David Glass: An Age-Graded Phenom

David Glass, age 76, has been running consistently this year with times that those much younger would envy. For example, at the HMRRC Labor Day Race 5K, Dave came in 20th overall with a time of 20:36, 7:18 pace, giving him an age graded performance of 92.62%! With performances like this, it is time that he was interviewed for the Pace Setter.

Tell us a little about yourself not necessarily related to running: age, where born, education, profession before you retired?

I was born in the summer 1946 in Brooklyn, NY, while my family was living in Manhattan. After living there and then in the Bronx for four years we moved to Long Island where I graduated HS in 1964 and started college at the University of Bridgeport, graduating with a BSME in 1968. I then took a job with Pratt & Whitney Aircraft and remained in the field of engineering, at various jobs (test, design, product, management) and locations, until I retired in 2007.

Placed 1at at XC Championship in Lexington, KY in 2017

How did you start running and what prompted you to do so?  How old were you when you started? Did you win prizes then too?

I began running seriously in 1984 when I was working with a bunch of engineers who ran during their lunch break, and I joined them. Later, I entered the Blue Cross Blue Shield 15k held in Bethlehem, my very first competition. I ran about a 1:09 and for a full week could hardly walk. My records don’t go beyond 1998 but it shows I ran the FAM Fund and might have won my age group. After that I podiumed a few times but didn’t win again (age-group) until 2003 in the Schenectady JCC 5k race. I remember Benita Zahn as Course Marshall in that race. Year 2004 was my breakout year, with age group wins in the OK5K, Schenectady JCC, St. Peter’s Keys 10k, Kingston 10k (Emily Bryant passed the group of men I was with, revitalizing us and picking up our pace), Rabbit Ramble 4M and the Harp & Shamrock 5k.

What is your favorite distance to run now? Has that changed over the years?

My favorite distance to run is 10k, not too short or too long, but I still run more 5k’s than 10’s, owing to the latter’s lesser availability in this region. This year’s Malta 10k was a good one, now that it is certified.

Crushing it at Boulder, CO USATF
Cross Country Race

What is your most memorable race or races and share a little about at least one of them? 

My favorite local race will always be the Stockade-athon, even though it’s 15k. The course and distance is a challenge, the competition is keen and the management is first class. And there’s nothing like a downhill finish to cap off a race. Other favorites include the Charlton Heritage 5k, an uphill/downhill course, featuring slices of Smith’s Orchard Bakery apple pie to all runners, and quite a few friends of runners. Luckily there’s an ample supply. The most memorable race was this June in Tampere, Finland, at the World Masters Athletics Outdoor Championship X-C race. One of the reasons I entered the event, besides facing world class competitors, was to earn 100 USATF GP points in either the X-C, 10k road or HM events, thus padding my lead in US competition. And in the X-C event my closest American competitor, Gary Patton, a very strong record-holding medium distance track star shadowed me for the entire race, just as he had in early January at the USATF X-C Championships in San Diego, CA, where he surged ahead at the finish to take 5th to my 6th. In Tamper we came within 200m of the finish when I was momentarily confused as to where the finish was, allowing him to close the gap and come even with me. But I somehow surged ahead, winning by the thickness of a singlet, as I was later told.

Do you find yourself training differently to when you first started running? Are you doing other things differently?

At first, like many beginner runners, I “bounded” when I ran: low cadence, long strides. After reading a book written by two SUNY/Albany phys. ed. grad students, who discovered that successful runners at distance races 5k and up all ran with a cadence between 180 and 185, I adapted that as an optimal goal. Then realizing that speed is simply cadence multiplied by stride length I went about maximizing that figure. Easier said than done, especially as flexibility, and thus stride length, decrease with age, increasing stride length is a matter of gentle stretching before and after training. Stretching, rolling and ice applications if necessary are all things that can contribute to faster running. Leaning forward (not running upright) helps with speed and lessens hamstring problems. Keeping your arm motion “in plane” helps counter leg motion.

