Christa Bortignon accounts for her Best Master season in Q&A

Canada’s Christa Bortignon, recently chosen as Best Masters Athlete of 2013 (along with Charles Allie), shares her secrets in a quickie Q&A. But one tidbit stuck out: She was an accountant (and still works part-time). “When I started out, there were not too many females in a predominantly male profession. So I learned to stand up for myself,” she says. OMG! That’s Phil Raschker’s day job, too! Phil is 10 years younger than Christa at 76 — and may be the only athlete with a prayer of beating Christa’s records in sprints, jumps and heptathlon. [And look for me becoming a CPA soon.] My interview also reveals Christa’s dissatisfaction with WMA’s delay in posting records. In any case, the WMA Council made the timely decision in honoring Christa and making arrangements for her (and hubby) to attend the IAAF Gala in Monaco.

Christa sets WR in 100 (15.82) at BC Senior Games in August at Kamloops, British Columbia. She’s set W75 WRs in at least six events this year. When and how did you learn you were selected Best Master?

Christa Bortignon: I received an e-mail from WMA on October 28 from WMA [Secretary] Winston Thomas.

How did you and your family react? How did you celebrate?
My husband was very pleased and we will celebrate when we get to Monaco.

What do you consider your best single performance of 2013? And why?

This is a difficult question; however, probably the 400m in 79.53 in Kamloops, because I don’t like the “longer” distances, and just started training for the 400m;  but my coach challenged me, and I had no other event on that day in that meet.

Everyone knows you have to work hard to reach your level, but how do you avoid injury? Share your secrets.
To avoid injuries, I try to listen to my body, have a regular training schedule and not overtrain. I try to stretch AFTER practices and events. Also eat the right food and get plenty of sleep.

Who are your coaches, trainers and support system in athletics? Who helped the most?

My track and hurdles coach is Harold Morioka since May 2010. This year I also have had some help with the vertical jumps from Eugene Konart. He is an ex-Olympian who coaches in my community. We practice three times a week on the track. Harold helped me the most. He has unbelievable knowledge of the sport. I also belong to a local club which has an amazing gym and Olympic size pool.

In addition, I constantly refer to Earl Fee’s book “The Complete Guide to Running.” It is my BIBLE and contains advice on anything you want to know about running. Earl is an amazing athlete and will be 85 next year. He is the only other Canadian to have received this award.

What did you do in your working life? Did any of your jobs help you become a champion athlete?
I was an accountant, [and] still work part-time. When I started out, there were not too many females in a predominantly male profession. So I learned to stand up for myself. I worked for both the Canadian Coast Guard and the Vancouver Fire Department. Both require fit and active people. Also grew up as the only girl with three brothers.

How important to you has it been being a member of a track club?
It has been very important to me to belong to a track club because I did not know anything about running or jumping. Having people of all ages, likes and abilities around you shows you that every one can find their niche. It is so much easier to start training when other people are there. No excuse to skip a day. We encourage and support each other during competitions.

Having achieved the top honor in masters athletics, what goals are you now setting for yourself? More world records?
My first goal is to stay healthy and injury free. For this year, I had hoped to get the long jump record, so I will try next year. But I also have to accept that I will be 77 in January and will be in the third year of this age group.
You’ve both been to major meets around the world. What can WMA do to improve its meets and service to athletes?

It is a very difficult job to put together these meets, get officials, volunteers, equipment, local authorities and venues coordinated. However, if I may, I would suggest two things. There has to be an improvement on how the world records are handled, both from the process and the timing aspects.

Several of my records have not been recorded on the official WMA website; however, they were used on the Porto Alegre result pages as guide to establish world records during that meet. For example the WMA record show 82.39 as the current world record for W75 400; my time in Porto Alegre was 80.97, [where] they show a 79.53 as the world record, which I ran in August in Kamloops, Canada.

The second suggestion would be to get feedback from the participating athletes from major meets. For example, what I liked in Porto Alegre: They had a security tent next to the Call Room, that was great, we did not have to worry about our belongings. Also they were very generous with water provided in sealed cups, great idea.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of my blog?

