Guest rant on records: Pete Magill tells why he won’t apply for 5K

Pete Magill went on record against our obscene and obtuse record-ratification process eight months ago. He hasn’t softened in his M50 dotage. He writes about his American record 5K: “You know what I did after running my 15:11? I jogged two miles with a friend, stopped by the timer’s tent to get a copy of the FAT photo as a memento, then went to nearby Tommy’s burgers with my girlfriend to scarf chili-cheeseburgers. It may be the first time I’ve enjoyed myself post-record beating race as a masters athlete! My race finished at 11 p.m., and this is what I didn’t do: Spend the next couple hours frantically badgering harried and confused officials for signatures, when all those officials want to do is clean up and go home — and when some of the officials have inevitably already done just that — followed by the joy of trying to get the paperwork actually processed and ratified over the next few months (just ask Tony Young, Nolan Shaheed, Liz Palmer, Kathryn Martin and countless others how that sometimes works out). In other words, I celebrated a great race, instead of beginning to wish I’d never run it. The end.”

Pete hangs with the kiddies during his Oxy race; photo by Diana Hernandez.

Pete’s record 5000 also got good ink in Runner’s World:

By Peter Gambaccini

Californian Pete Magill was dominant in the 45-49 age group; for example, he ran 14:45 for 5000 meters in March 2011, three months before turning 50, to become the oldest American to break 15:00 for the distance. He’s kept to his record-breaking ways since turning 50, including running 15:11.13 for 5000 meters at this weekend’s Oxy Invite in California, under the recognized 50-and-over American record. But, as you’ll see in a bit, don’t look for Magill’s name in the record books for this mark.

Pete with one lap to go in American record 5K; another great photo by Diana Hernandez.

There’s been an abundance of activity in the 50-plus 5000 in 2012. The American record of 15:41.67 by Mike Heffernan had stood for 20 years until it was lowered by Ken Ernst to 15:34.62 in March and then to a formidable 15:16.77 by Mike Blackmore just a week ago.
Blackmore and Magill will apparently be doing battle in the coming weeks to further lower their times, and ownership of it may pass back and forth between them, with Tony Young, who has just turned 50, possibly joining the fray.

But Magill, who is also a terrific Running Times columnist, is making no small plans. Lamenting that he “just got started too late this year” and is “definitely not quite race-fit yet,” he declares,

“I’m going to try to find another 5000 in June, because I think I’m 3 to 4 weeks away from 14:45-14:50.” His concern, he says, is that “I honestly think I might not find a decent race.”

In any case, from what Magill tells us, his 15:11 may never be considered an “official” record because he finds the ratification procedure to be “a really demeaning process.”

He explains, “It ultimately requires multiple follow-up phone calls, lots of begging, last-minute reminders at the [USATF] annual meeting where records are ratified, and that’s after running around a meet for a couple hours, trying to get people to sign off on all the things that need signing off on (the person who installed the track is supposed to sign off on the track being 400 meters, the starter for the race has to sign, the timer(s), somebody signs to guarantee that the track has proper rails, the meet director, etc.) … and even then the applications aren’t always accepted (and are often misplaced … often).”

Magill concludes, “Anyway, all that counts is that it gets on the ARRS top times list (they keep selected track times too) and the American Records Wikipedia entry, and I don’t need paperwork for that.”

Magill is exceptionally fast at 50 but, he says, “The worst part about being a 50-year-old runner is this: The day before the race, for no apparent reason, my legs and feet suddenly got inflamed. It actually hurt to jog. They had improved by race time, but I still had to loosen the laces on my shoes to warm up (you know, just so my feet could fit into them!). It didn’t affect my race (exhaustion was much more of a factor). But it was one of those annoying age things that really puts a damper on training and racing enthusiasm.”

Nice shout-out to Andy Hecker’s Wikipedia records for masters track.

But wouldn’t it be nice for a meet director to do his freaking job and provide all paperwork for a record on behalf of an athlete?

