Monday, April 10, 2006

Bloomsday elites outrun ages

131 earned right to brag last year

Hilary Kraus
Staff writer
April 10, 2006

Go ahead Bloomsday athletes. Brag a little.

Your time last year was less than your HDL cholesterol level.

Your IQ is higher than the time it took you to walk the course.

Or, how about this? You ran Bloomsday faster than your age.

Not so fast on that last one.

Of the 39,941 people who finished last year, only 131 fell into that final category. Some of their times were downright freaky.

John Keston, who was 80 last year, finished in 56 minutes, 33 seconds. To mention that Keston of McMinnville, Ore., is a world-class, age-group runner is like saying Dr. Laura likes to tell people what to do. His 2005 Bloomsday time was a world record in 12K (7.46-mile) races for 80- to 84-year-olds. Earlier in 2005, Keston became the oldest sub-7-miler in history by running the mile in 6:48.2 at the Fountain of Youth Masters Mile in Canby, Ore.

June Machala, a Spokane runner also in a class by herself, was 74 during last year's Bloomsday and finished in 63:18. She was one of six female runners who ran faster than their ages. Three of the women, Sylvia Quinn, 68; Gunhild Swanson, 60; and Ann B. Bell, 54, ran faster than their husbands.

June's husband, Joe Machala, a retired police officer who works as a security officer at the U.S. Courthouse, plans to run his 28th Bloomsday on May 7. He's been running since the early '80s and said he remembers running faster than his age when he clocked a 40-minute time at age 45.

"I never thought about beating my age," Joe Machala said, a comment made by many on the "faster than age" list. "I try to stay close to the top of my age group."

For the past two Bloomsdays, Joe Machala came in second to Spokane's Jeff Corkill in the 60-to-64-year-old division. In 2005, Corkill was 61 and finished in 45:38. Machala was 63 and ran 47:05.

Machala's Japanese-born wife is a retired waitress who took up running about 20 years ago at age 55. June Machala runs five to six days a week. Her routine also involves weightlifting and swimming.

"Doctors are amazed when they look at her," said Joe Machala. Jeff Kawaguchi, clinical coordinator for the athletic training education program at Eastern Washington University, said there are several factors that create these anatomic anomalies.

"It's probably a combination of things," he said, including a strong cardiovascular system and healthy muscles. But, he said, it also has a lot to do with genetics. "The old adage is if you want to be an Olympic sprinter, pick your parents carefully," Kawaguchi said.

No matter how blessed, however, most runners hit a plateau after reaching a certain age, Kawaguchi said.

Gunhild Swanson, who has raced in 28 Bloomsdays, hasn't discovered her limits yet. When she was 53 in 1998, she ran 52:41 and beat her age for the first time. Last year, at age 60, she ran 55:06, which was more than one minute faster than at age 59 and more than two minutes faster than at age 58.

Her training involves running five to six days a week, amounting to about 50 miles.

"I think it's just a gift," said Swanson, who lives in the Spokane Valley. "There is nothing that I can tell you that I do any differently than anybody else training. I was just lucky to always have had a certain amount of speed."

And good health, until recently. Swanson developed bunions and a hammer toe. Her foot began flaring up in December, although it didn't stop her from running a marathon. On Feb. 5, Super Bowl Sunday, she fell and hit a rock, injuring her shoulder.

On Wednesday, Swanson had shoulder surgery. Forty-eight hours later, she went in for foot surgery. If she participates in Bloomsday, she'll do it walking – with her foot in a boot.

"Right now I don't know," she said. "But I have my money sent in."

She said she's sure to return in 2007 and already is planning to compete in a 100-mile race in November.

Eighty-one-year-old Keston, meanwhile, the runner on the "faster than age" group with the largest difference between age and race time, will be back this year. He said his secret to success is simple.

"Anyone can be a very good runner," Keston said. "You can reach a peak and sustain that peak providing you train hard."

