It all started harmlessly enough. My nephew had embraced running and was starting to threaten my dominance. And if anybody knows me, I do not like to lose.
At first, we bet race t-shirts. For every race he beat me, he got to pick one shirt from my collection. For every race I beat him, I got one from his collection. He took one of my favorite Lock Haven U. shirts once for spite but I grabbed one of his Boston shirts. HA!
This little competition was 50-50 for about three days, but as everyone knows, older runners get older and younger runners get faster. And again, if anyone knows me, they know I also like a little trash talk with my competition. So trash talk we did and it started to include his friends. Now I've been racing since 1978, but I don't have enough t-shirts to outfit all of his friends, too. But MY older running friends… Thus, the race series known as Punks versus Geezers was born.
There are a lot of racing opportunities in Delaware and the surrounding areas. The most intrepid runners can run 3, 4, 5 or more races in a single weekend. And yes, I know a couple who do just that. But the chance for head to head, settle the score, Punks drool, Geezers rule opportunities are almost non-existent — until now. P v G is a low frills 5k cross country race pitting college age and younger runners against post-school runners, using traditional scoring (low score wins).
And this is what running should be about! It's the fun of the run. It's the camaraderie of the pursuit. It's the joy of the competition and the friendship bonds that occur afterwards, knowing that everyone competes on the same field at the same time (even with the occasional Kenyan or six present), and no one really cares how fast or slow you think you are, but rather that you had the courage to show up.
On the national scene, there are age-graded events that allow young and older runners to compete on a scoring system curve. The older you are, the more points you get for your particular time, thus making up for the natural slowing process. Pushing 50 that I am, I swore I would never use that system. But I finally embraced it a couple years back.
There are several regional and national race series that utilize age-grading for club and championship events. Recently, 88-year-old Hugh Campbell of Wilmington "won" the USATF Master's 5k road racing championships by scoring an unheard of 101.93 points for his 26:45 finishing time. The second place male scored 95 points (a 50-year-old from Utah, who ran 15:24). The overall woman winner was a 68-year-old from Massachusetts, who also dominated, scoring 101.15 points by running 21:19.
This age grading has added second life to many a runner, by providing an outlet for that still-burning competitive spirit. And that's pretty cool, when an 88-year-old geezer can take down a 50-year-old punk and a 68-year-old geezerette can be called 5k National Champion.
So the Punks and Geezers cross country challenge will continue so long as there are punks calling me Grampa and there are Geezers willing to go into battle with me. Thus far, the t-shirt collection battle is strongly in our favor.
Former Lock Haven University stand-out runner Andy Shearer is the Middletown Athletic Club secretary/treasurer. Shearer has been running since 1978. His column "runs" the first week of each month.