Print Friendly

May 10, 2012

27 Responses

  1. Jerry Smartt - May 10, 2012

    Pete, as mentioned in an earlier post, beautiful race.Pal Jim Beatty and I ran a night meet at Oxy in the 60s. It may have been this same meet. No all-weather track, as I remember. Jimbo set the WR for two miles and I set the track record for 6 miles. We did what you did. We went to celebrate with food and some beers. Smartty

  2. al cestero - May 10, 2012

    it’s a real shame that record setters have so much hassle getting the records in the books..a real shame…

  3. Ken Stone - May 10, 2012

    In masters swimming, BTW, athletes see their records recognized and posted online almost immediately. No reason why track can’t emulate the fish:

  4. Steve Chantry - May 10, 2012

    Pete- Great run! In the world of master’s track you have the 5000m record for M50 period! All of us who are out there running know it. Great effort. You are an inspiration to us all.

  5. MN - May 10, 2012

    Way to go Pete!


  6. Mike Sullivan - May 10, 2012

    Great Job Pete,
    Hope you had a cold one with that chili cheeseburger! You deserve it!
    Great Day in the Mountains of Arizona,

  7. Joanna - May 10, 2012


    If you set a record at the Portland Track Festival, we’ll do all that work for you. Just ask Carmen.


  8. Matthew - May 10, 2012


    Good for you Pete!

    Looking good for sub-15

  9. Gary - May 10, 2012

    That is so awesome. While some might consider that giving into the system. I see it as totally the opposite. You were like…to heck with the system..which doesntt work. The best part is that you figured out the right thing for you to do to be happy …truly an inspiration – even to those like myself who may never set a masters record…but it still carries over to things like running a race just for the prizes or for recognition….not just as a challenge. This is an example of “pure” intentions!!!

  10. Don Cheek - May 10, 2012

    Really great job Pete–like Smartty, having competed in the 60’s and 70’s I applaud how you have returned our focus on the dignity and pride of just running to be the best and having the respect of our peers—not grovelling through a record ratification process that may never get it right anyhow.You did like it should be—“for the love of the game”. I owe you a chili-cheesburger and cold one.

  11. bob - May 11, 2012

    Congrats Pete! I am also a runner from the 70’s and think of running not so much in terms of beating records and others but pursuing your own goals and limits and if possible exceeding them. Knowing you worked and succeeded in getting the most out of yourself is much more important than any award. The fact that you were able to showcase your talent and share it with others is a bonus. To have to force the powers that be to actually do their job and “officially” recognize your accomplishment is demeaning and i am glad you stood on your principles and refused to kneel.
    Well done as a runner, and as an example of personal integrity.

  12. KP - May 13, 2012

    Runners Honor Your Record Pete. We also raise a glass to you. Maybe we should get a FB Thread Going to gather records. We all know 99.9% of these athletes have the integrity to represent the honor system. YOU would win in a landslide as THE candidate to represent this. Would be a great way to continue that outstanding Masters Page you built and managed years ago. I don’t expect to contribute to any record but guarantee to be inspired to aspire.


  13. peter taylor - May 13, 2012

    1. The performance: Way to go, Pete. Yes, a 2:25.78 800 at age 50 is quite good. Wait a second, I think you AVERAGED 2:25.78 per 800, and you had to run six 800s and then a 200 to reach 5000. Let me line them up here to look at them:

    2:25.78 2:25.78 2:25.78 2:25.78 2:25.78 2:25.78

    …and then finish with a 36.45 200. Let me add those bad boys up. Yes, 2:25.78 times six is 14:34.68, and then a 36.45 200 makes 15:11.13 (your FAT). If you ran at exactly even pace, that is what you did.

    Amazing, Pete, you are even better than I thought.

    2. The record situation: Ken, I appreciate your posting this. Some of the records I have been looking at are the following:

    a. 7.86 by Renee Henderson for a pending W45 indoor mark in the 60. This mark was set at a nice little meet we had in Boston in March 2010 called our indoor nationals. A shame it can’t get past “pending” after 26 months.

    b. 6.95 by Donelle Dunning for a pending American mark in the 60 for M35. This was set at another nice little meet, also called our indoor nationals, this one in Bloomington. On the same day, Bill Collins ran a world mark of 7.58 in M60, and less than 2 weeks later it was the official world mark. Bill is also listed as the pending American record holder for M60. Donelle got nothing.

    c. 6.93 by Donelle Dunning at Bloomington in the 60. This one was in the finals; the 6.95 was in the trial. Both are marked in the official results with an R for “record.” Again, Donelle got nothing.

    d. In 2011 in Albuquerque, 88-year-old Mary Kirsling established what appeared to be an American W85 mark in the 800. What meet was this? Well, it was nationals. Mary got nothing (i.e., no recognition).