Keston, a British-born actor and singer, began running at age 55 and enjoyed steady improvement for 18 years after that. His current training regimen involves running long (eight to 18 miles), walking the next two days, and running long again.

Becoming a successful runner, Keston said, boils down to two things: commitment and application.

"Unless you keep on doing it, you can't get better," he said.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Good company

In their 42 years, love has grown in Heaps

Karen and Steve Heaps take an afternoon stroll along the Centennial Trail on Thursday. After 42 years of marriage, they still hold hands in public and exchange poems. (LIZ KISHIMOTO The Spokesman-Review )

L ove may not be blind, but in the case of Steve and Karen Heaps, it is surely double-visioned.

Take the conflicting stories of their courtship, for example. It's the best of the long-lasting love stories told by readers contacted by Exit 289 over the past week. Theirs, and one other, follow.

"We were Shadle kids. I was 17. She was 15," Steve Heaps said. It was 1961. "She lived three blocks from me, and I didn't know it until I saw her on Rowan Hill," he said. "I waved at her, and she waved back."

Steve was with Mike Gee. Gee had taken Karen out for a Coke once, and he gave her telephone number to Heaps, who called her up faster than you can say "sweet baby."

"I told her I was the guy who waved at her," Steve says of that first introduction, which is where his and Karen's story start to differ.

Steve portrays himself as an unknown in need of an introduction. Karen Heaps says Steve was "the biggest jock at Shadle," a track star, a real hunk.

The date went off like this: Steve says he picked Karen up and hurried off to "Splendor in the Grass," starring Natalie Wood, the 1961 story of a young Kansas girl's unrequited and forbidden love with a handsome man from a powerful family. The movie's tagline: "There's a miracle in being young and … a fear."

Karen doesn't remember their first movie; there were so many movies, after all. What she remembers is Steve walking into the front room to meet her parents, who were talking with a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. Steve mistook the salesman for Karen's father and expended most of his energy making a lasting impression on a stranger.

The part Karen remembers most, though, is the way Steve shrugged it off when Karen's infant nephew burped up on Steve's shirt.

"A guy who goes over and picks up a baby, he likes kids, and he didn't mind the burp," Karen said. "That was kind of the spark right there." She chose well.

They eloped three years later, when Steve was 20 and Karen was 18. Washington wouldn't allow a man under 21 to marry, so they headed for a Presbyterian church in Coeur d'Alene.

Kids, the reverend told them, you need a blood test. They never even thought about that. Steve passed out at the sight of the needle, but they thought they were ready and returned to the church to be married that day.

When they returned to Spokane and told Karen's folks the news, the parents weren't surprised. In fact, Steve remembers Karen's brother disappearing upstairs and returning with a wedding present already wrapped.

The newlyweds moved to California, where Karen raised two kids while Steve worked a night bakery job and went to school in the daytime. It wasn't easy. Marriage rarely is, but it was special. Out of the blue, Steve would come home with flowers and, occasionally, a poem, beautiful poems about the day they met and what Karen meant to him.

The latest poem he wrote her was delivered Christmas Day 2005 and read aloud before their children and their grandchildren. They've been married 42 years, and there's really no secret to it, Karen said. They didn't do anything special; they just did everything together.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Tucker finds pot of gold

Late-bloomer enjoys success at Masters meets

Rich Tucker runs to a victory in the 800 in Honolulu on Saturday. (Oscar Hernandez for The Spokesman-Review )

If you've ever wondered what you might find at the end of a rainbow just ask Rich Tucker.

Tucker struck gold (a gold medal, that is) on the University of Hawaii's "Rainbow Track" at the National Masters Outdoor Track and Field Championships, held Aug. 4-7 in Honolulu.

Earlier this summer, a pulled muscle had 60-year-old Tucker discouraged about the rest of his season.

