Against the Wind: 81-Year Old Runner Don Phillips
by Kolbe Nelson
August 22, 2011 9:19 PM
Many have said age is a state of mind, Don Phillips is a testiment to that, running and winning track events at the ripe age of 81. Still, his doing that and being our Taco John's Athlete of the Week probably wouldn't be possible, without the help of the woman he's loved for over 50 years.
"I went to a small school," Phillips says, "We had basketball, but in '87 when I started running, that was the first time I had ever been on a track or had seen a track meet."
Phillips was 57 years old when he had that first-time experience with the track, not exactly the ideal age to pick up a new sport. But the retired Coleman Veterenarian got curious when he saw results from something called the Senior Games, an olympic type track meet for athletes over 50-years old. He decided he would try it out at the state level, and discovered he was good enough to compete with the best in the country.
"I used to run everything from 50 meters to 5K," Phillips says, "In the nationals where it gets a bit more competitive, I limited that to the 400 meter, 800 meter and the 1500 meter."
The now 81-year old Phillips is still going strong.
"My first medal was 12 years ago in Orlando, FL at the Disney Sports Complex I got a Bronze in the 800 meter," Phillips says, "10 years ago in Baton Rouge I got silver in the 400 and the 800, and then this past June in Houston, I had a silver in the 800, a silver in the 4x100 relay and a bronze in the 400 meter and 1500 meter."
Of course, behind every great man, is an even greater woman.
Don and his wife Laverla have been married since 1953, and Mrs. Phillips could probably take the credit for getting Don into this whole running thing.
"I used to go out and walk alot," Laverla says, "And he got so he would walk with me a couple miles, and then he started jogging along and then he'd run ahead of me and I'd try to beat him back to town. And sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't."
Since that started happening, Laverla's been Don's biggest cheerleader. That's nothing new though.
"PHT," Laverla says with a smile, "I got my PHT for pushing him through vet school and I think I earned my PHT with this too, that's Pushing Hubby Through."
And with that kind of support, Don thinks he can keep going for quite a while.
"I'll keep going as long as I can I think," Don says, "That's how I feel right now, at this age things can change pretty sudden, but I feel good."
Don says he has to make the next national Senior Games in 2013 because they're in Ohio, Laverla's home state.Follow KDLT Sports at @KDLTSports and KDLT Weekend Sports Anchor Kolbe Nelson at @KolbeNelson for opinions, links, and updates on Twitter. And don't forget to check out the KDLT Sports Facebook Page