National Senior Olympics or bust: Debi Lurie follows dream
Debi Lurie is not a track star. No matter. But her story shines as bright as Usain Bolt — and is typical of our tribe. How a mom in her
early 50s defied societal norms to become a sprinter. I saw her run at
the Pasadena Senior Games in June, and she contacted me for a photo a
few weeks later. But what really stands out is her drive toward next month’s National Senior Olympics. Debi writes:
“I am going to nationals in Palo Alto to run the women’s 100, my only
event. I am lower middle in time of the 36 participants in the 50-54
age group. . . I think I saw my son’s mouth drop open when he saw me run. He had never seen me do anything athletic.” She also was a candidate some time back
for a PBS documentary on the National Senior Olympics (which I haven’t seen made). She wrote about
herself but wasn’t one of the 10 (among 1,000 entrants) picked for
filming. But her story deserves airing here. You’re a
superstar in our book, Debi!
Debi, in Lakers shirt, ran the 50 and 100 at Pasadena for practice in block starts.
Here’s the essay Debi submitted to the PBS folks:
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or zero to 17 seconds in 4 1/2 years.
This is my story of the power of determination and a senior woman’s spirit and confidence growing in Senior Games.
I went from a woman who couldn’t get off the floor when I first walked into the gym four years ago at age 50 to a sprinter. It’s really a miracle because many years back after knee surgery a doctor told me I would never ride a bike again. I have very demanding jobs and career as well as being a mom and I still make time to workout.
As a community college teacher, a registered nurse, and graduate student (finally graduating at 55), and mother of three, I looked forward to practicing for the sheer joy of it. Often working two jobs (one full time plus one part time and was a student), but I always, always made it to practice. I bought a pair of spikey shoes.
My daughter and trainer/friend took me to a track. I had never been an athlete in my life, never seen a race except for some of the Olympics on TV. Running a Senior Olympic dash was something totally new.
I graduated to exercising at the park and often beat my 19-year-old in 40-yard dashes. Now I am running 100 meters. I even rode a bike this year! On my 54th birthday, my trainer-friend said: “Now you can do Senior Olympics.” He was kidding, but the seed had been planted.
I didn’t want to let the fear of trying something new (Senior Olympics) stop me and then regret it later.
Perhaps in the end what we regret is not what we do in life that maybe didn’t work — but what we did not do and will no longer have the chance. I overcame that fear by embracing the fun and mission of the gathering. Besides, everyone is soooooooooo friendly and supportive. It’s truly is a place to make friends. No one cares if you are fast or slow, only that you live a healthy lifestyle to improve your quality of life. Everyone benefits.
My first Senior Olympic race was 2008 Oahu (everybody has a first time) and the wonderful person in charge Mark Zeug, former Chairman of the National Senior Games Association, was very kind to the new kid on the block who had many questions — as I knew absolutely nothing about sports or Senior Olympics.
First time in a race, first time with a starter pistol, what a blast! I am proud of myself that I even tried it. In the race, all you had to do was start and finish. No one cares if you are speedy. I was the one that went in it with another goal in mind.
Here’s an interesting phenomenon that happened. It had a synergistic effect. It was physically and mentally beneficial. I went snorkeling the next day (new territory here). 1 race plus 1 snorkel did not equal 2, but instead gave me the inner strength/confidence power of 8 that I can do these things.
I set goals for myself such as in running and benching. I benched 135 lbs. last year. Going to try it in the California State Senior Olympics next year. I like to work out hard and run even harder. I enjoy working out multiple times a week with all sorts of training from yoga to weights, to pilates.
I am learning how to eat healthier for an improved quality of life. I embrace the entire picture of being fit and healthy. I enjoy making my own path in life. I race against myself. Sure, there are the really, really fast people. I cheer all of the participants on. I am proud to participate myself.
Some of my role models are the women in the documentary “Racing Against the Clock.” They rocked the boat, and shook the stereotype image. Maybe I can be a role model to someone too.
Sometimes people think you are too old to play in these games. I get a kick out of seeing mouths drop open when people find out you are participating in Senior Olympics. (I think I saw my son’s mouth drop open when he saw me run. He had never seen me do anything athletic as I was always the overachiever bookworm).
It’s fun to open their eyes to the opportunities before us. I’d like to drum up interest in starting local Senior Olympics in Ventura, California. I have sent some e-mails, and will be sending out more.
And when the games are over, Ill be the one with a smile on my face saying “That was fun — lets do it again” Then I drive off into the sunset with the Ventura Senior Olympics Fun and Games bumper sticker in the window of my car.
Enjoying the thought of the next National Senior Games . . . and — you know what — twenty years away. For a champion, there is no finish line. So check back with me at 75 years. I’ll be there!
Debi is going for broke: competing in just the 100 at Palo Alto.
Collage shows Debi at 2008 Hawaii Senior Games with Mark Zeug, who coordinated
the games (and earlier directed masters nationals in 2005). Other shots show her en route to meet with daughter hamming it up, sporting temporary tattoo saying “Bullet.”