"I was training this winter and all spring and everything was going well and then I pulled a muscle in my calf, and I thought, 'Well this is great, I trained for months and now I'm done,' " Tucker said. "I told my wife, 'That's it. I've got to find something with less impact, like cycling', but then (my leg) started feeling better and the juices started flowing again."

That's when Tucker competed in and brought home gold medals with first-place finishes in the 400 and 800-meter races at last month's Washington State Senior Games in Olympia. After that Tucker decided to go to Hawaii for the second time this year.

Only this time, he went solo (sans wife) and roughed it in a dorm room at the University of Hawaii.

"A month ago I had a couple of meets to run in and my leg was feeling better so I told myself 'If the meet in Olympia goes well then I am going to go for it,' " Tucker said.

Tucker went all out, finishing first in Saturday's 60-64 800-meter race, just 16 hundredths of a second in front of Larry Barnum of Reno, Nev., with a time of 2:19.69.

Heading into the national meet, Tucker was ranked second in the nation in the 800, five seconds behind Barnum. He was ranked fifth in the 400 and improved in that event as well, just missing the bronze medal with a fourth-place finish.

"(Barnum and I) joke because we have competed the last five years off and on," Tucker said. "I told him he did the work and I stuck by him at the end. Between the heat and the wind it was kind of a tactical race. And I think it was hard for him that he led the whole way. He tried to surge a few times, but I just stayed with him. It really worked to my advantage."

Tucker returns home tonight and says it's time to get back to reality, as the school year will begin in early September.

Tucker spends a lot of time at Spokane Falls Community College. He has worked there for the past nine years and is currently the Associate Dean for student-funded programs. But his ties to Spokane go way back.

Tucker, who grew up in northeast Spokane, graduated in 1963 from Rogers High School, just one year ahead of Gerry Lindgren.

Yes, the same Gerry Lindgren that is considered the greatest high school distance runner, not just with respect to his competitors, but on an absolute basis.

The high school kid that ran down and defeated the Soviets in the 10,000 in a 1964 dual during the height of the Cold War when the U.S. had next to no reputation in the event and then went on to Washington State University where he was a six-time NCAA champion.

After high school, Tucker's parents emphasized what was to come first: a college education.

Tucker, whose $75 tuition bill at Western Washington University was footed by a track scholarship, didn't always run for pleasure.

"Running got me to college," says Tucker. "Basketball was my first love and I always thought about the pros. It was more fun. When I went to college I wasn't into distance running because it was too much work."

So Tucker focused mostly on academics and basketball and ran the 400 for the school's track team. He graduated in 1968 with a Business degree and then went on to a two-year stint in the Navy. When he got out he went back to Western and pursued a degree in education.In 1980, he moved to Pullman and began working for the athletic department at Washington State University. When he turned 40 in 1984, Tucker began to compete at the master's level and actually started enjoying the hard work that goes into competitive distance running.

"When I got into my thirties and forties I wasn't that much slower than in college. But in college it was more of my ability and talent that got me by and as I got older it was about the maturity to train and work hard," Tucker said.

Like all dedicated athletes, there is a method to Tucker's madness.

"Every year it's the same thing. After Bloomsday I get a little more serious and begin training for the track season."

Tucker trains with the Spokane Falls Community College women's track team about twice a week because, he says, "I can keep up with them."

Tucker has participated in Bloomsday for 26 of its 29 years. He also commits to five or six masters meets around the region every year. Those meets, however, don't satisfy Tucker's level of competition like the national meet does.

"If I feel healthy and fit enough I will go to (the national meet)," Tucker said. "It's a lot of fun because over the years you stay in touch with people and then we come together at the national meet. At the senior and state level there isn't a lot of competition so it takes meets like this to get the competition I want."

And Tucker has no intention of slowing down.

"I've lost a couple of friends to cancer this past year. So I figure as long as I can I will run because there are so many people who can't," he said. "It's what I do. As long as I have my health I am going to push it as far as I can."

He may, he says, even push his way to the World Veteran Games after he retires. Barnum is competing in this year's games in Spain.