    I will continue to follow these and other marks.

  14. Mark Cleary - May 14, 2012

    With all the ta do about setting records and the hoops you have to jump through-if you set them at Nationals or World meets they are automatic.There are several guys who go after records, but don’t run Nationals possibly because they are subject to drug testing afterwards. I would like to see every person who sets a record drug tested following that effort-that would take away any speculation about if it is truely a clean record worthy of the record books–just my two cents.

  15. peter taylor - May 14, 2012

    That was part of my concern expressed above, Mark.

    In 2010, Renee Henderson broke the American W45 record for 60 at Boston indoor nationals. Rather than getting automatic acceptance, the record has gone nowhere, being listed as “pending” 26 months later.

    Also in 2010, Stacey Nieder broke the American W40 record for high jump at Boston nationals. Rather than gaining automatic acceptance, that record went nowhere, never seeing the light of day to even be listed as “pending.”

    In 2011 at Albuquerque nationals, Mary Kirsling set an American record for the 800 in W85. Rather than getting automatic acceptance, she got nothing.

    In 2012 at Bloomington nationals, Donelle Dunning broke the American M35 record twice in the 60 (trials and finals). Other record breakers from Bloomington were acknowledged, but Donelle was not.

    If we have “automatic acceptance,” why are the records at nationals not accepted automatically?

  16. Ray Charbonneau - May 14, 2012

    Whether or not USATF or the IAAF acknowledges an effort does not change the effort or the result one bit. Think Geoffrey Mutai is happy?

    Read “It Isn’t Fair” in the latest Level Renner:

  17. Pete Magill - May 14, 2012

    Well, there are lots of reasons guys and gals don’t go to Nationals or World meets that have nothing to do with drug-testing.

    There’s the cost of attending nationals (both to attend and to miss work). There’s the time commitment. There are family obligations that come first (believe it or not, some of us don’t want to leave our kids for a few days to run in a track meet). For distance runners, there’s the fact that track nationals compete against cross-country and road racing national championships (personally, I try to attend a few cross-country and road championships every year, and that’s pretty much all the travel time and $ I have to spare). Also for many distance runners (myself and my clubmates included), track nationals occur during our base-building period for cross country – in other words, we’re simply not in race shape in July-August. Some people just don’t want to make the effort to go to nationals, and at our age, we’ve certainly earned that right – our sport is a hobby, not an obligation.

    You know, I too am kinda shocked and put out by the drug positives that came out of last summer – I wrote a column in Running Times on the subject.

    But I also think suggesting that “several guys” are probably skipping nationals because they’re on drugs … well, that’s kinda junior high, don’t you think? We all want PEDs out of our sport, but we don’t need name-calling and self-serving finger pointing as the method to achieve that.

    Just my two cents.

  18. Texas Tornado - May 14, 2012

    Records set at national or world meets are automatic??? Yeah, right. Tell that to all the 60 meter record breakers at the 2011 indoor national championships.

  19. tOnY yOuNg - May 15, 2012

    …what Pete said…

  20. Steve Vaitones - May 15, 2012

    It should be a relatively simple task for the masters chair of the Southern Cal association of USATF (or any association where a record is set) to take charge of completing the record form; they’re likely connected to collect the various officials’ signatures and other materials post-meet vs an athlete attempting to get a form filled out while the meet is still in progress.

  21. Rich Burns - May 16, 2012

    From my perspective with longer races, running for a record and running to win a title at nationals often calls for different strategies. I can think of a few reasons why it might be more difficult to try for a record at nationals:
    1. You might have heats to run.
    2. It is usually going to be pretty warm.
    3. You might end up just time trialing, if no one of equal ability shows up.
    4. If someone of equal ability shows up, then it may turn into a slower strategic race.

