Carpe Diem, The Series: Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

track and field runners at the starting block

Paul Stevens

Carpe Diem (but in a relaxed sort of way)


For any of you that may have seen the 1999 Tim Allen science fiction comedy movie “Galaxy Quest”, you will know what the title line is all about.  It speaks to the attitude of the crew of a galactic space ship who in the face of adversity follow the mantra of their fearless captain played by Tim Allen.

World Masters Athletics Championships

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the “North and Central America and Caribbean Region of World Masters Athletics Championships” (NCCWMA to be brief) at Toronto’s York University. This is just one of many such athletic meets held at various global locations culminating in World Masters Games held every four years; the most recent were held in 2017 in Auckland New Zealand, the next will be in 2021 in the Kansai region of Japan.  These games feature traditional Summer Games events, largely Track & Field and there are Winter Games as well.

Unlike the better known Olympic Games, the Masters Games do not have strict qualifying criteria.  Entry is generally limited to those 35 years old and up, although some jurisdictions will permit participants as young as 25 years old. With no qualifying criteria, the only stipulation is a willingness to compete which ties in nicely with the “Athletics for Life” slogan of the World Masters Games. Participants in the Games have decided, as the title to this article says to, “Never give up, never surrender”, at least to the relentless march of time that catches too many of us at a standstill.

With relaxed qualifying criteria, it comes as no surprise that the Masters Games attract more athletes than the Olympic Games.  Apparently, there are lots of people who are not yet ready to ‘hang ‘em up’.

The Games

Arriving at York University on a Saturday morning, it quickly became obvious that there were many more athletes than spectators.  Those who be considered as spectators were noted to be family and or friends of the competitors. Drawing large crowds is not really the point of the Games as participation is the priority. With no admission fee and light numbers by way of spectators, I had my choice of seating.

Surveying the action for a while, I decided to make myself known to a number of the athletes by introducing myself and our website,  I simply asked the athletes if they would mind sharing a bit about themselves and why they are here.  Considering the age group and the absence of pretention, without fail all who were approached were ready to tell their story.

Keep Active and Try New Things

First up was Grantley Blenman for Pickering, Ontario, a suburb just east of Toronto. Mr. Grantley is 60 years old and runs the 100m and 200m events.  He is a member of the Durham Gazelles Track Club whose younger members start around eight years old.  Mr. Grantley is one of five Masters-level members of the club.  He played soccer in his youth so is not a stranger to running. He has however only been involved with competitive running for about one year making him a relative newbie to the sport.  Yes, he was interested in the fitness aspect of running and he was also motivated by family health concerns. There has been a trend of gout in the Blenman family and exercise is a good way to offset the risk. 

Now retired,  Grantley trains three times a week with the Gazelles who switch to indoor facilities when winter starts to settle in.  As a result, the club is on the track in some form year round.  Being retired has offered a measure of flexibility to be sure as there are fewer time commitments to cramp the schedule.  “Keep active and try new things” are Grantley’s words of wisdom.

A Running “Lifer”

Next on the agenda was Carol Stein of Rocky Point (near Wilmington) North Carolina.  Carol, now 60,  admits to being a ‘lifer’ in the running game and now competes in the 100m sprint and 300m hurdle events. Unlike Grantley, Carol is not part of a track club so her training consists of working out largely on her own or with other independents in the area.  She will train about 10 hours per week and that will include a regular yoga session for stretching. 

Also retired, Carol now enjoys the reduced stress of no longer being tied to a career along with the fitness, energy level and health benefits that her workouts provide.  “Keep setting new goals” were Carol’s words of inspiration.

The Greyhounds

I moved on the chat with a few members of the “Greyhounds Masters Track & Field Club” (great name or what!) located in Coquitlam, British Columbia, on the eastern flank of Vancouver.  Urith Hayley, 66, serves as the club’s President and she states that with over 100 members, it is the largest Masters club in Canada. She competes in the 100m, 200m and 80m hurdles and didn’t get involved with track until she was in her 50’s.  Better late than never I suppose.

Marvin Johnson, who we can refer to as ‘The Kid’ because he is only 43 years old.  He was a high school track participant and underwent leg surgery in 2011 and got back into running as a way of doing his rehabilitation. Marvin is a workhorse on the track competing in the 100m, 200m, 400m and relays for good measure. 

The senior member of this group was Surinder Shah, age 74.  He’s an 80m hurdle gold medalist and also competes in the 200m, 400m and 300m hurdles. He has no plans to slow down and he didn’t look like he needed to consider it any time soon.

The Greyhounds work out three times per week for two hours per session.  Living in Canada’s banana belt, outdoor workouts are available 12 months a year with the downside being that rain is a common weather element.


Later in the day, I met Sandylee Triolo, or ‘Speedy’ as he is known in the Masters world, of Washington D.C.. Sandy carries herself at something that approaches warp drive speed. As such, it is not surprising that her events include 100m (earning a silver medal), 200m (also a silver), 400m (taking a bronze), 4 x 100m relay (earning gold and setting an America record for the 55 and up age group), and also a gold in the 4 x 400m in meet record time. 

Did you have trouble getting across the border on your return trip to the U.S. carrying all that metal?


The common element with all of the athletes that I met was a love of the camaraderie with their fellow athletes, the fitness levels that they maintain and the great sense of accomplishment that these games provide. Considering that the bulk of their expenses are paid out-of-pocket, the level of dedication to their cause is obvious; it wouldn’t be done if these athletes didn’t genuinely enjoy what they are doing.

Aside from those I met personally, scanning the crowd I was struck by the scope of geography of the athletes. The NCCWMA covers the western hemisphere other than South America and the area was well represented with athletes from across Canada and the U.S. but also from Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, Belize, and others as well, all there for the same reasons and all doing it on their own dime.  Now that’s dedication!


There was definitely a different ‘feel’ to these games from other I have attended where completion is the name of the game.  There is no fame, no glory awaiting the athletes, just a deep sense of accomplishment and well-being. Sure, these athletes enjoy the competition but to a person, they agree that they are really competing against themselves, constantly striving to improve their PBs. 

I’m sure all would agree: stay active, set new goals, and more than anything, enjoy!

Your friend, Paul. 

And remember – Carpe Diem (but in relaxed sort of way)!.

runner with medal


Speedy with just part of her medal haul – York University August 2017.

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