"(Barnum) is retired so he has the time and money to do that," Tucker said. "My wife is not looking forward to (my retirement) because she knows I will want compete full time."

But the shoe definitely fits, as Tucker can list his victories from the past 20 years of competition at the masters' level. It's obvious his love of running is deeply rooted in his system. Maybe a little too much, his wife might say.

"It's kind of funny," Tucker said, "because I can remember all my statistics. But a birthday, or an anniversary, I can't remember those."

•For more results see statsheet/C4 or for complete results visit

USATF Junior Outdoor Nationals
in Carson, CA

Becca Noble
,sponsored in part by the BRRC, has won the women's 800 meter run in Carson, CA. She beat a strong field including several college runners. Now she will represent the US at the Pan Am games in Windsor Ontario.  That is the best time ever by a Washington State high school girl.

Women 800 Meter Run Junior
       World: W 1:57.18  9/8/1993    Wang Yuan, CHN
    American: A 2:00.07  7/24/1982   Kim Gallagher, Pennsylvania
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals
  1 Rebekah Noble                Unattached             2:03.73
  2 Heidi Magill                 B Y U                  2:04.99
  3 Alysia Johnson               Cal-Berkeley           2:07.20
  4 Sarah Bowman                 Unattached             2:07.88
  5 Devon Williams               Unattached             2:08.58
  6 Margaret Infeld              Unattached             2:08.99
  7 Lavera Morris                Kentucky               2:09.74
  8 Trisa Nickoley               Missouri               2:11.99
  9 Dominique Blake              Unattached             2:13.32

WOW!!! This is quite an accomplishment. Running the Tower and Elder Road really does pay off!

An article from the Spokesman:
Compiled from staff, wire
and news service reports
November 7, 2004

Seven from Spokane finish 100-mile run in Arizona
Seven runners from Spokane were among 71 of the 110 starters who finished the Javelina Jundred ultra-marathon 100-mile race last weekend in Fountain Hills, Ariz., including a trio who came in together in the top fourth of the field in 22 hours, 37 minutes.

Connie Ridenour, 46, led the local contingent, placing 12th in 22:37:46, with Gunhild Swanson, 60, given 13th in the same time, and Dennis Clute, 51, placing 14th, also, in 22:37:46.

Other local finishers, their ages and times: 26th, David Bliss, 42, 25:40:10; 42nd, Lisa Bliss, 36, 27:26:10; 47th, David Remington, 63, 27:56:13; and 63rd, Mary Ann Clute, 52, 29:11:44.

Ridenour, the third woman overall, received a special award for being the highest finishing woman competing in her first 100-mile race. David Bliss, among those who ran the Halloween-themed event in costume, won a special award for "most memorable performance."

Many running, walking groups in area

There are plenty of groups for people of all ages and abilities who want to run or walk with others.

For walkers, Don Jolley is the person to keep up with.

Jolley used to do a lot of running until knee problems forced him to quit several years ago. Instead of being completely sidelined, Jolley started a group for people who walk together. They head out from the West Central area every Monday and Wednesday after work. There's also a walk each Saturday.

"It helps a lot because you have people around you," Jolley said.

If people are interested in walking with the group, they can call Jolley at 327-9285.

Another great resource for running and walking groups is the Web site of the Bloomsday Road Runners Club. The site lists weekly runs and walks. Jim Hoppe, the secretary, also sends out an e-mail list of weekly events. Hoppe said the Road Runners group welcomes people of all ability levels.

"If someone is just starting out, they're really good about trying to bring them up to speed," Hoppe said of group members. "It's a really accommodating group."

The Sunday Slugs have their events listed on the Web site. That group meets each Sunday at 8 a.m. at the Manito Park duck pond for a walk or run.