During the few years in this sport I have met the nicest people. Everyone is very friendly and helpful and somehow we always overcome any language problems. I am amazed how generous track athletes are for giving free advice, encouragement and support.

To get to know more about all the rules, I have started on my Officials certificate. This has given me a much better appreciation of what the officials have to do, and to give back to the sport.

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November 1, 2013

15 Responses

  1. Rob Jerome - November 2, 2013

    Christa’s meteoric rise is also due to her terrific attitude, I think. She’s a focused and determined athlete, but there is also a graciousness and calmness to her. Something almost Zen. Always respectful to her competitors and officials. I think these are traits that she shares with Phil Raschker. Both have terrific mental control and it shows in their performances.

  2. Peter Taylor - November 2, 2013

    Rob, you stole my thunder. I was looking for a comparison, and the first (and last) person I thought of was Phil Raschker. Good for Christa to evoke such comparisons.

  3. Robert Thomas - November 2, 2013

    I would like to try and explain the records process. Records are not ratified until the end of the current season due to so many being broken throughout the year. Due to the enormous amount of records that are broken each year the WMA would be updated it’s site weekly with records. Your current record was probably shown in the results to make sure everyone was aware of it, so that no one would think they broke the record if they ran faster than the previous record. I know it’s a fustrating process, but you have to think on a global scale when we are talking about world records across all the age groups.

    The elite athletes only have one world record per event per gender. We have a world record per age group, per event, per gender, which makes our records a lot more work to manage. I hope this gives you a better understanding of why the process is not a quick and easy one.

  4. tb - November 2, 2013

    I’ve seen her compete before and it’s amazing. She’ll make you chuck all your notions about aging.

  5. Ron Johnson - November 4, 2013

    Congratulations to Christa Bortignon & Charles Allie for being recognized for their outstanding accomplishments.
    I appreciate my teammate Charles more for he is, than what he has accomplished.I was in Riccione for the 2007 World Games and left my lodging contact information in the USA. He and Jackie made room for me until I was able to get settled. He’s tough on the track and concened and compassionate off the track.Always a gentleman, loyal to family & friends

  6. Ron Johnson - November 4, 2013

    Grammar check. ” I appreciate my teammate Charles more for who he is , than for what he has accomplished.

  7. Loretta Amerongen - November 5, 2013

    The comment below was made at the beginning of the article on Christa:

    “Phil is 10 years younger than Christa at 76 — and may be the only athlete with a prayer of beating Christa’s records in sprints, jumps and heptathlon.”

    I believe you are forgetting Carol Lafayette Boyd (another Canadian). She is in the 70 to 74 age category and as soon as she entered that category she broke all of Christa’s Canadian records in the 100, 200, long jump and triple jump. Her marks are: 100 – 14.91; 200 – 31.51; LJ 4.26 and TJ 8.43. Carol chooses not do hurdles or heptathlon.

    When Carol was 69 she won 4 gold medals in those events at the Sacramento worlds. If Carol stays healthy she will have a shot at breaking Christa’s records before Phil Rashcker (no disrespect to Phil who is an outstanding athlete).

  8. Earl Fee - November 6, 2013

    Christa is an inspiration to other athletes with her world records times in many events and her enthusiasm for her sport. This indicates great dedication, talent, strong mentality, correct training methods, and good recovery. But also you will find exceptional champions like Christa and Charles Allie are aging much slower than their rivals–i.e., much lower biological or real age compared to birth age–a huge advantage. See my blog website on natural anti-aging methods, and body(running), mind, spirit training.

  9. Christa Bortignon - November 6, 2013

    With reference to #7: When I broke the Canadian records,I was in the last year of that age group, 70 to 74. At 74, it was only my second year getting back into track and field since I last competed at age 15.

  10. Matt B. - November 8, 2013

    Completely agree with Earl about certain athletes aging at a slower rate. This will happen in greater propensity over the next few decades due to training, nutrition and medical advancements. I was privileged to see Earl run 2:20 at age 70, but even then thought that someday I would see a 70 yar old run 2:14 perhaps faster.

