Kim Williams is a 54 year old sprinter and jumper from Portland Maine, whose school while growing up didn’t offer much in the way of sports opportunities for girl. While Kim did play basketball and softball in high school, she didn’t discover her passion for track and field until she was in her fifties. Kim started running at age 35 when she was inspired by a group of runners at work that would run at lunch time every day. She thought it looked like a good thing to do, so she one day she hopped on the treadmill and ran for 20 minutes. She remembers telling one of the women who ran that she ran for twenty minutes, and the woman told her that she was off to a great start. That small bit of encouragement changed Kim’s life. She started running and went on to do road races until in 2006, she discovered the sprints and jumping events in track and field.
A fellow runner told Kim she would be a great addition to their company’s corporate track team, so she started running the mile and two mile races. Kim entered some shorter races to gain points for the team, and discovered that she was quite talented. She broke the team record for the 100 meter run in her fourth 100 meter race. Since then, Kim has taken up high jumping, hurdling, and even experimented with the javelin throw. Kim loves to learn and try new things, and hopes someday to compete in the pentathlon.
Q: What is your biggest accomplishment in your sports?
A: I think my biggest accomplishment has been that I’ve been able to learn new thing in a fairly short time. I don’t see my accomplishments in terms of personal records, but more in terms of learning and trying new things like the pentathlon or hurdling. Those are the kinds of accomplishments that jazz me.
Q: What one or two things do you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?
A:I’m very consistent in my training. My coach gives me a plan, and I stick to the plan. I think that there’s an awful lot of information available, and if you listen to everybody, you will have no focus. My training is well planned by someone who knows what they’re doing, and I don’t change my plan because of something that I read on the internet about the latest fad. I also keep records about what I think works for me, and what doesn’t. George Sheehan, the runner and author, said that we’re all an experiment of one, and he’s right. The trick is to find out what works for you.
Q: What would be your ultimate achievement?
A: My ultimate achievement would be to be able to do this for a long time, and enjoy it. That is, to not get injured, to not burn out, and to be able to be one of those 80-year old ladies that’s setting world records in her age group. I also get a bang out of learning new events, so I’d love to try the heptathlon.
Q: How do you set your goals?
A: I sit down at the beginning of the season, and I plan it out. I decide what things I’m going to focus on. Sometimes I focus on learning a new event, and sometimes I focus on improving one of my current events.
Q: What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
A: Lack of time is my biggest challenge. I don’t have kids, so I don’t know why time is an issue with me, but it is. I work full time and I’m involved in a lot of other things in the evening, so for me the morning is the only good time to work out. I work out between 5:30am and around 7:00am. I get all worked up if I miss my morning workout.
The other challenge is that in order to train for field events, I need equipment. I’m extremely lucky that there’s a college within half an hour drive where I can train in the winter to do the high jump, long jump, and hurdles. If that wasn’t available to me, I wouldn’t be able to do those events.
Q: What is your diet like?
A: I’m not at all good about what I eat. I’m not disciplined with my diet, and all my discipline is used in other areas. I eat oat meal, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, but I tend to go on candy or donut binges. I also like ice cream, and I live half a mile from a really good ice cream store. In the past I’ve gone on diets where I really try hard to eat right, and I managed to lose weight. I tend to revert to not eating as well. It does frustrate me, and sometimes I think that I’m one sprained ankle away from obesity. There was one time I had a dislocated bone in my foot where I couldn’t run, and I really didn’t gain very much weight.
Q: What 1-2 things do you believe differentiates you from your contemporaries who have tailed off in their athletic participation and abilities?
A: I’ve got great role models. I know athletes that are very accomplished and talented in all age groups. When I first got into master’s track and field I expected that the 90 year old athletes would just be out there doing it for fun, but they’re out there running, jumping, and throwing their hearts out. It occurred to me that the body ages, but the competitive spirit doesn’t. People may think that we’re just doing our sport as a lark, but we’re just as serious as any other athletes. We’re just in older bodies.
I recall that right before I turned 50, one of my aunts asked me if I was nervous about turning 50. I told her that she should meet the 50-year old women that I know. They’re beautiful, talented, and athletic. Two of my friends just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro last year, so they’re not women that are sitting around knitting. Not that I have anything against knitting.
Q: Do you have any recommended resources to share (books, seminars, websites, coaches)?
A: There’s more and more available on the internet for senior athletes, but it’s paltry for masters women. I joined a track club and the information sharing with the other women athletes has been invaluable. I also have a coach.
When I broke my track club’s 100 meter record on my 4th hundred ever, I decided that if I was going to sprint, I needed to know what I was doing, yet I had no idea what to do for training. So, I e-mailed one of the coaches at a local college, and asked him if he knew anyone that would be willing to work with an older athlete. He gave me the name of one of his assistant coaches who worked with sprinters and jumpers. I’ve been working with him now for almost 4 years.
Q: Have you experienced a breakthrough, and if so, what led to it?
A: I never thought I could high jump because people told me it would be hard to get over the fear of jumping with your back turned. I told my coach that I wanted to try it, so he gave me a few lessons so I could try it in a meet. At the meet I made the low height; made the next height; made the next height, and beat a woman that I considered to be a good high jumper. I found that I really liked high jumping. That was a breakthrough in that I didn’t even consider doing the high jump, but now it’s one of my favorite events.
Q: What was the best advice you were ever given?
A: There was a marathon runner from Kenya who won the Boston Marathon a number of times who said, “the will to win is nothing without the will to prepare”. I think that I’ve always remembered that because you can want to win all you want, but it’s the getting out there day after day and training that makes it possible.
Q: Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?
A:I often think of that George Sheehan saying about every runner being an experiment of one.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A: My inspiration is definitely from my competitors and the older women. We compete fiercely against each other, but it’s a very supportive environment.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: I’m hoping that your book about athletes over 50, will show what older athletes are doing. Occasionally I see an article about an older athlete, along the lines of Those Amazing Animals, almost holding them up as some kind of weirdo. I just wish that people realized that 11,000 people went to the National Senior Games in 2007. I was ripping mad one time after I read an article about a guy who was over-weight, and planning to do a marathon. That same week a friend of mine had broken an age group world record, and it didn’t even get in the paper. Why does someone who’s planning to do something get more publicity than someone who’s actually doing it? That’s the end of my little rant.