Marvin Herring, 79, has been running his whole life and has no plans of slowing down.
Herring competed in the National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama, June 8-10 and captured the gold medal in the 800-meters in the 80-84 age group.
Herring’s time of 3:22.10 is currently the best in the nation and the third highest in the history of the Senior Games that goes back to 1987.
Herring competed in the heat and humidity of Alabama and attributes his training to his success in the preliminaries and the finals.
“I listened to my wife this time, she said ‘Just go out there and run for time instead of staying with the herd.’ You have two laps around in the 800-meter, so I took off,” Herring said about his performance in the preliminaries. “I was in lane four and I took off very fast. In the first 200-meters, I did 44 seconds. I wanted to do 40, but it didn’t work out there.”
Herring is a sprinter and used his past experience to get through the preliminaries with about 15-meters to spare between himself and his nearest competitor.
“I had a 1:36 I believe for the first lap,” he said. “I slowed a little bit, but when I got to the end of the lap I was in the straightaway, and my friend told me that they were starting to get close. They were 15-meters behind, but when I got to the last turn I hit the sprint button. I am a sprinter that went from the 400 to the 800. I was about 15-meters in front of them when I finished. It was a good time. I had never ran that fast. I guess you would say, when I was 75 I ran 3:26.50. That first one on that day was a 3:22.49 and I was shocked.”
Training in the heat and humidity and wearing spikes are all factors that weighed in Herring’s success at the Senior Games.
In the finals, Herring was ready and competing at the top of his game.
Through the first 200-meters, Herring posted a time of 44 seconds and stepped it up to not only take the lead, but to build a solid lead.
“I was in my final turn and my friend told me, ‘Marvin they’re coming up fast.’ I hit my sprint button into gear and I won by seven-meters,” Herring said. “I had tears in my eyes this had never happened before. In 2003, I got fourth in the 800-meters. In 1995, I didn’t get anything. So, this was my third Senior Olympic Games and I just didn’t feel that it was so much to take in.”
After years of working towards the top the final moment of winning was surreal for Herring.
“They put me on a chair and gave me two cups of cold water and put a cold towel around my neck and I was just trying to accept it, ‘You won, you won.’ So, in about an hour we were on the stand, and my friend asked me, ‘Will you accept that you won?’ Yes, as soon as they put that medal on my neck, and they did,” he said.
Herring trained for the event with his friend Charles McIlroy (also of Weatherford) who also competed at nationals, but in the 55-59 age group.
The pair trained at TCU and Foster Park.
Herring worked on sprint work at TCU on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday’s and worked on milage work at Foster Park on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“We were runners already and we were good runners, but we needed to be the best of the best,” Herring said. “He had a younger group to run in and turned out to be No. 6 in the 800-meter, but that was pretty good for him, because that was his first time at nationals.”
Herring has a daily regimen that he follows.
“I get up at five, I have two raisin bran cookies and two cups of coffee and I roll out of bed and I have my track suit and my shoes that I’m going to wear ready,” Herring said. “If I had to say why do I do this, I love to run.”
Herring has his own personal saying, ‘Live to run, run to live.’
‘Live to run, run to live’ it all comes back to that,” he said. “I just love it. It started in junior high and then high school and college and then I started running again when I was 39. I was running all of the Master Meets around Dallas and around Texas...I ran all of those meets in my 40s and then I wanted to become a senior olympian. That’s what got me going and got me to continue. It’s not work to me. Anything that’s like work to me, I wouldn’t do. It’s just a real pleasure to get up and know what I am going to do again.”
Herring has a storied 45 year history of running.
He ran at Sunset High School in Dallas and qualified for the state track meet in 1956 and 1957 and even ran with olympic medalist Eddie Southern while at Sunset High School.
Herring took a half scholarship to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA, and ran there until he caught phenomena twice and had to return home.
Herring received enough points from running that he became a member of the elite ‘N Club’ and was recently honored in May at Northwestern State.
Herring has ran marathons and half-marathons including Fort Worth and San Antonio and ran his last marathon in St. George, Utah, in 1995.
Herring has always been a sprinter and has stayed in some sort of competition for the past several decades.
Strategy played a huge role in Herring’s success at the National Senior Games and winning at the competition was a long road that took well over a year.
“We had our books and we knew what we were going to do inside of our running books,” Herring said. “He kept a running book and I kept a running book. The best thing we did while we were in Birmingham, we got at the table at the hotel and had a picture of the track at the hotel and knew where we were going to be. No athlete discussed strategy like that. My daughter, she was a runner said, ‘Go over the strategy. Know where you are going to be and run for time.’ That helped Charles and I a great deal knowing where to be at what time.”
Herring is next scheduled to compete in Abilene.
Herring also has plans to return to the National Senior Games at the next competition in Albuquerque, NM.
He’s already getting ready for the next one.
“I’ll keep improving,” Herring said. “I’m not going to slow down too much. I’ll qualify next year in San Antonio in the Texas State Senior Games and then after I qualify the next year I’m going to the National Senior Games in Albuquerque and I’m going to run at 5,000 feet. I’m going to go out there a week before, so the altitude doesn’t hurt me and I’ll take off like a horse on that track and I’ll be speeding away from everyone. I don’t have any physical problems. No knee problems, no leg problems or arm problems. If you work out really good in the altitude and the heat you’ll be alright.”