    The advantages of trying for a good time locally is that you can try to pick races that you will have people to race, which can mean running with college and open runners. Of course you hope to not get into a race that drops you off of the back of the pack. During the March to early June time frame there are many meets. This can give you a number of shots at a record during that time frame.

  22. KP - May 17, 2012

    Great fodder for post Masters Mile in Portland where everyone races as hard as they can and likely do it to live up to his calling card that reads “Beer Drinker With A Running Problem”.

  23. Mary Harada - May 18, 2012

    We need to move beyond the throw-away line about testing everyone who sets an AR or WR. Where does drug testing take place for masters (and we are talking about masters records)? At national meets and International meets. That is just about it folks. IF Mr Cleary’s wish becomes the rule – very few records will be accepted as many records are set at non-national meets. Senior games do not drug test, Regional Masters meets do not drug test, and asking these meets to take on the expense of having drug testing available in the event someone sets a record will simply abolish the meets. It costs $$$ to have drug testing. It is not a case of having someone pee in a cup and mail it off to a lab. There is an elaborate protocol involved that includes having certified people at the meet to handle the drug testing.

    All this simply ignores the elephant in the room – we have a poor system for submitting records for approval. As Pete MaGill notes – the time it takes to round up all the paperwork to submit for a record takes far too much time unless one is at a national or international meet. With few exceptions (and in my experience that means a track meet where Steve Vaitones is involved) – few meet directors or track officials know what needs to be done. This is not malice – it is mostly lack of experience and – believe it or not – having many things to do to keep the meet on track. Filling out record forms, certifying a track , setting up a rail or cones, etc etc etc – is not on the agenda.

    In addition we have a process that permits the approval system to run off the rails and it not accountable to the athletes who are submitting or having records submitted. There needs to be transparency – not black paint thrown on the window to keep us from seeing what takes place or in some cases why nothing is happening. We ask too much of some individuals, we have some individuals who take on too much work and refuse to allow others to help out – and we have too many very frustrated apparent record breakers who are left dangling with no information for months if not years.
    Personally I am as frustrated as Pete MaGill – I have an application for a 3k AR on my desk- for almost a year now – signed – but not sent in because I am sure it will not be accepted because it was not set at a National or international meet. After being stiffed the prior year with never a response – just silence – I decided not to waste money on postage.

    The issue about PEDS is a separate issue – there are enough problems with the record approvals – resist the temptation to cloud the issue by asking for drug testing.

  24. Liz Palmer - May 18, 2012

    What Mary said….with the addition of another meet director who knows what needs to be done in order to get a record accepted: Christel Donley.

  25. Dale Campbell - May 20, 2012

    The current system is not working (period). I do like the idea of having the regional association chair verifying a mark is valid. The chair can verify if it is a meet that meets all the criteria and FAT marks shouldn’t be disputed. Outstanding performances should be recognized in a prompt manner – not in a manner that is often more difficult to complete than the performance itself.

  26. peter taylor - May 20, 2012

    Thanks for that contribution, Dale.

    Maybe at some point in the future, let’s say 2016 or 2017, we’ll look back at this era with some amusement.

    We might say:

    Remember when you could set a record, turn in an application, and never hear anything about the outcome?

    Remember when even after the announcement was made that records set at nationals or worlds would be “automatically accepted” you could have such a record be rejected anyway? And with no explanation, whether by letter, e-mail, or telephone call.

    For some reason I am reminded of the timing of our sprints. Several decades ago, all the dashes were timed by a stopwatch, and many officials actually thought they “caught the smoke” and got the right time (to the tenth). The advent of FAT changed all of that.

    Now, actually timing someone like Bill Collins, Renee Henderson, or any of our other sprinters by holding a stopwatch, then pressing it when the athlete “crosses the line” seems absolutely primitive.

    Perhaps someday we will look at the present era as rather primitive in its approach to the keeping of our records.

  27. Bill Newsham - May 23, 2012

    Records come and go. Winning remains. If the draw of the competition isn’t enough what is? As far as PEDs…if you take them you’ve never really accomplished anything. How shallow it must feel to win something and know inside you really didn’t.

Leave a Reply