My Olympic Experience

This is the first Guest Post on my blog, by none other than my Dad, Doug Ordway!

I started running in the late 60’s and have kept with it with only brief periods of downtime ever since. Some of my early heroes were Jim Ryun, Buddy Edelen, Bob Schul, Steve Prefontaine, Dave Wottle,  Frank Shorter, and Boston Billy Rogers. Shorter winning the Olympic gold in 1972 and Pre failing in the 5000 are images I will never forget. While successful at the local level it was clear to me that I would not be an Olympic caliber athlete myself.

My Olympic “opportunity” occurred in the winter of 1983. The summer Olympics were coming to L.A. California and a nationwide torch relay team would carry the flame which would light the Olympic flame the following summer. Garnering a spot on the torch relay team was easy for some, just fork out the $2,000 required to carry the torch for 1 kilometer on the streets of Toledo, Ohio. For me as a father of 2 working in the feast or famine auto industry of the time, I spent much of 1983 unemployed as the auto industry was suffering huge layoffs. The 2 grand price tag was out of my price range.

Luckily for me, Larchmont Apartment Complex, of Toledo, had purchased a spot on the torch relay team and decided to hold a 5k event in which the overall winner would carry the torch in the relay for them. Very cool I thought!! My summer races were going exceptionally well as I was averaging about 15:45 for 5k and had not run any races slower than 16:00 flat. My peers in Toledo were having equally good seasons and there were 4 or 5 of us capable of winning local 5k’s on any given Saturday.

About a month before the Larchmont 5k was set to go off sometime in November of 1983 I was out doing a track session of 12 x 400 meters when I developed a deep right thigh pain which felt like a stress fracture. I was forced to cut my mileage by 50% usually running only every other or every third day depending on the level of pain. I was able to continue on with regular speed work as long as I rested well between work outs. Certainly this was not the lead up to this big race that I had expected or wanted.

The morning of the Larchmont 5k was cold, about 29 degrees and breezy. My warm up went well and I was pain free after having taken 2 days of complete rest in anticipation of the event. The gun went off and the lead group of 4 of us jockied for position the 1st mile, which we passed in 5:00. Shortly afterward I got a second wind and surged to the front of the pack. I did not realize until about 30 seconds into the surge that no one else went with me to cover the move. It seems that the other contenders had relaxed a bit in their winter training and were already over extended. I ran scared the rest of the race, looking over my shoulder for over takers, and worrying about whether my thigh could handle the stress of the race. Fortunately, the competition never closed the gap and my thigh remained pain free as I finished 1st in 15:08, nearly a 30 second P.R. . I had won the right to carry the Olympic torch in the spring of 1984. For me, this was my Olympic 5k.

The morning of the torch relay my family accompanied me to my kilometer of road in Toledo. My wife, 2 children, my in-laws, and my parents were there to witness the event, hold the torch, take pictures, meet my sponsor, and share in my joy. I had a cool white racing singlet and matching shorts, tube socks with the Olympic logo, all of which I was allowed to keep. I handed off to a young lady whose dad had purchased 2 kilometers of road for her to carry the torch through. My one kilometer was ample as I was numbed by the experience and totally out of breath as I finished it. That day is also one that is forever etched in my memory.

Man Holding the Olympic Torch

Here I am holding the torch and wearing my sweet singlet

man and woman holding olympic torch

View of the entire "uniform" and sharing the torch holding with my beautiful wife

parents holding olympic torch

My parents holding the torch

woman holding olympic torch

My mother-in-law holding the torch

Doug Ordway has been a Local Elite since the 1960s and has inspired countless individuals with his dedication to running, working and helping his wife raise a family of 4 children. His most recent accomplishments include a 2:58 marathon at Houston 2012, placing top masters runner at numerous local events and being selected to run as an elite masters runner at the Twin Cities Marathon for the USA Track & Field 2012 USA Masters Marathon Championship. Here is a picture of him taking my older brother and me out for our first race around 1984.

kids running race with dad

Looking good kids, looking good

2 thoughts on “My Olympic Experience

  1. I LOVE this. What a great story! Gave me chills reading it. I hope he still has the tank and of course, tube socks! ha! I wish him luck at Twin Cities… so exciting! I love hearing about your running family! So cool.

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