    Take a handful of 45-50 year olds running close to 2 flat today and a few will certainly run 2:14 or better in 20-25 years based on slowing down the ageing process- as Earl refers to in his blog.

  11. Matt B. - November 16, 2013

    Only a 14 second decline over 17 years if Nolan can run 2:12 in the 800 next year. Aging is inevitable and you can never stop it but some seem to minimize the effects better than others.
    There are probably 36 year olds running 2 flat that may run 2:10 at age 65. They will mitigate aging better than the examples we see today.

  12. Matt B. - November 16, 2013

    Earl- what was your 800 time at age 60. I think I found some 400 times where you were close to 57 flat. I would think that would indicate 2:09 maybe.
    85 WR 3:17. I’m sure we will see a 2:59 next year.
    In 20 years where will it stand? Perhaps 2:45.

  13. Earl Fee - November 18, 2013

    Before I answer your questions Matt B. I want to says something about Christa’s comment #9.
    She stated she was at the top of the age group 70-74 when she broke the Canadian records and just 2 years after returning to track since age 15. This confirms my statement the “exceptional athletes like Christa and Charles are aging much slower than their rivals. , i.e., low biological age or real age compared to birth age.

    Now re the questions in comment #9.
    My best time for the 800 at age 60 was 2:12.?
    I ran 57.94 for a world record at age 66. At 60 I might even have been slower in the 400 as I reached a peak at age 66. The above 400 speed helped me to break the 65-69 world record At Buffalo WMA championships in 2:14.33 ( on a roaring windy day) which has stood for 17 years. As you indicated at age 85 next year I also believe I am capable of running close to 3:00 (compared to the world record of 3:17) for the 800. Will it stand at perhaps 2:45 in 20 years? you ask. This would be a 15 second improvement or 8% improvement. Master records don’t get lowered that rapidly. For example, it took 24 years for the mens 800 to be lowered by about 5 seconds. Nolan Shaheed has the record in an amazing 2:08.56. I believe some of Ed Whitlock’s distance records could last 30 years.
    Aging slower due to medical improvements, better diet and supplements and more intense exercise will help lower the records but also improved training methods, better tracks and running shoes, and the fact that each year there are many new athletes all over the world trying to break these old records.

  14. Matt B. - November 18, 2013

    Thank you Earl for the response.
    Not sure which is more impressive your 400 or 800 times. Your 2:14 may have been a 2:12 under better conditions.
    There are a few runners capable of lowering the 800 M65 record in the next couple of years. I can’t truly predict how someone like Shaheed might see his 800 time decline over the next 20 years. Using the past 17 years as evidence, I would be surprised if he slowed more than: 36 seconds- 2:12 to 2:48. It will sure be fun to find out.
    You mentioned 5 seconds in the men’s 800 over 24 years.
    I show M40-44: 1:48.22 2013, 1:51.52 1989 so only a 3.2 second improvement or about 3%. The closer we are to our potential the less the improvement over time. It is hard to imagine that record falling more than 3 seconds over the next 100 years.
    Your 2:12.85 at age 60 in 1989 just barely bettered by Derek Turnbull- 2:12.62, 24 years ago has improved by 4.06 seconds. Just over 3%.
    M85 A much greater increase. 3:29.42 and I will say 3:00 in 2014. 29.42 seconds over 27 years. A tad over 14%. 3:00 down to 2:45 is conceivable over 20 years, (8.35%) because there is usually more room for improvement in the upper age groups unless it was just a truly phenomenal performance.

    There is a much larger pool of masters runners today than a quarter century ago. I suppose it doesn’t mean many more are all the more talented of runners. In fact, I’d say perhaps not, but my point was that they will age even better and slow down less regardless have talented they ultimately were or even were capable of performing prior to age 45 or so.
    Even some of the Great Ed Whitlock’s records might go over the next 20 years. When I see 60 year olds running 2:36 in the marathon it is conceivable that 2:54 and 3:04 can be broken in as little as 15 years. Who really knows?

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