by Dr. Ed Berry
In 2006, when I lived in Sacramento, I used to hang out at the American River College (ARC) track. One summer day, Coach Mike Reid, ARC track coach, invited me to train with his track team, which is like driving your family car in a NASCAR race.
Though the college runners were way beyond my speed grade, Coach Mike and his assistant Coach Ray, helped me improve my running speed well beyond what I thought would be possible.
Recently, Coach Mike Reid earned a well-deserved credit. In 2010 and 2011, he coached Sacramento sprinter Diondre Batson, now the “World’s fastest man in 2013“. Diondre Batson credits Coach Mike Reid with encouraging him to continue his track and field career after incurring an injury in a high school track event.
Running under Coach Mike, Batson set the ARC records for 100 meters (10.10 seconds), 200 meters (20.50 seconds), and with teammates Bracin Walker, Greg Turner and Keven Brown, the 4×100 meter relay (39.78 seconds).
Here’s how Coach Mike helped me run faster.
In March 2007, Coach Mike and his team went to an all-comers track meet at the University of California, Berkeley. I tagged along. On the advice of Coach Mike, I focused on the 400 this day and stayed out of the 200 meter race.
I ran my 400 m race with the high-school teams … because there was no one my age to run against. Before the race began, I told my friends, “Look, if I die out there, don’t cry for me. I would rather die here than in an old age home.” They laughed but I meant it.
The race committee gave me the inside (#1) lane where I could watch all the high school guys leave me in their dust. Everyone but me used starting blocks. Blocks would not help me because I would waste time just to stand up.
The starting gun fired and we were off. The high school dudes disappeared in the distance, but their speed “sucked” me along as I tried to keep up. They were about finishing their 400 as I began the straightaway for my final 100 meters.
Just as I was asking myself, “What am I doing in this race?“, the spectators saw me struggling to finish. It did not matter that I was the last dude in the race, or that I was a white guy and most of the spectators where black. Track is track, and we are all in this together. They cheered me on and this made me run faster. I almost fell as I ran to the finish line … as fast as my legs would carry me.
After I recovered enough to walk around, we checked with the race committee about my time. They electronically clocked me at 67 seconds which is only a few seconds off the US National record for the 70-74 age group.
However, even if I had tied the National record, I still would have finished last. And that is putting it politely. Those high school runners had enough time to interview on TV, eat a sandwich, and call their mother before I crossed the finish line. The moral is if you are 71 years old, forget about beating your high school track team.
In conclusion, everyone needs a Coach Mike. I would never have run my time without him. Coach Mike is a cancer survivor and he brings out the best in everyone, especially runners.
The lasting benefit I received from training under him was learning how to train to improve performance. Now that I live in Montana, I continue to practice what I learned from Coach Mike and his track team.
Coach Mike always has my best wishes.