Running Masters Bob Wischnia, Photography by Cory Ryan January 25, 2008

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Austin might not have any world-class runners who have decided to make the city home, but we have some of the best masters runners in the country. Such 40 runners as Carmen Troncoso and Keith Dowland are among the very best nationally in their respective age groups. Both have been good for so long that we tend to forget about all the other top masters runners in town. Suffice it to say, there are plenty. In case you dont know, masters running is broken down into five-year age groups, beginning at age 40. In most of the road races, there are age group divisions where some of the fiercest battles are fought for top three honors. Heres a sampling of some of the better masters runners in Austin and what drives them in their quests to still run and race, long after most people their age are playing shuffleboard. Perhaps the only commonality in this elite group is the love of running and the fact that racing as a masters runner still gets their competitive juices flowing.


The Wonder from Down Under

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Keith Dowland 52 Accountant

Years running: 37. My twin brother Ross and I started running together as teenagers in our hometown of Dunedin, New Zealand. We have both been running and racing ever since.

Favorite race: The 3M Half Marathon. Its fast and always has great competition.

Masters PRs: Half (1:09:59 at age 42), 10K (32:18, at age 44) 5K (15:37 at age 44).

Main competitors: There are so many good runners in town, but I like to race against the young guys. In my age group, I know Dick Beardsley is going to be tough but I have never raced him. I look forward to meeting him though.

What masters competition means: Not much. I just enjoy running and the competition whether its in the open division or masters.

Masters goals: Id still like to run a sub-35 minute 10K again.

Fit at 50

Anne Flanagan 50 Nurse at Seton Family of Hospitals, Seton Medical Center - Austin

Years running: 30

Favorite race: The ARCs Decker Challenge. I first ran in when I was 24 years old and keep coming back every year to prove I can still do it.

PRs as a master: Marathon (3:15, age 40). I dont keep a log so thats the only one I can remember.

Main competitors: Mary Faria. She has an incredible work ethic and such a positive attitude which I admire.

What masters competition means: As I get older, I like to see what Im capable of running and compare myself with the other women my age.

Goals as a masters: To stay healthy. I am thankful for every run on the trail and every race I can do. Hopefully, Ill still be running when Im 80.

Runner for Life

Cindy Samok 48 Physical education teacher

Years running: 25

Favorite race: I love the Cap 10,000. When I moved to Austin, it was the first race I ever ran and I still love it.

Masters PRs: Marathon (3:04:14 at age 41), Half marathon (1:26 age 41), 10K (40:02 at age 40).

Main competitors: Lynn Doelger who just moved in my age group will be tough as is Christina Dixon. Margo Braud is someone who Ive raced against a lot, but shes much faster than me.

What masters competition means: Im just getting back into shape after a tough year so my times are nowhere near where they have been. But I still enjoy training with Carmen Troncosos group and setting goals for myself.

Goals as a masters: I just want to stay healthy and keep on running and racing. I want to run for a lifetime and not just for a momenteven if that means slowing down a little and accepting that.

Masterly

Mary Faria 52 Seton Family of Hospitals Administrator, Seton Southwest Hospital

Years running: 23

Favorite race: 3M Half Marathon.

PRs as a masters: Marathon (3:30 at 44), Half marathon (1:35:50 at 51), 10K (45:13 at 50), 5K (21:39 at 51).

Primary competitors: Anne Flanagan, Charlene Janiak and Marcia Herzik-Ralph. Weve raced against each other off and on over the years, but theyre all awesome. Anne is one of my idols and Im going to have to train very hard to compete against her.

What masters competition means: Masters helps keep me feeling young. Its so much fun because its something I keep getting better at after I turned 50. I credit my coach Carmen Troncosowith all my PRs.

Masters goals: I want to get as many news PRs as possible, especially the marathon. Its the only distance I havent PRed since turning 50 so thats my focus.

The Man in Black

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from left to right: Judge Jon
Wisser and Dick Wilkowski

Dick Wilkowski 64 IT Specialist

Years running: 25

Favorite race: The 3M Half Marathon. Since I dont run marathons anymore, this is the longest race I do and itsalways a good one.

Masters PRs: Marathon (3:35:35 at age 53), Half marathon (1:28:30 at age 57), 10K (40:20 at 57), 5K (18:59 at 57).

Main competitors: Jon Wisser, Gregg Evans and I have been racing against each other for 20 years.

What masters competition means: The racing is what I enjoy the most, regardless of what age my competitors are.

Masters goals: To maintain whatever level of fitness I still have left. (That now means, the older I get, the faster I was.)But Id still like to keep my race pace as close to seven minutes a mile as possible.

The Running Judge

Judge Jon Wisser 62 Judge

Years running: 34

Favorite race: The high-profile ones such as the Cap 10, Turkey Trot and 3M. I always want to do well in the races with the most visibility. It comes with being a politician.

Masters PRs: Marathon (3:35 at age 49), Half marathon (1:27 at age 48), 10K (38:30 at age 48), 5K (17:16 at 45).

Main competitors: Dick Wilkowski, Gregg Evans and I have been racing against each other for more than 20 years.

What masters competition means: I enjoy the social aspects of competing with folks I have been running and racing with for decades. Plus, I still enjoy winning medals and age-group trophies. But still being able to run, makes me realize how much I used to take running for granted. Now, after battling through cancer and heart issues, I no longer do. My cardiologist told me to give up racing, but Im going to race again. If I cant, Ill retire from racing.

