Tonganoxie man continues to compete across nation
Wally Brawner celebrated turning 65 the same way he did when he turned 40 -- the now-retired teacher prepared for a National Masters meet.
Brawner competed March 11-13 in Boise, Idaho, at the USA Masters Indoor National Championships.
Brawner finished second in the 3,000 meters with a time of 12 minutes, 19.81 seconds. He also placed fourth in the mile run with a 6:12.64 time.
The age divisions start at 40 and go up in five-year increments.
Brawner competed last month in his first year at a new division in the 65-69 age division.
"Every five-year age group it gets pretty tough the first year or two," Brawner said.
Brawner, who taught and coached at Washington High in Kansas City, Kan., for 33 years, has won the steeplechase in outdoor Masters meets three or four times, but he never has won an event in indoor competition. He's taken second, third and fourth several times in indoor competition, but never gold.
One year, a friend competed with him in Boston and took the gold after beating Brawner by just a few seconds.
Meets have taken Brawner to plenty of cities across the country.
His first Masters event, an indoor meet when Brawner was 40, was in Reno, Nev. Since then, he's competed in Orlando, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., Spokane, Wash., and Boston, among other places.
"Boston is a neat place," Brawner said. "A lot of history there."
The next outdoor Masters event is his summer in Honolulu. Brawner, however, doubts he'll go. He's already been there three times, although this would mark the first time he would go to Hawaii to run.
"Three's enough," Brawner said. "That's a long way to go to run two miles."
In high school, Brawner ran track at Goodland High in western Kansas. He then attended Eastern New Mexico and ran there in college where his uncle was the athletics director.
ENMU, however, didn't have much in the way of a track program, so Brawner transferred to Kansas and joined the track team at KU where longtime coach Bill Easton was head of the track program.
But Brawner's time on the KU track team was short-lived.
"I went out for three or four days and I was taking physics and calculus and I found out what you had to do to train with them," Brawner said about joining the KU track team.
Although he ended his collegiate career early, Brawner didn't stop running.
These days, Brawner jogs about 125 miles a month on average.
It's not always fun to run -- especially in the cold -- but Brawner said it's a good way to stay healthy.
"The alternative is less interesting -- choking up somewhere and not being able to do anything," Brawner said.