Raschker’s Riccione: Sleep, eat, rest and stay focused

Phil Raschker with one of her 10 gold medals from Riccione worlds.

Phil Raschker is our Babe Ruth. But George Herman’s major league career lasted only 22 seasons. Phil has been winning since 1980, making this season her 28th. At Riccione this month, she ran her medal count from world masters championships to an awesome 79 — including 58 gold, 15 silver and six bronze. And she did it while battling a cold. She says she had a cold “from the first day of being wet from head to toe with wet clothing, competing for many hours, sitting in the stands, cold wind blowing.” How did she stay in one piece for 11 days? “Sleep, eat, rest, and stay focused,” she says.

Even though she competed 22 times in Italy, it “could have been worse,” she writes, “since the 300 hurdles semi went into final; same with 80 meter hurdles and of course I undeclared in the 400, listed as three rounds but ended up with two. As always, in the end, many scratches.”
It helped that Phil stayed at a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment 5 minutes from the beach, 2 minutes from the major beach street, “and the bus station was just 2 minutes away.” And so she got probably 8 hours sleep a night, she says.
“I have been sleeping poorly ever since menopause kicked in back in 1989. Even with all the competing, I could not sleep. Most nights I went to bed between 9 and 10, and was ready the next morning by 5:30.”
I asked her how many world masters meets she’s attended, and she charted them out:

1. San Juan Puerto Rico – 1983 4 gold 1 Silver 1 Bronze 1935 Participants
2. Rome, Italy (injured) 1985 1 Silver 4330 Participants
3. Melbourne, Australia 1987 4 Gold 2 Silver 1 Bronze 4817 Participants
4. Eugene, Oregon 1989 7 Gold 2 Bronze 4951 Participants
5. Turku, Finland(injured) 1991 1 Gold 1 Silver 5000 Participants
6. Miyazaki, Japan 1993 7 Gold 2 Silver 1 Bronze 12178 Participants
7. Buffalo, NY 1995 9 Gold 2 Silver 2 Bronze 5335 Participants
8. Durban, South Africa 1997 10 Gold 1 Silver 5788 Participants
9. Carolina, Puerto Rico 2003 5 Gold 2 Silver 1 Bronze 2700 Participants
10.San Sebastian,Spain 2005 1 Bronze
11.Riccione, Italy 2007 10 Gold` 9000 Participants
Did not go due to injury/surgery in 1999 and 2001
1. Sindelfingen, Germany 2004 1 Gold 2 Silver
2. Linz, Austria
Did not compete due to injury from Spain

Since Phil was raised in Germany, I asked her if she chatted with her German rivals.
She wrote: “Most of my competitors speak German — Germans, Austrians, Swiss and Finns. This time I was busy trying to point out the advantages of “Coming to America” (Sacramento 2011) Otherwise helping each other in the events, just keeping up with our lives, what has happened in the last two years, what are we planning, when are we visiting — lots of ‘girl’ talk.”
Who was her toughest competition?
Phil writes: “Ingrid Meier, Gertrude Reismann and Karin Foerster from Germany, Marianne Maier from Austria, Terhi Kokkonen from Finland.”
Did she consider entering more events?
Phil writes: “I initially entered all the events that I felt I had a chance to win. When we originally sign up, we never know what the actual time frame will be. When the schedule came out, I felt I probably would have to drop the triple jump, high jump and the 400. With the help of many, the only event left out was the 400.”
How did the USA team manager (Phil Greenwald) and others help her?
“Everybody was very supportive — team manager, WMA officials and fellow athletes — of what I wanted to accomplish,” Phil writes, “and the old axiom “If you don’t ask, you don’t receive’ certainly applied. I was not willing to give up until there was NO chance any longer.”
Phil’s goals for 2008?
“Continue with my new training method. Get stronger — I feel I am still lacking endurance — over the next several months and find meets with official equipment so that I can just enter one or two events to set world records that I feel I am capable of. 2007 was not the year for records; whatever happened was icing on the cake, but my main goal was to win my events at worlds.”
Phil also shares her 3,100-word Riccione diary.
Phil writes:

After much anticipation, training and a long but successful 2007 track and field season, it was time to fly to Riccione, Italy, to participate in the 17th World Masters Athletics Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Looking back to the 1997 World Championships in South Africa at the age of 50, my goal was to come as close as possible to repeat my accomplishment of winning 10 gold medals. In Italy I had entered 10 individual events; however, participating in three of them was questionable due to conflicts in the timetable and stadium location.
It certainly would not be easy to achieve my goal as competition was stronger and deeper. Italy had some 9000 athletes registered, with competition being distributed among three stadiums, with two of them being some 30 to 45 minutes apart from the main stadium. In contrast, South Africa had 5710 athletes and was contested in only two stadiums, just 5 minutes apart.
After a few days of adjusting to the time difference, finding our way around, registering for the competition, and enjoying the summer temperatures, it was time to put on the game face.
Tuesday, September 4
Rise and shine at 5:30 AM (I am a night person and these early days would make the long competition even more difficult, day after day). Feeling uncomfortable about making it to the San Giovanni Stadium on time the first morning, I decided to take a cab with another competitor.
Some of the older athletes had already completed the first event in the decathlon when it was time for my first event, the heptathlon hurdles. We did not make it far. Just before the gun was to be fired to start the race, the sky opened up and the wind came over the stadium almost like a hurricane. We grabbed our athletic gear and ran under the stands for shelter.
Huddled together in the stands, wet from top to bottom, we waited for the storm to pass. Indeed, three hours later, when it was only misting a bit, we were summoned to get into the blocks with little opportunity to warm up again.
Given these circumstances, it came a surprise to me and others that I ran a world record in the 80-meter hurdles of 13.26 seconds with a +1.5 meter/second tailwind, breaking my previous record of 13.50 in Birmingham, Alabama back in June.
But when I thought about it later, it did make sense. Usually the 27” hurdles with 7-meter spacing does not fit my stride pattern efficiently, and my best hurdle races seem to come when I have a headwind. Here in Italy, I had a tailwind, but I was not warmed up, and my stride length was shorter from sitting for three hours in the cold. We all were relieved that we were able to run the event without getting injured.
The second event in the heptathlon was the high jump, and none of us looked forward to it. The storm had blown the cover off the mat, and it was totally filled with water. Each jump felt like diving into the Adriatic Sea. I won the event but was way off from my performance at the USA National Heptathlon Meet – that is the beast of the multis.
Rarely do we have seven great performances. Somewhere something will go badly. For me it was the next event, the shot put. Never before have I had such a poor performance, and my strongest competitor just on that event alone earned over 400 points more than I did to take the lead in the heptathlon competition after three events.
The last event, the 200-meter dash, put me back into the lead of the overall score, and it was finally time to get back to the apartment, sit in the tub, eat, and rest for the second day of the heptathlon.
Wednesday, September 5
The sky was still overcast, and it was not as warm as I had wished.
In the first event of the second day, the long jump, I had the best jump in our group (4.64 meters), adding more points to my lead, but I also knew that Marianne Maier of Austria was capable of zipping right by me again in the javelin. So many things could go wrong in the javelin: 3 fouls, throws landing flat. The result could be low points or no points. My fears subsided when my first throw measured 25.43 meters, which in the end turned out to be the longest distance of all competitors.
It was quite an undertaking to get the official score through our first six events. I keep track of my own score, but not of others, and before going into the 800-meter race, I wanted to know how hard I might have to run to maintain my lead. Knowing everybody’s capabilities, I felt I could take it easy, but then there was the possibility of rewriting my world record if I ran with the leaders. It was tempting, but then quickly I reminded myself that I had many more events coming up, no time to rest, and more competition the next day.
The World Championships to me are all about getting the best medal possible; records are only icing on the cake and not a primary consideration.
Final Heptathlon Results:
1st – Phil Raschker USA 6742 Points
2nd – Marianne Maier Austria 6138 Points
3rd – Terhi Kokkonen Finland 5815 Points
The W60 heptathlon was a very competitive event. It is an interesting statistic to consider the points scored in the heptathlon across all age groups:
1st USA Raschker W60 6742
2nd AUT Maier W60 6138
3rd AUS Kay W45 5860
4th FIN Kokkonen W60 5815
Thursday, September 6
Having completed the heptathlon without injury was a great relief. Both in 2003 and in 2005 I sustained an injury during the heptathlon 800-meter race. Now, other than feeling a bit tired and sore, all was well, and I was ready to go for the individual events.