The Rookie

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from left to right: Chris Gunderson, Richard Mendez and Peter Rauch at Austin High School.

Chris Gunderson 41 Sales Rep for Broooks, Timex & Thorlo

Years running: 25

Favorite race: 3M Half Marathon and Texas Round-Up

PRs as a masters: Half (1:15:56 at 40), 10K (35:42 at 40) 5K (17:28 at 40).

Primary competitors: Stephan Schwarze and I have been racing each other since the 90 Hawaiian Ironman. I always have good battles with Floyd Watson, Peter Rauch, Michael Woo, Richard Mendez, Scott Birk, John Paladino and others.

What masters competition means: Really, it means the same things to me as when I was youngergood competition, friendly rivalries and a place where I can test myself.

Masters goals: Id like to get my 10K times under 35 and run a sub-17 for 5K this year.

Seriously Fast

Peter Rauch 46 retired

Years running: Ive been running since 1974. When I was in the high-tech world, I didnt have much time for running but since I left it almost 10 years ago, I have trained regularly.

Favorite race: The 3M Half. Its a major race with a fast course in cold weather at my favorite distance.

PRs as a master: Marathon (2:46:52 in 07), Half (1:15:40 in 04), 10K (35:27 in 04). Main competitors: I just try to race as a masters, regardless of the fact that Im now in 45-49 age group. This puts me up against younger guys like Chris Gunderson, Floyd Watson, Scott Birk and Jim Cleary. Within my actual age group, I usually end up racing against Richard Mendez or Scott McIntyre.

What masters competition means: I enjoy masters because it proves that if you work at it, you dont really slow down that much. The competition can be fierce, but these guys are all my friends and often my training partners so were always encouraging each other to do well. But you have to do this because you love it.

Goals as a masters: All my competitive goals are geared to the marathon. Im in very good shape right now and Id like to take my marathon PR into the low 2:40s.

Mendez the Machine

Richard Mendez 45 Port director (US Customs)

Years running: 30

Favorite race: 3M Half Marathon

Masters PRs: Marathon (2:40, age 42), Half marathon (1:12:07 at age 44), 10K 35:01, at age 40).

Main competitors: Peter Rauch, Scott Birk, Jesse Devlyn, Bryan Atkinson and Scott McIntyre. Keith Dowlands in a league of his own so he doesnt count. What masters competition means: For me, masters means I can still compete. Theres no way I can still run with some of the younger guys, but being able to race against the 40 runners makes me want to run as hard as I can. The fact that theres a large group of us who are still highly competitive makes each race important.

Goals as a masters: I dont have any specific time goals. I just want to stay competitive with all the other guys and run as well as I can.

Rogue Relic

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from left to right: John La Claire, Danny Spoonts and Keith Dowland relaxing after a set of drills.

Danny Spoonts 56 Purchaser for CB Hardware

Years running: 22. Ive now logged over 32,000 miles.

Favorite race: The 3M Half. Ive been running it since 1991 {when it was the RunTex Half} and always try to run my best there. Going head-to-head with some of the faster guys always seems to bring out the best in me. Ive won my age group three times.

Masters PRs: Marathon (3:05 at age 47), Half marathon (1:18:26 at 47), 10K (38:13 at 47) and 5K (17:58 at 47). Main competitors: The guys I enjoy training with are still the guys I enjoy racing against: John La Claire, Bill Patience, Kenny Hill and Keith Dowland.

What masters competition means: I never really thought about being a masters runner. Im just a runner. But once I hit my late 40s, I was pretty competitive with the other guys in town. And Ive enjoyed that.

Masters goals: My main goal is to keep running. But I like to travel and enter races all over the country.

La Master

John La Claire 56 UT Biology Professor

Years running: 10

Favorite race: The 3M Half Marathon. Its one of the most competitive races in Austin. Ive never placed in it but my goal is to do it in January.

Masters PRs: (Marathon (3:12:14 at age 52), Half marathon ( 1:26:26 at 52), 10K (40:14 at 50) 5K (19:11 at 51).

Main competitors: Kenny Hill and Danny Spoonts are my favorite training partners and competitors. Some of the other tough guys that Im always chasing are Lou Kohagen, Bill Patience, Dan Wood, Jesse Conrad, Robert Iles and Kevin Lyman. Keith Dowland and Mac Allen are my running idols.

What masters competition means: Were all out there still trying to do the best we can. Even though we compete against each other, were the first to congratulate whoever among us has the best time. Theres great camaraderie and respect in our age group.

Masters goals: Id love to set a PR from the 5K through the half marathon. Ill train as best as I can and give every race everything I have. But it doesnt get any easier as you get older.

The Veteran

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Margo Braud 49 Farmers Insurance agent/owner

Years running: My entire life.

Favorite race: The 3M Half Marathon and Capitol 10,000 are two races I try to run well.

PRs as a master: Marathon (1:21, at age 42), 10K ( 37:30 at 41), 5K (18:07 at 41).

Main competitors: Carmen Troncoso, but shes in a league of her own.

Goals as a masters: Ive had some setbacks in the past three years so I just want to get racing fit. Once I turn 50, maybe Ill get even more motivation to race well again.

image: A photograph of masters runners; from left to right: Anne Flanagan, Cindy Samok and Mary Faria get ready at Austin High School before a long run.
Masters runners from left to right: Anne Flanagan, Cindy Samok and Mary Faria get ready at Austin High School before a long run.
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