Going the distance

Former college runner still sprinting and breaking records at age 75

by Laura Roddy

When Wichitan Bob Lida, a former University of Kansas sprinter, turned 40 and decided to start running again, his dad said, "You know, Bob, you're not as young as you used to be."

"He believed your heart had so many beats when you got older, you sat down with the remote and preserved yourself," Lida said.

Lida's father would be blown away to know where his son is today: now 75 years old and about to compete in the 60-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter races at the national and international level in Masters Track. Masters Track age brackets start at 35.

And Lida doesn't just plan to compete. As always, his goal is to win and to set a personal record. In the case of the 60-meter and 200-meter runs, a personal record would also be a world record. All together, Lida has won 44 national championships and 13 world championships. This includes seven American records and five world records.

Essentially, Lida, owner of Lida Advertising, took about a 20-year break from running. When he took up running again at age 40, he focused on distance and became a marathoner. He pounded the pavement for years, achieving a 2:57 marathon. Then, at age 60, with his arches broken down and three children grown, Lida decided to try sprinting again.

Since then, he hasn't looked back. In January, he set world indoor records for ages 75-79 at a Wichita State University meet. He ran 8.49 seconds in the 60-meter and 27.03 seconds in the 200-meter.

Lida, 6-foot-2 and 182 pounds, credits his improvement over the last couple of years to improved biomechanics and the knowledge of former WSU track coach J.K. Kornelson. "It turns out I"ve been overstriding practically my whole life," he said. "I'm running faster now than I did three or four years ago."

Make no mistake: Lida also works out really hard. He is in his third year coaching sprinters at Kapaun-Mt. Carmel Catholic High School, and he often puts himself through the same paces as the high-schoolers in addition to his own individual workouts. One of his favorites is to sprint up the soap box derby hill near George Washington Boulevard and Oliver Street.

"It's been really rewarding," Lida said. "I really like working with the kids. I have a big group out, and I believe they can feel themselves getting better."

Lida will compete March 16-18 at the USA Masters Indoor Track and Field Championships in Bloomington, Indiana. Next, he heads to Finland April 3-8 for the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships.

Wichita has an impressive athlete in Lida, who tends to be modest. 'I used to be fast," he said. "Now I'm just fast for my age."

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