Life

99-Year-Old Runner Beats Out 92-Year-Old In Friendly Rivalry

Consider us inspired.

In a thrilling upset, 99-year-old Orville Rodgers beat out 92-year-old Dixon Hemphill in the 2017 USATF Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships. Just .05 seconds and Hemphill would have won the 60-meter dash. Instead, he was relegated to second place in the competition, which took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico in February.

Hemphill, a retired businessman from Fairfax, Virginia, lost by five-hundredths of a second to the only other runner in the heat, 99-year-old World War II veteran and pilot Rogers. The Virginian led the race for nearly 55 meters, but finally lost at the finish line.

“I took off, and I was a little bit ahead so I thought, ‘This is going well,'” Hemphill told Runner’s World in an interview.

Unfortunately for Hemphill, it was not to be. Rogers pulled ahead late in the race to achieve the underdog win. Rogers won the race in 18 seconds. As the oldest men competing in the event, they were in their own heat together. While heats are usually organized by an athlete’s time or score, the Master’s Track Championship focuses on age.

Rogers says he partially credits his win to the visualizations he does while training at a gym near his home in Dallas, Texas. Rogers, who works out up to three times a week (FYI, if a 99-year-old man can do it, you can too), says he has been using a visualization technique for a long time.

“I started years ago visualizing success in whatever race I participate in,” Rogers told Runner’s World. “That’s still my objective: I train hard and I visualize crossing the finish line out in front. And I work at it pretty consistently. It’s very rewarding to be able to accomplish what you set out to do.”

Rogers has even published a book about his experiences; “The Running Man details his life as both an accomplished masters runner and a decorated pilot.

His competitor Hemphill began his running career 50 years ago after racing in the timed mile event at a small track meet. Hemphill was a pole vaulter and discus thrower in college but didn’t start running until he joined the local Potomac Track Club to stay in shape as he aged. Despite being struck by a car while training for a triathlon at age 74 (earning him a month’s stay in the hospital and multiple broken bones), Hemphill hasn’t stopped running for the past 18 years, aside from recovering from a hip replacement in 2008.

“I compete at these events for the joy of running and the competition,” Hemphill told Runner’s World. “And then the comradeship.”

Rogers and Hemphill have been competing against each other for years now after meeting at a previous Masters Track Championship. Because they run in the same heat—as they’re typically the oldest racers at the meet—they’ve developed a companionable rivalry.

Rogers is currently on a four-year winning streak against Hemphill in the 60-meter-dash at the USATF Indoor Championships.

“I guess he has the speed and I have the distance,” Hemphill said while chuckling.

Check out the race in action below: