Above the Norm: In the Long Run(s), `Geezer' Comes out Ahead

Article excerpt

If Norman Green weren't so well-known in running circles, he probably would find it necessary to carry ID to all his races. With a lean body and an easy smile, he looks like a 45-year-old and runs like a 25-year-old.

But Norman Green is 62.

His identification will say that he is 5 feet 10, weighs 145 pounds, was born in 1932 in Oakland, Calif., and now lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Wayne, Pa.

It will say that he's been driving a car for 46 years and nearly qualifies for Social Security.

But it won't say that he holds 50 national single-age road-running records, plus several - "I'm not sure of the number, but many" - national age-group records.

Or that doctors studying exercise performance routinely shake their head when evaluating Green's off-the-chart physiological statistics.

Or that this soft-spoken, mild-mannered clergyman gets his biggest kick from slipping past competitors less than half his age late in a race, and then leaving them in his dust.

"I pull ahead of them," he said with a gleam in his eye, "and I can hear them say: `Who's that old geezer? He can't do that.' And then they can't catch me.

"That's fun for me."

He has a lot of fun on the run.

Green is in St. Louis for the USA Track & Field Convention at the Adam's Mark Hotel downtown, and hopes to repeat as "age-graded" champion at the National Masters 10K Championships on Sunday in Forest Park.

Masters runners are 40 and older. Age-graded competition is computed on a handicap format based on age and gender, similar to the annual Stadium Run here.

Considering that Green probably will cover the 6.2-mile course in about 36 minutes, he'll be hard to beat.

For example, St. Louisans Bobby Williams and Dave Daum, both 42, would have to run 30:24 Sunday just to tie Green if he would run 35:55.

Green's superiority in age-graded competition is obvious. But his bagful of single-age records is even more breathtaking. Fifty records at various distances firmly establish him as the best among his peers.

"I realize that for some people, I'm a role model," he said. "I've been told that I'm a hero for people my age and for younger people who aspire to do well 10 or 20 years later."

Indeed, runners aware of Green's accomplishments speak of him with reverence. And Green takes his stature in road racing seriously.

He keeps meticulous records. He has filled yearly logs since 1968, noting daily runs, distances, times, conditions, etc. A battered black book details his many races over the years.

He doesn't smoke or drink, is careful with his diet, and wears a monitor during training and racing to calculate his heart rate.

His resting pulse rate is 38 beats a minute. …