Neighbor: Messick running to

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 12, 2001

Senior Olympic Games


Features Editor

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Jan. 11, 2001 10 PM

Luther Messick was the third of 15 children. He only got to go school five years before taking his place behind a mule and a plow. He never got to participate in any sports so he didn’t know he had a talent for running until he served in the military during the Berlin Crisis.

When he realized that he was a natural runner, his thoughts often turned to what he might have been able to accomplish if he had been given the chance.

Like many who sit and watch Olympians go for the gold, Messick sometimes wondered what it would have been like to be one of them.

He never dreamed that, at age 63, he would be an Olympian.

Messick has qualified for the 2001 Senior Olympics, which will be held in Baton Rouge in July.

Messick competed in the state trails at Alabama State University in Montgomery in May and placed second in five events – the 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, high jump and pole vault. The top two finishers in each event qualify for the Summer Senior Olympic Games.

Because of the lingering effects of a broken foot, Messick said he will not compete in the high jump and pole vault events, but he is training "religiously" for the running events.

"Right now, I’m running on a dirt road out where I live on Highway 29," Messick said. "I train three times a week and I’ll pick it up closer to the Games. The competition down there will be tough. Each state can send two qualifiers in each event in each age division. That means that I could be competing against 99 others and many of them could be younger than I am. My age division is from 60 to 64."

Messick said, of course, he would like to come home with Olympic Gold, but he’s just happy to have the opportunity to be part of an Olympic event.

"Not many people get to compete in a national event like this and I’m just excited to be a senior Olympian," Messick said.

But, Messick is no stranger to competition. He has a passion for running and he competes in 5K and 10K runs and half-marathons. He is also a triathlon athlete and a bike racer.

"Back some years ago, I was in a track club with Nick Costes, Rick Stetson, Walter Black and some of those other guys," Messick said. "They were real competitors and I had to push myself to run with them."

Not only does Messick find pleasure in running, he also reaps the "healthful" benefits of pounding the pavement.

"Running makes me feel good," he said. "It’s good for me, physically and mentally, and I’ve met so many friends through participation in runs. Some people don’t understand the joy of running, but then those people aren’t runners."

Messick uses his athletic ability to help others. He has a friend who has multiple sclerosis, so he is a regular participant in the 150-mile Multiple Sclerosis Bike Ride.

"I started riding for MS in 1989 and I’ve only missed two rides," he said. "The rides are two-day events and we ride 75 miles each day. Along the way, we get to meet people who are afflicted with the disease and they are an inspiration to all of us.

I look forward to the ride and to helping raise money for the fight against MS."

Messick said the MS Bike Ride is held at different locations each year and each rider must raise at least $150.

"But we all try to do a lot more," he said.

As if running and biking weren’t enough to keep Messick on the move,

he had to add swimming to his "workouts."

"Sometimes you need a change and I decided to try the triathlon," he said. "And, swimming was the hardest of the three events for me. Oh, I could swim okay, but the speed got me. I just don’t have speed in the water. I had to try and make up for the lack of it with running and biking."

No matter whether Messick is jogging down a dirt road, pumping the pedals of a bike or making waves in the water, he is happiest when he’s trying to move a little faster than he did the day before.

"I don’t worry about what I can do against others," he said. "Every day, I want to be a little faster than I was the day before. My toughest competition is myself."