Alan in the news
San Diego UNION-TRIBUNE - April 4, 2008
Like a good watch, Olson just keeps on ticking
By Glae Thien
Some runners just let their coach call out split times during workouts; others check their watches; and then there's Alan Olson monitoring his own timing device, a multifunctional stopwatch.
“The biofeedback by getting the splits (at various distances) is kind of a competition with yourself,” Olson explained. “You're constantly seeing where you are. You have all of these benchmarks. If I'm at this speed at this time in the place on the course, then I know how I'm running.”
Besides developing consistent splits in races, this method has helped Olson keep running.
Olson, 65, has been a runner for 56 years without a sustained break, competing in his favorite races from 200 to 800 meters and from 5 and 10 kilometers and even an appearance in the Boston Marathon.
“Definitely, the younger athletes aspire to be like him when they get older,” said San Diego Track Club coach Paul Greer, who has known Olson for some 25 years. “He's a tough competitor, and they recognize that.”
Olson hoped to run in the 23rd Carlsbad 5000 on Sunday, especially looking forward to making his mark in the move to a new age group this year, but a recent Achilles' injury derailed those plans. So he instead plans to cheer on others, as he's done for more than five decades of involvement in San Diego running.
In 1979 Olson founded the Mission Bay Fun Races, offered weekly through the summer in their heyday and still periodically in recent years. Also, Olson and partner Tom LaPuzza originated the La Jolla Half Marathon 27 years ago and designed the course famous for the climb through Torrey Pines State Reserve.
When Olson served as the San Diego Track Club president in 1977, membership peaked at a record 2,200. These days, besides seeing him at weekly workouts, members hear him announce at occasional meets.
Olson, who began running on his own despite the heat of his native Phoenix, now takes an adult perspective about what originally made him go.
“It was hard, but I could do it,” said Olson, a motivational speaker and trainer for the past eight years. “So it gave me a sense of well-being and confidence. It was like my thing to claim I was good.”
Olson was a steady but not spectacular runner at North Phoenix High and continued to compete in recreational races while at Arizona State, where he earned a degree that led to a job as a computer programmer in San Diego shortly after graduation.
Three decades later, Olson enjoyed his running zenith. At 52, he won the national Indoor Masters 400-meter championship in the 50-54 age group in 56 seconds, one second faster than his high school time.
“Halfway, I was a very distant third by 25 meters,” Olson said “But I was very consistent with the monkey on (the front two runners' backs). I caught one with 50 to 60 to go, then on the final straightway, slowly but surely, I closed and nailed it at the wire by nine inches, a clear difference.”
Olson typically runs 20 miles per week in training, with his heaviest workout in the weekly track club session.
Most recently, on Feb. 16 Olson placed fifth among eight runners in his age group at the USA Cross Country Championships at Mission Bay Park in 39:47 over 8 kilometers.
“I like racing a lot,” Olson said. “In the old days, I'd do 10 to 15 races a year, and now up to maybe about four. I want to be in shape and pick the races I like. I plan on doing it the rest of my life.”
As the watch ticks, as the calendar turns, Olson just keeps right in step.