Help came when the scheduled semifinal in the 300-meter hurdles was canceled owing to lack of entrants. That meant there would only be a finals race, and I could sleep in!
Nevertheless, here was my first day of individual competition and I had a conflict with two events in two different stadiums at about the same time. The first event was the 100-meter preliminaries, an easy one to just make it into the next round. Early in the day, I found help in Blaine Lawson and Marie-Louise Michelsohn, so immediately after the race Blaine was waiting for me at the finish line.
We dashed to the car, and in rush hour he drove me to the second stadium, Misano Adriatico. We arrived in time. My competitors had just finished warming up for the triple jump. I, of course, was warmed up from my 100 race.
Final Triple Jump Results:
1st – Phil Raschker USA 9.46 m
2nd – Gertrude Reismann GER 9.09 m
3rd – Margaritha Daehler-Stettler SUI 8.82 m
Friday, September 7
Another early morning rise to get ready to run the 100 semis. Nothing special here. Job done and back home.
Afternoon: 100 final – after my typical slow start I was able to catch my two fast starters and win the race.
Final 100 Meter Dash Results:
1st – Phil Raschker USA 14.00 seconds
2nd – Valerie Parsons GBR 14.13 seconds
3rd – Ingrid Meier GER 14.27 seconds
But here again, I did not have time to stick around. The high jump was scheduled at San Giovanni Stadium for 5:15 PM, and my 100 final was run at 5:30. Earlier in the morning I was able to plan a ride to the other stadium through the help of Caren Ware’s trainer, Ralph Reitz.
This was a bit more of a challenge since the HJ should have already started, the stadium was farther away, it was rush hour, and we only had a vague idea which way to go. After stopping several times to ask directions, with most people not understanding our question, we finally arrived an hour later.
My hope was that the bar had not been raised too much and that the event hadn’t finished. As it turned out, the previous group took longer than scheduled and, again, I arrived just in time to start the competition. Saving myself for future events, I stopped jumping once I had won the event.
Final High Jump Results:
1st – Phil Raschker USA 1.33 m
2nd – Gertrude Reismann GER 1.26 m
3rd – Margaritha Daehler-Stettler SUI 1.24 m
Day 3 and 4 proved that one should never give up. What seemed impossible once the official schedule was published was still a possibility, and I did not give up. Certainly I had luck on my side, and of course a special thanks go to my “drivers” and Phil Greenwald and Rex Harvey who assisted me by declaring early and getting permission to get into the competition once I arrived. Of course, had the high jump finished, I would have been out; had the bar been at 1.20 or higher, I would have had to start at that height.
Saturday, September 8 – Day Off
Sunday, September 9
Another early morning — an easy 200 m quarter final at the main stadium.
The afternoon was a stressful one, with two difficult events — the 300 hurdle final and the pole vault. Neither of these events comes easy for me these days, as I have little opportunity to train for them.
First was the 300 hurdles. Since I (signed up) with NT, I had the misfortune to be thrown into lane one. Adding to that complication was the fact that the stadium did not have the correct hurdles. For our age group the hurdles should be 27 inches, but the lowest the hurdles would go was more than 28 inches. After arguing with the officials for 30 minutes that the hurdles were too high, we could not resolve the problem and we had to run the race as is.
Though TOO high is acceptable for record purposes. I think we were all a bit hesitant and not as aggressive as we should have been; we were jumping over the hurdles more than we needed to. My steps to the first hurdle came out fine, but after that I reached every remaining hurdle with the wrong leg and that put me further behind. Still behind off the last hurdle but at a manageable space, I put my speed and strength to work and won.
Final 300 Meter Hurdle Results:
1st – Phil Raschker USA 52.27 seconds
2nd – Terhi Kokkonen FIN 52.38 seconds
3rd – Marjorie Allison AUS 56.01 seconds
Finally, I got a break with the stadium location. All I had to do was to walk from the finish line of the 300 hurdles to the pole vault.
Jeff Watry from Gill Athletics had supplied WMA an arsenal of poles, and I found one that I thought would work. Since my only jumping has been in competition and still feeling somewhat tired from the hurdles, I decided to come in early, i.e., at 1.70 meters.
My early jumps were “ugly.” I could not get the steps right and basically just heaved myself over the bar. The conditions were not great either as the sun was so low and right in front of us that it was difficult to see running towards the pit. Finally, when the bar was moved to about 2.40 meters, I started to get my steps right. My competitor, Karin Foerster from Germany, and I had no misses at this point in the competition.
Karin attempted the first jump at 2.50 and missed. This was my time to take the lead, but I felt the pressure as well and missed. We both cleared the bar on our second attempts, then they raised the bar to 2.60. First Karin with a miss, then I cleared it. At that point I was leading. She decided to go to 2.65 for her remaining attempts. At first I thought I would sit out 2.65, but when she missed her first attempt at that height I decided to jump – just in case she would make it, which would put me behind. I cleared 2.65; she missed her second attempt and finished up with a best of 2.50. I again decided to save my energy for the next day, so I stopped vaulting at that point.
