- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

BOSTON — There’s an old joke about the 90-year-old guy who was asked what he thought was the greatest thing about being 90 years old. “No peer pressure,” he replied without hesitation.

This afternoon at the 2007 USA Masters Indoor Championships at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, four men who have been on this earth for seven decades will crush the world indoor record for the 4x400 relay for their age.

It is such a certainty, barring some unbelievable disaster, and here is why: the record is 5:35. The four 70-year-old members on the team — including local legend Larry Colbert — ran yesterday and their combined times were 4:14.

“Why is the current record so slow?” asked team member Bob Lida, from Wichita, Kan. “You can’t find the guys.”

Lida, Colbert, Rich Rizzo and Dick Camp already own the 4x200 indoor world record. They knocked the daylights out of that standard three weeks ago at the New York City Armory, chopping more than four and a half seconds off the record to finish in 1:54.05.

The four runners averaged 28.5 seconds per 200 meters.

Lida said he anchored that effort with an incredible 26.8 split.

But Lida and Co. are not satisfied with just one world record. They are going after all of the sprint records, subbing out Camp for Robert Cozens today for his 400 strength.

After today’s man-handling of the 4x400 mark, Lida said the boys will take their traveling show to Austin, Texas, next weekend for an assault on the outdoor 4x200 record. Then they gather at the Penn Relays in late April, where they will try to rewrite history in outdoor 4x400 and 4x100 records.

For the group, it is more than just about the records. There is a special bond that has kept them competitors and close friends for as long as 30 years, with and without the baton.

“I’ve been racing against Rich and Larry since turning 40,” said Lida, who has chosen not to retire and instead runs his own advertising agency. “I travel more for track than for business.”

The one thing these guys have more of than speed is mutual respect.

Lida nailed an American record in the indoor 400 meters yesterday with Colbert in second. Colbert says of his swifter teammate: “To run behind a guy like Bob Lida is a pleasure because I know he’ll make me better. He’s the nation’s best.”

Lida said he thought the record was 63.4 seconds, but it doesn’t matter anymore because he clocked a 61.35. He missed the world record by four-hundredths of a second, less than a blink.

Rather than revel in his feat, instead Lida puts things in perspective. “Indoor running is tough,” he said. “This was my first run at this age since I turned 70 in November. I ran 60.3 last year. That’s a lot to lose in one year.”

But he also notes that some injuries have impeded his training and he hasn’t been able to train hard this year. Nonetheless, he has the outdoor 400 world record of 60.77 on his to-do list.

After that, his goals are even loftier. Before Lida revealed his secret goal — to be the first 70-year-old man in history to run 400 meters under 60 seconds — his mind drifted back 48 years to the University of Kansas, when the then-22-year-old ran 46.1.

“I know I can do it,” he said.

Why doubt him now?

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