What’s the secret to being able to run so well, and getting better every year, despite being at an age where most people are slowing down?

Hard to say, except for optimal cadence and maximizing stride length by staying limber. Cross training helps: biking, swimming, elliptical, light weight training, whatever you like to do, second to running. Not training excessively. A few years ago, I developed the runners bane: hamstring pulls. A triathlete friend recommended a chiropractor trained in Active Release Techniques. And now I’m a regular patient. I think highly of the technique.

                         1st in age group at USATF LDR Grand Prix

You came in first in your age group at the USATF Long Distance Running Grand Prix circuit. Please tell us about this and will it lead to races connected with this?

The 2021-2022 season started in December, at Tallahassee, with an 8k X-C event at which I placed 2nd (age group) to a west coast runner, Ron Wells. Next was another 8k X-C, in San Diego, also won by Wells, where I finished 6th to Gary Patton, mentioned above. A month later, in Atlanta, Wells again won with Patton and I finishing 2nd and 3rd, respectively. That gave Wells a substantial lead in the GP, with 300 points. But Wells was not to appear again in the series; bigger fish to fry was his explanation. That left the field open and in the Syracuse HM, the Sacramento 10 miler and the James Joyce Ramble 10k I finished first, putting me in first place. I saw Patton again at the Rochester mile and stayed with him for about 20 seconds before he pulled away and revealed another strong competitor ahead of me. I don’t know how but I was able to reel him in, just passing him at the finish line to take 2nd. By September I had 400 points, including Tampere and needed only one more win to clinch the age-group championship and that would come at the 12k race in NJ.

I had never been to Boulder, CO, the last stop of the USATF Long Distance Running Grand Prix circuit, much less run there, so a Wednesday afternoon arrival was planned to allow enough time to get used to the 5300 ft altitude. I trained on the bike path behind the hotel Thursday and Friday and felt pretty good afterward. I thought the cross country course elevation change was only 41 ft but when we arrived to inspect it Thursday I could see someone had made a mistake: it was more like 300ft, and much of it at the start/finish area, including many off-camber stretches with roots. The women ran at 1 pm, the men at 2; by then the temperature had climbed to the low 70s. The start was gently downhill for 100 yards and then turned to the right, steeply uphill and off-camber. It then leveled out as it followed paths around a lake before turning back toward the start area and another steep section. Being pushed by the competition I was breathing very hard. Due to my slow start, it took all of the first lap to catch up to my age-group competition, a member of Boulder Road Runners (BRR) with whom I had traded places many times during the regular season. I surged, and passed him, thinking there was another BRR in front of him that I would have to pass to win. I was wrong, he was the only one, and I finished first, much to my surprise. The Atlanta Track Club Mens70's team finished 3rd behind BRR "A" team and "B" team. A glorious day, warm and bright, and complete with craft beverages from a local brewery. Awards were presented by local Olympic runners to add to this quality event.

Do you have any runs coming up?

The USATF Masters GP season starts anew on Dec. 10th in San Francisco with a 5k X-C. Ron Wells, along with at least three other strong West Coast runners, are entered, so I’ll have my work cut out for me. Other races include an X-C in Richmond, VA, a 5k road race in Atlanta, and in April, the Sacramento 10 mile, Syracuse HM and James Joyce 10k. The Rochester one-mile championship is scheduled sometime in May/June. And, of course, there is the Runnin’ Of The Green, the Delmar Dash and any HMRRC race I can fit in.

What is going to be your focus for 2023? 

Winning as many USATF events as I can before Gene Dykes turns 75 in early April. If he enters all the GP events, he is sure to be the 75-79 age-group champion. He is that good. I’m hoping he keeps running ultra trail races and they interfere with the GP series, but knowing him, he will do both. His legs seem to be made from iron.

What advice do you have for our Pace Setter readers about running?

Stay away from marathons. They will do more harm than good.

First Place Age Division 70-79 at Malta 10K 2022

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