Final Pole Vault Results:
1st – Phil Raschker USA 2.65 m
2nd – Karin Foerster GER 2.50 m
3rd – Dagmar Widman GER 1.80 m
Monday, September 10
In the morning we ran the 200 semifinal races. Ingrid Meier was in the first semifinal and ran a fast time, which probably would put her in lane 4 of the final. In the second semifinal Valerie Parsons was in lane 4, and I was in lane 5. My goal was to come in second to Valerie, which should mean that for the 200 final I would run in lane 3 with Ingrid and Valerie in front of me.
Coming back in the afternoon, looking at the seeding, I was right: Raschker lane 3, Meier lane 4, and Parsons lane 5. This was perfect for me as I usually kind of sleep in the curve, and the other two competitors are much faster out of the blocks.
It worked; I could focus in the final on both of them and then make my move.
Final 200 Meter Dash Results:
1st – Phil Raschker USA 28.61
2nd – Ingrid Meier GER 29.20
3rd – Valerie Parsons GBR 29.89
Wednesday, September 12
My third scheduling conflict in these championships proved an impossible one to solve, no matter what, so I undeclared for the 400 quarterfinal. The problem was that on September 14 I would have to run the 400 final at Misano at 3:55 PM and 30 min later the 80-meter hurdle final in the main stadium. Mixing running and field events has possibilities, but two running events that close together with a minimum of 30 minutes driving was not. The tough part was deciding which one to drop. I broke the world record in both the 80 hurdles and the 400 dash this year. I opted to run the hurdles because running three rounds in the 400 would take its toll, and the hurdles is a challenge on its own and in the end more of a technical challenge to me.
Thursday, September 13 – Rest
Friday, September 14
This was the last day of individual competition. The pressure was on. I had won seven gold medals and was close to achieving what I did in 1997 in South Africa, and, of course, friends/athletes at this point expected me to continue to win. It was a tough day.
In the morning we had, for the first time ever, to qualify to get into the long jump final in the afternoon. The qualifying mark was extremely low, and almost all the athletes advanced to the final Friday afternoon.
The afternoon started with the final of the 80 hurdles. My thoughts were racing — concentrate, concentrate. All went well; I won my eighth gold medal. The time would have been a new world record, except I did run a better time on the first day in the heptathlon.
Final 80 Meter Hurdle Results:
1st – Phil Raschker USA 13.35 seconds
2nd – Marianne Maier AUT 13.96 seconds
3rd – Christa Stedtler GER 15.01 seconds
Directly from the hurdles we went to the backstretch to await our final in the long jump. Sixteen athletes had qualified. The first round produced six athletes jumping over 4.00 with me registering a foul. Ouch, I could feel the noose around my neck. Ingrid Meier was leading with 4.48 and produced another 4.42 jump. After that she passed. I kept on jumping over 4.50 with a best of 4.54. It was very close. In the end, eight athletes jumped over 4.00. I believe that was a first ever for the W60 Age Group.
Final Long Jump Results:
1st. – Phil Raschker USA 4.54 m
2nd – Ingrid Meier GER 4.48 m
3rd – Petra Zoerner GER 4.31 m
Finally, it felt like a piano dropped off my shoulders. I made it through the World Championships in one piece. Sore and tired but not injured, I had accomplished my goal that turned out, due to the help and assistance of others, better than imagined.
Individual Event Summary: 9 Gold Medals – 1 World Record
Saturday, September 15
Here is the fun part of the games, the relays. Of course it is only fun after one has settled the shuffling and positioning and deciding who is going to run with whom.
I had the opportunity to run with an outstanding group of W55 athletes in the 4×100 meter relay, so I dropped down to the W55 age group, and we had a great race, producing an American record.
Final 4x100m Relay Results:
1st – USA 56.47 seconds (Brenda Matthews, Phil Raschker,
Sharon Warren, Catherine Nicoletti)
2nd – Germany 57.21 seconds
3rd – New Zealand 58.72 seconds
There was one last race, with the W60 in the 4×400 meter relay. Unfortunately, we had some great competition and did not have a chance to medal. Still, I want to thank my teammates.
Final 4x400m Relay Results:
1st – Australia 4:57.86
2nd – Sweden 5:14.26
3rd – Germany 5:22.35
4th – USA 5:40.92 (Sylvie Kimche, Mary Trotto
Elizabeth Horstmann, Phil Raschker)
After the final relay, I was preparing to leave the stadium to go to the apartment and pack so that later in the evening I could take the train to Bologna. However, before I left, Phil Greenwald found me and informed me that I had the great honor to be selected as the best athlete of the games. Just before the Closing Ceremony, the President of the Republic presented me a Silver Trophy.
I was extremely honord to have been recognized for my performances. The only regret I have is that because I competed in so many events without time off, I had little time to visit with friends.
I again want to thank those people who helped me accomplish my goals and also my roommates who had to endure my early morning preparation ritual. How can one go without coffee and oatmeal at 6 a.m.? I don’t even like to start a day before 9 a.m. Thank you and congratulations on your successes – Sid Howard, Tony Ruiz, Michael DeJesus, Neil Fitzgerald, and Doug Hertler.
See you at Indoors,

