Alisa Harvey had a special fan in stands at Drake Relays 800

Alisa’s daughter, Virginia.

Running in front of your kids is no rarity for masters tracksters. But winning the Drake Relays masters 800 with your hurdler daughter in the house? Priceless. That’s what I learned when I wrote Virginia’s Alisa Harvey. At age 49, she’s still kicking butt (in 2:22.61). She forgave me for erringly posting the wrong winner the other day. Alisa writes: “The weather conditions were a bit of a focus for most of us on Saturday. We warmed up in a beautiful indoor facility that sits adjacent to the outdoor Drake Relays stadium. By race time it was approximately 47 degrees, heavy overcast, breezy and wet.The rain had just let up, so the track was wet. It was a bit challenging trying to decide on how much gear we should race in — gloves, long-sleeves, arm-warmers, etc. I raced in my usual gear with knee-high compression socks.”

Alisa continued one of the best first-person race narratives I’ve seen:

I now wish I had worn my arm-warmers. I was starting to chill as we were escorted in our racing gear 100 meters to the starting line. 

The 10 of us were put on a waterfall start with an outside alley. At the gun I took the lead hoping that last year’s champion, Chris Gentile, would take over the lead. 

Eighteen years ago, Chris and I competed frequently as elite runners living in New York. I knew that she had younger legs. At the break, I did not see anyone making a move to the front.  I cautiously continued my lead through the 200m while trying to look at the clock for a split, but there was a group of entusiastic college 4-by-800 girls cheering for us in the infield that blocked my view of the clock.  

I continued my lead into the home straight. My mind was focused on what was going on behind me. I felt the pace being a bit too slow, but I was not confident enough to increase the pace with the wind and the chilly air. 

At the gun I glanced at the clock and saw 70 seconds. The conservative pace was concerning. I began to gradually increase my pace going into the curve. 

As soon as I reached the 500m mark, I heard footsteps coming off my shoulder and the crowd began to respond. I knew it was probably Chris. I was also a bit afraid that with such a comfortable pace, 400 record holder W45 Charmaine Roberts would blow by me as well as my meet roommate Felicia Bishop.

I reacted immediately to the challenge.  I recall a mild panic that I had led the race from the start and now I was going to get passed in front of the Drake Relays crowd. 

My 20-year-old daughter [Virginia Hill], Drake athlete, was somewhere in the stands watching.  She raced the day before, setting a PR in the 400 hurdles (1:00.14)! 

I knew from experience not to give 100 percent too soon or my legs would not make it to the finish line. Coming into the home straight, I just set my sights on the finish line.  

The Drake official handed me my Champion Flag and directed me to take a victory lap. I was a bit reluctant, but I thought, “Why not?”  The crowd was fantastic. Responding with clapping and cheers. An older gentlemen came down from the stands bundled in his winter coat and told me that he had been watching me run for years.

There was a nice awards ceremony and post-race Drake TV interview for Chris, Charmaine and me. We were greeted by the meet director, track coach and high-jumper Brian Brown. We thanked him for honoring us with a quality masters event and hope to see him next year!

I asked Alisa about her race plans, and she said she might run in a college meet this weekend.  She plans to do the Loudoun Street Mile on Memorial Day. 

“I don’t have any long-term competitions on my schedule. I may end up doing my usual routine of training and seeing what competition interests me,” she said. “I am always looking to compete at a variety of distances – keeps things fun!” 

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April 27, 2015

2 Responses

  1. Peter L. Taylor - April 28, 2015

    Alisa Harvey is 49? Hard to believe. I’ve had the distinct honor and pleasure of announcing Alisa numerous times over the years, and it’s always been a thrill.

    Now, concerning her time of 2:22.61 on a wet track with the temperature at or near 47 degrees: It’s been 16 long years since DeeDee Grafius set the American mark of 2:21.98 for W50-54, and yes, DeeDee was 50 at the time. With Alisa being 49 right now, I would have to say her time at Drake was extremely impressive.

    When she turns 50, there is no doubt in my mind that Alisa will capture the W50 record.

  2. Mark Cleary - April 29, 2015

    Pete, that is what we are hoping. The Invitational event is on for next year. We think Alisa barring injury will capture that W-50 record. We also hope that the Masters meet record that Alisa holds of 2:17.78 will also be broken. This years event was fantastic and next year looks to be even better !!Thank You to all the ladies that raced at Drake this year.

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