Seattle Times features Steve Robbins, Tony Young
Our friends Steve Robbins and Tony Young have been residents of the Seattle area for years. But better late than never for a major write-up in the local paper. Check out this story in today’s Seattle Times. Steve is a hoot, especially. Speaking of the tendency for masters to suffer injuries, he says: “I often joke, if you want to meet someone or bond with them and you don’t know anything about them, all you have to do is say, ‘So, tell me about your injuries,’ and they’ll go for an hour. I’ve never had anyone tell me, ‘I don’t have any injuries.’ ”
Here’s the article, in case the link goes bye-bye:
Masters record-holders keep coming back to the track
By Sandy Ringer
Seattle Times staff reporter
The sprinter is driven by lofty goals. The miler simply strives to stay fit.
Their motivations and distances may differ, but the results are often the same for Stephen Robbins and Tony Young, a local pair of masters track world-record holders.
Robbins, 65, a renowned textbook author and retired professor from Seattle, set a world mark May 25 of 25.20 seconds in the 200 meters for men 65-69. For comparison, that’s about 3 ВЅ seconds off the winning time in the Class 4A state meet this past spring by a high-school senior less than a third his age.
A few days later, Young, a 46-year-old loan officer from Redmond, bettered the world record in the mile for men 45-49, clocking 4 minutes, 16.09 seconds.
At the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., last week, Young won an exhibition masters 3,000 meters, in 8:47.17. At the 2004 trials, Young won an exhibition masters 800.
Robbins and Young are among the hundreds of area track and field athletes 35 and older who still get a thrill from competing. Some, like Robbins, run on their own. Others, like Young, are affiliated with Club Northwest or one of about 15 adult track and field clubs in the Puget Sound region.
Many don’t stop until injuries force them. Leon Joslin of West Seattle still competes at age 96, and last year set the world discus record for 95- to 99-year-olds.
Robbins, who kids that his orthopedic surgeon is on speed dial, has battled a bevy of injuries: Achilles, hamstring, groin, knee. He estimates he’s had six or seven surgeries in the past 12 years.
“That’s just part of masters track,” he said. “I often joke, if you want to meet someone or bond with them and you don’t know anything about them, all you have to do is say, ‘So, tell me about your injuries,’ and they’ll go for an hour. I’ve never had anyone tell me, ‘I don’t have any injuries.’
“The way I look at this thing is it’s basically just trying to avoid them. The whole training thing is: Can you push yourself to the edge, then pull back a little bit?”
Injuries might slow Robbins, but they haven’t stopped him. He admits he no longer can work out five to six days a week like he used to. He said his motivation comes from his competitive spirit, along with a gnawing disappointment with his college career, where he felt he never lived up to his potential.
“Everyone needs to have an hour or so of vigorous exercise every day,” Robbins said. “Unfortunately, I can’t get myself to do that without some sort of a goal. It’s just trying to run faster times or trying to just beat somebody. It gives you some kind of target.”
He’s incredulous when he sees someone working out without a stop watch. Robbins times every sprint and keeps a journal to track his performances. He was a high-school All-American in Los Angeles in 1960; he still laments some of the lackluster races he ran while on track scholarship at Arizona.
“I was good, but not outstanding,” Robbins said. “I’d run fast times against yahoo schools, then against the big schools I’d choke. I just could not perform well at the major meets. I’ve had drastically more success in masters than I had in college.”
Young enjoyed an impressive college career, though in a smaller arena, competing at Division II Cal State Los Angeles after a four-year Navy commitment. He was a seven-time All-American and fell just short of winning a Division II national title in the 1,500, taking second as a senior in 1988.
These days, Young said his main goal is to stay in shape, and he runs 60 to 80 miles per week.
“I enjoy being fit,” he said, noting he was doing harder workouts in his early 40s than when he was in college. “I enjoy being able to keep up with my kids and being able to move and get the newspaper and not ache when I bend over to get it.
“Fast is just the byproduct of me just being fit. I enjoy an hour run every day and once or twice a week pushing myself in a hard workout.”
Young’s son, Mack, 16, and daughter, Andie, 14, are both runners and his wife, Heather, is a former All-American in the 10,000 meters. Mack placed seventh in the 1,600 as a sophomore at Redmond High this past season. Andie is a sprinter.
Running hasn’t been a lifelong pursuit for Robbins, who has two older children and is remarried. He admits he gave it up entirely about age 25 and didn’t get back on the track for about 20 years. It was only when he felt completely fulfilled in his professional career that the sought another challenge.
“I’d done everything in my life I really wanted to do,” Robbins said, “but I thought the one thing I regret was I wasn’t good enough or didn’t work hard enough when I was in college to try to make the Olympic team. So, there was something missing. Coming back and running at this level, clearly it’s not the Olympics, but it is the idea of running against high-level [athletes] and being a player, to be one of the top guys, which I wasn’t when I was in college.”
Robbins has won 12 masters national titles in individual events, plus three more as part of relay teams. In 1995, at age 52, he was voted male masters athlete of the year after earning four gold medals at the world championships, setting three world age-group records.
Young stayed away from the track during his 30s, but still ran regularly and entered road races. When he hit 40, he decided to return to his track roots and sought a coach through Club Northwest. He began training with Tom Cotner and said he was shocked when he ran his first official mile in 4:09. He has been part of three world-record relay teams since then, but the mile mark he set in May was his first individual record.
Bodies willing, neither Robbins nor Young plan to hang up their spikes any time soon. Young said he gets especially motivated when big races come around, like that 3,000 at the Olympic trials.
“I’ll compete several times the next few years, but it probably will be something real special,” he said, noting he is enjoying watching his kids run and often doesn’t have as much time to train. “I won’t just do it to do it.”
Robbins points out he’s at that age where injuries play a key factor in retirement.
“I’d like to do it as long as I can be competitive and my body holds up,” he said. “We’re always one step off a curb from having career-ending injuries.”
Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or firstname.lastname@example.org