Phil Raschker with U.S. teammates Johnnye Valien (W80 vault and javelin champion and heptathlon silver medalist, left) and W80 sprinter Sue Barnes.

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September 26, 2007

6 Responses

  1. Phyllis Provost - September 26, 2007

    I’m glad Phil Raschner is
    such a gifted athlete.We’d
    all like to be.I’d sure like to hear about some of the other 9000 athletes and
    their accomplishments and
    lifestyles;especially women
    older than 60.Is this possible?

  2. Ruthlyn Greenfield-Webster, RN - September 26, 2007

    Phil…Ever since I met you at my first Nationals in Boston this year, I’ve told you how much you inspire me. I returned to Track and Field last year after a 14 year layoff and over the past year many of my family, friends, colleagues, and people I’ve never even met have told me how much of an inspiration I’ve been to them. Phil, like I told you again in Riccione…YOU are an inspiration to ME (and I know to countless others). THANK YOU for that! You are truly a blessed and gifted athlete. I congratulate you on your “many” past accomplishments and wish you continued successess.

  3. Juan Bustamante - September 26, 2007

    Phil, I was thrilled to read your diary notes and learn about your terrific perfomances.Recovering from a nasty flu bug I will try to compete in santa Barbara in October 6th in 9 events. You are truly an inspiration to all ofus. Congratulations.

  4. Ken Stone - September 26, 2007

    Christel Donley, 72, also is preparing a Riccione diary for me. Stay tuned for more good stuff from older athletes!

  5. Phyllis Provost - September 27, 2007

    Good! Thank-you.I’ve been a runner,triathlete,duathe-lete for many years.But didn’t start track and field till 63yrs.of age.I’m
    now almost 74 so I do need
    inspiration and motivation.
    Christel Donley is definitely someone who can
    do that.
    I;ve won a lot of gold
    medals down here but I’m
    not “world-class”Just an
    average older athlete.
    Phyllis Provost

  6. Marie Kay - September 30, 2007

    Congratulations Phil, you are a true champion. I am in awe of your performances in Italy. I am honoured to have you as my friend,see you in France.

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