Bob Lida: ‘Nothing more exhilarating than running as fast as I can’

Bob Lida (right) was pictured in The New York Times five years ago.

For all his honors — including 2012 WMA Best Male Athlete of the Year — one recognition eluded Bob Lida until last last week. That’s when he won his first USATF Athlete of the Week title. How did he hear of it? “Friend of mine, who is the athletic director at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, posted it on Facebook,” Bob writes. “Complete surprise to me.” In a quickie Q&A, I asked Bob what this meant to him. He graciously replied: “Obviously, it’s a personal honor, as so many outstanding people have received it the past. But I’m just as pleased that USATF is recognizing what we do, and achieve, in masters track. The more recognition the masters program receives, the better it is for all of us.”

Since I had my fellow Kansas track alumnus on the hook, I reeled in some other info. Are you hoping for nomination to be WMA Athlete of Year?

Bob Lida: Haven’t thought about it. It would be nice, but I’m not counting on it. Been to the world championships, and I know that counts, but I’ll need to have an outstanding outdoor season. Even then, it’s got to be an outside shot with so many masters around the world putting up great performances.

What are your meet plans the rest of this season?

Couple of local meets, National Senior Games, National Masters Championships, the NCCWMA Championships in Juarez, Mexico, and possibly the State Games of America in Grand Rapids.

How does it feel to be sprinting at 80? How does it compare with 50, 60 and 70?

For me, there is nothing more exhilarating than running as fast as I can, for as far as you can. It’s always been that way for me, and to be doing it at 80 is a blessing.
I’ve been able to maintain my sprint mechanics, so I feel exactly the same — I’m just slower.

What’s your advice for would-be M80-plus sprinters?

It will be tough. Need to work into it. The older we get the longer it takes a while for muscles and tendons to adjust to the new demands. Get with someone who understands training and sprinting mechanics.

You haven’t been hit so hard by the dreaded steep dropoff in old-age performances. When do you expect it?

I’ve wondered about that, too. I believe genes have much to do with it. Plus I just don’t feel old – still can’t believe I’m 80.

Truth is, I’ve been running with what seemed like a permanent injury for the last 15 years — chronic tendonitis in the knees – and my workouts became sporadic and ineffective. Think I was getting by on my lifetime history of working out. But it was wearing thin.

After my disaster of a performance in Lyon, France, where my knees and hip were practically nonfunctional, I finally did something about it.

I went through 10 months of physical therapy, working on flexibility, hip strengthening and balance.

The pain is gone completely, so I’m back to working out more frequently and with more enthusiasm. Maybe that has some to do with it.

Who knows, it may fall apart tomorrow. Some really great sprinters I know have serious declines from just one season to another.

It may be wishful thinking, but I don’t see it coming for a while.

Would you like to be sprinting past 90? Past 100?

You bet. That would mean I made it that far. I would like to keep showing up as long as I can sprint, and not just get around the track. That means staying healthy and working out, as well as staying alive.

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April 4, 2017

8 Responses

  1. James Robie - April 4, 2017

    I saw Bob’s victories at the Nationals and was amazed. Hard to believe he’s 80. Very inspirational!

  2. Bill Kaspari - April 5, 2017

    What I noticed right away in this photo is that there is a guy right with Lida. That guy is Bobby Whilden, one of the few guys on the planet that can stay with Lida. I’ve had the pleasure of competing with these guys and hope to be able to continue. They are not just great athletes but also really good guys.

    Bill Kaspari

  3. Doug Spencer - April 5, 2017


  4. wayne bennett - April 5, 2017

    Kaspari got it right!! I second his comments whole- heartedly.

  5. Bill Collins - April 6, 2017

    The entire Houston Elite family what to send out congrats to a great athlete and teammate, as well as a friend to all. You are on to another fantastic year, keep it going we are so proud of you.

  6. george haywood - April 8, 2017

    I am in awe of my Houston Elite teammate Bob Lida. How can a man 80 years old run 200 meters in 29.15 seconds? There are athletic 18 year olds who struggle to do that. Congratulations Bob on an incredible accomplishment.

    Interesting side note- Bob was college teammates with another incredible athlete, fellow named Wilt Chamberlain. Kansas produces some stars!

  7. William Bittner - April 8, 2017

    Way to go, Bob! I try my best but I just can’t keep up with you and Bobby W.

  8. Craig Simmons - April 9, 2017

    I believe that Bob Lida is the fastest 80+ runner in the history of the world going back two million years. I’ve been waiting for him to turn 80 to see what he could do. So far he is extraordinarily amazing. Hopefully he can stay healthy to have a crack at Payton Jordan’s nearly twenty year old record of 14.35 in the 100 meters. Best of luck Bob in staying healthy for many years to come. I would think that Payton’s record has to be one of the most coveted in master’s sprinting. The older you are and running shockingly fast the more amazing the achievement. It is a pleasure seeing you run at this level.

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