The Web site of the Bloomsday Road Runners Club is

– Trinity Hartman

'It's thoroughly fun'

The Swansons participate in numerous long- distance races each year

Gunhild Swanson ran a 100-mile race in Arizona over Halloween. The same weekend, her husband, Jack Swanson, ran a marathon in the Tri-Cities. Last weekend, the two traveled together to a marathon in Boise. Sometimes, the Swansons win their age groups. Often, they don't have a lot of competition.

Gunhild is 60 and works at Safeco Insurance in Liberty Lake. Jack is 70 and retired. Not many people their age still enter the grueling long-distance races the Swansons love.

The Spokane Valley couple will have done 13 races of 26.2 miles or farther by the end of this year.

"It's thoroughly fun," Gunhild Swanson said.

The Swansons don't have any secret to running longevity. They have willpower, decent legs and an enjoyment of the sport that they find difficult to explain.

Whenever people seem awed by their achievements, the Swansons turn the conversation to how anyone can begin running at any age and at any speed. Even if a person doesn't want to do a marathon, it's possible to get health benefits from running or walking a shorter race, like Bloomsday, Gunhild Swanson said.

They would not want to age as couch potatoes.

Running gives their bodies a freedom that transcends aches and pains and slower race times. If they go on vacation and want to take a long, grueling hike, they know their bodies will make it, Gunhild Swanson said. If they want to climb up boulders at a beach, they do it.

"We might not live a day longer than any sedentary person, but we're going to get more out of every day," Gunhild Swanson said.

The Swansons met through the running community and have been married for 18 years. They both started running in the late 1970s. While at first they both found it difficult to run short distances, it wasn't long before they were entering marathons. They've done a combined 350 races that are marathon length or longer. Plus, they run Bloomsday.

Both are lean. Gunhild, a native of Germany, is gregarious and engaging. Jack, a truck driver who spent much of his time "sitting on my rear end," started running at the age of 44. He has a laid-back style.

Both are well-known in the running community.

Ed Rockwell, 70, a retired physician who is also an avid runner, said the Swansons are good role models.

"As we age we slow down," Rockwell said.

Yet people need to remain active as they age, Rockwell said. That doesn't mean they need to run marathons, but they need to get out, even if it's only for a walk in the park.

Don Jolley was active in the running community for many years before a recent knee injury. At first, he felt depressed. Then, he got a group of people together and started walking.

Jolley has known the Swansons for many years. He said Gunhild is one of the most determined runners he knows. He also admires that Jack Swanson has kept doing marathons.

"He'll stop to take pictures. He'll talk to people. He just enjoys it and still runs a good time," Jolley said.

All winter long the Swansons will wake up early and put feet to pavement. They do this regardless of the weather.

For Gunhild, the early morning runs become "precious time."

"It's time I have for myself. Nobody can take that away from me," she said.

Jack Swanson stays motivated by the knowledge that if he doesn't train, the next race "is going to hurt."

On any given morning, Gunhild Swanson runs faster and farther than Jack. Yet they know each other's paces so intimately that they can plan a meeting place and arrive at it within minutes of each other. They often finish morning runs together at the Starbucks inside Albertsons. They get a mocha there, then walk back to their home near McDonald Elementary School.

Gunhild Swanson is happy if she runs a time of 3 hours, 35 minutes. Jack usually crosses the finish line about an hour later. He's slowed since a heel injury a few years ago, but said it doesn't matter.

Usually, the Swansons enter marathons together, even if they don't see each other for long on the course. Jack Swanson said it was hard for them to split up for the recent races. Gunhild did the Javelina Jundred ultramarathon in Arizona with other running friends from the Spokane area. She finished the race in 22 hours, 37 minutes.

Jack was second in his age group in the Tri-Cities marathon.

They have one more race to run this year. They'll do a marathon in Seattle over Thanksgiving weekend.

They're already looking forward to next year. They want to run a marathon in all 50 U.S. states. So far, they've gone to fewer than half.

While they expect to continue slowing down, they have no intention of stopping.

"I intend to run marathons until I'm 90 years old," Gunhild said.

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