than I was at playing basketball. Darn! I still think playing basketball is more fun than just running.

RFYL: Who had the most influence on your running?
Jack Andy Hornbaker in high school, my friend who was a senior state miler when I was a freshman. He took time to run with me and to give constant encouragement. Unusual for a senior to do that with a freshman.
Dave Dale Torrence, my (HS) track and cross-country coach. He had a way of inspiring us with clever visuals. I remember him saying, often, “Doerrer get out of that ‘Sheep herder shuffle.'”

RFYL:You have both dedicated your lives to education Can you share some of your experiences with young peopl?
Jack One of the highest compliments I ever recieved came from Dr Jeff Messer, the girl’s cross country coach at Xavier (three state championships in a row) who told me that I was an inspiration to the girls. We had been running on the same Central High track at 5 am each morning for workouts whn the girls were not running the canals.
Dave I’ve coached a lot of great kids, some with outstanding talent. Helping them develop personally and athletically has been very rewarding. One of my student athletes even coached our Olympic track team!

RFYL: What makes a successful runner?
Jack With running you have to be self-motivated. It is very important to set goals, maybe more important as you grow older. It helps to have work-out partners when you can. It is also very important to take time off to heal an injury and not run through it like saome runners are inclined to do.
Dave Setting goals, working hard to reach those goals, coming back after getting your butt kicked or an injury. Life is a lot like athletics

RFYL: What advice do you have for remaining healthy after age 70?
Jack Good diet, strong training program. And keeping a positive mental attitude to combat the frustrations of aging. Setting goals is also very important.
Dave Good nutrition, fellowship, setting goals, and light beer.

RFYL: Setting goals seems to be a theme with both of you. What are your goals for the future?
Jack to complete three books, a trilogy of the Great Plains, and various art projects
Dave Spend more time creating memories for/with my wife Marge and my 11 grand kids!

RFYL: When will you hang up the spikes?
Jack To paraphrase Yossarian in Catch-22, I’m going to run forever or die trying.
Dave Play as long as it’s fun

RFYL: For those who may not know, what is it like running a 400 meter race?
Dave I used to say run until you get tired then gut it out for the final 100 meters. Now when I get tired I’m only half way through.
Jack It’s like deliberately making yourself throw up. Only those people who have a thing about self-punishment and pain run that race.

RFYL: I did ask both Jack and Dave if they would like to run the NYCMarathon with me. They declined.

Final Comment
As our elder statesman in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle we will give Jack the last word.

I consider running to be my lifelong endeavour. I don’t ever intend to stop. I’m continually amazed how the human body adapts and how one can gain physical strength at any age. The benefits of physical activity are well documented. Life is a Joy. We celebrate it by running.

Notes on Grieving: You Can Go Home Again

It is summer, 1996. Bernice and I are driving her stuffed-to-the-gills Tarus on our way to our new life in Phoenix. After an interminable drive through flat-ass, farm-riddled Kansas we had holed up at the Tucumcari Holiday Inn. We arrived there after dark and set our alarm for four bells next morning. It was still dark when we drank our fist coffee on the road. Since we are both from the midwest we were still feeling like we had been driving forever without getting anywhere. That was about to change.

As the dawn broke slowly we peered out at some pretty errie structures. Nothing new about that, cornfields and barns and silos can look pretty eerie in the pre-dawn. But as the dark gave way to light and color we found oursleves driving straight into sunrise on the Sonoran Desert. The world had changed before our eyes. At first we could only marvel at the outrageous bolder configurations, the red desert clay and the “Wow, would you look at those monster (Sajuaro) Cactus.” It was serendipitous that Bernice was driving becuase suddenly I was hit with a zolt from the past. Suddenly I am seven years old the summer before my dad died. He is telling me probably the last story about his time out west as a young man. As I listen to him I’m daydreaming about being a cowboy just like he was. The boy is now a fifty-four years old man who has harbored the dream of moving west forty-seven of those years. “Baby,” I said through tears, “this may sound strange, but we are out west and I feel like I’m finally home.”
My life partner, Bernice Betty Wagner, died on February 17, 2011. I am in my thirteenth month of grieving. In my journey I have not yet become whole, but I have changed. I recently attempted to describe this change through a letter to a woman I met in one of my grief counseling sessions. She had recently lost her mother. Through talking to each other about our losses, we became friends. I have her permission, as well as that of my two good friends Paul and Deanna, to share this letter with you.
Dear Teena, 
Just got home from my jeep ride through the Tonto National Park with Paul and Deanna. Thought you’d like to hear the story.
As the jeep rambles over daunting terrain, Paul and Deanna are like the kids in Jurassic Park when they saw their first prehistoric creatures. They, P & D, marveled at the dense desert foliage and the other-worldly rock formations. They kept asking, didn’t I think it was striking, awe-inspiring. Later we sat outside their camper and watched the sunset. Again the questions, didn’t I think it was spectacular, could there be anything more beautiful than the sun disappearing behind a pristine desert horizon. I responded with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. But my mind was elsewhere.
It was just last summer (2011) and I had driven up to Flagstaff to spend a couple of days hanging with my writer friend Dan who had found means to escape the valley heat, a cheap hotel with a hell of a view of the San Francisco Peaks. I mention this because Dan was doing a lot of self-congratulatory expositories on his cleverness, beating the heat, getting a steal on the motel rooms, landing us a view that would rival any in the state.
First chance I got I wandered off alone, surveyed the mighty mountains, the more immediate pine forest, and the quaintness of Flagstaff from the edge. It all looked like the set of an old “B” western movie gaudily dressed in technicolor. For fifteen years, Bernice and I roamed the state in a mad love affair with its mountains and deserts. Standing in the motel parking lot in Flagstaff, I simply could not remember what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t jaded. I was grieving. Love of a person, love of a place-when one is gone the other follows leaving hurt and apathy in the wake.
Not that I didn’t appreciate Paul and Deanna’s enthusiasm for the Park. It was the type of reaction that Bernice and I always expected when showing our guests the grandeaur that we lived in. It just that I was hearing them and not hearing them. Feeling them and not feeling them. Sharing and not sharing. My emotions were coming from the same source and not the same source. They reveled in the finding of this world, I reveled in returning to it. It has been so long since I could appreciate my land, my state, my home.
I stayed for dinner and we talked the evening away, telling of our struggles, laughing at our foibles. Paul is every bit as irreverent as I am. Deanna keeps him in line, more or less. They compliment each other. I love them and cherish the time I spend in thier company.
As always, thanks for listening