Roger Pierce credits wife for masters track career
The Salem News Online has a nice report (albeit belated) on M60 sprinter Roger Pierce, who helped set a 4×2 world indoor record at Linz and won the 400-meter title at Boston nationals. His appreciation for his wife is noteworthy. Not all masters are so lucky. He says: “None of this would be possible without my wife’s support. She’s been an integral part of it. Obviously, she could’ve made it miserable for me for the last 30 years.”
Here’s the article, should the link go bye-bye:
Pierce a champion sprinter around the world
By Mike Grenier
Roger Pierce of Essex admires all the participants who had the stamina to get through the Boston Marathon on Monday, but long distance running has never been his game.
“If I can’t see the end of the race (from the starting line), I don’t want to be in it,” the 61-year-old Pierce said.
Pierce can joke about plenty of things, but when it comes to short distance races, he is ferociously competitive. What’s more, he is simply one of the best in the world at what he does.
Since becoming a masters (age group) runner when he was in his late 30s, Pierce has won 24 national championship events and has established eight world records, either individually or as a member of different relay teams. The sprint titles have come in everything from the 60- to the 400-meter races.
Some of his best accomplishments have come in the last month. Competing in the Masters Indoor World Championships in Linz, Austria, in March, Pierce finished second in the 400-meter run (58.51) and combined with Steve Robbins of Washington state, Sam Hall of North Carolina and Paul Edens of Oregon to set a world mark in the 4×200 (1:44.9).
A week later, Pierce came home and won the 400 (58.1) at the Masters Indoor National Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.
“He’s a freak,” said Tom Cunningham of Middleton, who was Pierce’s employer and is a masters runner himself. “I mean, he has a natural gift to start with, but he’s also constantly training. Much of his life revolves around track.”
Sprinting has always been his passion, going back to the 1950s at Beverly High. His coach for the Panthers, Bill Jenkins, would say that when Pierce exploded from the starting line, he had Olympic-champion speed. However, Pierce was such a wisp of a kid (5-foot-5, 117 pounds) in those days that he lost his edge in the final stages of a race. Now that he’s 61 and a robust 135 pounds, he can close out a race with the best of them.
“He runs times that are phenomenal for guys our age,” said Warren Graff, a 60-year-old training partner from Merrimac who is in the Mass Velocity Track Club with Pierce. “He hasn’t slowed down like some of the other competitors. It’s a lot of fun for us. We’re seeing people our age retire and they’re playing bingo or going on a cruise. But we’re involved in strenuous activity. I’d say Roger is a classic late bloomer. He’s still blooming.”
Still, how does Pierce account for all those national titles and world records? He’s not running against a bunch of broken down old men. The masters competition has grown immensely over the years, attracting athletes such as former NFL players Willie Gault and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, and former Olympic champion Al Joyner. Not that Pierce is specifically running against them, but there’s a lot of quality at the top of every event.
“I’m not sure,” Pierce said about the keys to his success. “I’m kind of astonished at what’s happened over the years. You sort of thank your mother for the genetic makeup, but after that it’s a lot of work.
“I guess I still enjoy competing at a high level. You’re running fast against some great people. It’s a euphoric feeling to know that your body still has the ability to run like that. Who would’ve known that at 60 and 61, I could run faster in some events than I did in high school. It’s just a love for sprinting. There’s no money in it.”
No money whatsoever. Pierce has had to scrimp and save â€” sometimes friends chip in money to help him with expenses â€” to attend meets in Spain, Australia, Puerto Rico, Austria and other distant locations. He’s willing to make sacrifices for what he considers an irresistable combination of competition and camraderie. And he does it with the blessing of his wife, Fran, a music teacher in Rockport who also plays in the folk band Tamarac with her husband.
“None of this would be possible without my wife’s support,” he said. “She’s been an integral part of it. Obviously, she could’ve made it miserable for me for the last 30 years.
“But going to all these meets, you get very close to some people, and there are some really (moving) moments. When we were at the world championships in Austria, the Polish relay team gave us this bag of pens. To them, we represented America and this was their way of saying thank you for our country’s support of Poland over the years. It gave us a great feeling.”
Pierce is not putting any limitations on his future as a sprinter. There’s no reason to stop training or competing. If anything, he believes he has a lifestyle that could be adding years to his life.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt stronger,” said Pierce. “Sometimes I work out with 18-year-old kids and they’re amazed at what they can’t do. But if that gives them motivation, it’s a good thing.
“How long can I compete? If they have races until I’m 100, that’s fine. As long as I’m physically able to do, I want to continue. I don’t want to stop until I lose that fire.”