Sue McCarthy of South Portland ran a personal-best time of 1:06.01 in the 400 meters at the national masters track and field championships three weeks ago in Boston.
It was one of the three individual gold medals she won.
As McCarthy quipped, “I’m trying to get faster, not older.”
Age, we have no control over. McCarthy, 50, however, is doing her best to improve the speed part. Along with winning the 400 in the 50-54 age division, she took firsts in the 60 dash (8.62) and the 200 (28.58), and ran on the winning 800 relay team. McCarthy is a national champion in three individual events and a team event. She has learned to modify her training in the wake of recent injuries.
“I have a better understanding of what my body is doing and what I’m capable of,” she said.
“You have to be aware that you just can’t run through injuries. You have to stop and take care of it.”
McCarthy has had knee and ankle injuries. “My knee comes and goes,” she said.
Last summer she was bothered by a torn muscle in her hip and upper thigh area. She maintained her physical conditioning and limited her running to local corporate meets. She still managed to set three Maine Corporate track records that summer. McCarthy feels that by staying in top shape while still nursing an injury helped her to a fast start in masters track this year.
“The injury kind of went away and I didn’t really notice it at the nationals,” she said.
McCarthy has been a standout for the last few years in masters track. In 2012, she won gold in the 100 and 200 meter races at the New England Outdoor Association championships. At the outdoor nationals, she finished second in the 100 and 200. In the world masters in St. John, New Brunswick, McCarthy won a silver medal in the 200 meters in the 45-49 age division, She missed first place by 0.01. She also was part of two silver medal relay teams.
Later this month, McCarthy will compete in the Penn Relays.
McCarthy started competing in corporate track six years ago after taking several years off to raise a family. Through corporate track, McCarthy was introduced to U.S. Track and Field meets. She works as a care manager for APS Healthcare in South Portland. She is a single mother with a 14-year-old daughter.
McCarthy grew up on Long Island, N.Y., where she was a high school track standout. She was a Division III All-American at Stony Brook University, now a Division I school located in Stony Brook, N.Y. She is still in contact with her college coach, Steve Borbet.
“To be able to run competitively at any age is an accomplishment,” said Borbet, who now coaches high school girls’ track and field in Islip, N.Y.
“For her to win three events at a national meet is amazing. Sue has kept in shape. We’ve had a good relationship over the years. Sue still asks my opinion on different things like how to taper for the championships. It’s nice that I’ve been able to help,” he said.
McCarthy said her teammates on the Mass Velocity team, which placed third in the nationals, also exchange training and running tips.
“We’re like a family. We have doctors, lawyers and scientists on our team. They’re very smart people,” said McCarthy.
One of the people she exchanges ideas with is Susan Wiemer of Freeport, a multi pentathlon and heptathlon masters national champion. Wiemer is a personal trainer and gymnastics coach at the Maine Academy of Gymnastics in Westbrook.
“Since a lot of the meets are in Massachusetts, we ride down together,” said Wiemer.
“It’s a good time to catch up and talk about sprinting. It’s nice to get together with a fellow sprinter. There’s not too many of us in Maine. I gave her some exercises to make her stronger. After a certain age, you can’t really be a sprinter unless you do some resistance training to work on your strength. I’m so proud of Sue. She’s had injuries but she’s battled back and kept her confidence. Nothing has been handed to her. I think it’s wonderful,” she said.
During the winter, McCarthy trains at the Costello Fieldhouse at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. Twice a week, she’s walking in the door at 5:30 a.m. McCarthy combines running with specific weight training to boost strength, endurance and speed.
“It’s more of a commitment to stick with it when you’re older,” said McCarthy.
“My alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. I’m in my car before my mind says: What are you doing? It was easy in college. You just go to school and then practice.”
When the weather warms up, McCarthy will train on outdoor tracks after work.
At Costello Fieldhouse, McCarthy shares the track with retirees who are daily walkers.
“I call them my Seniors Fan Club,” said McCarthy.
One of them is Howard Faulkner, 82, of Gorham, who taught architectual design at USM.
“Sue is an extremely conscientious gal,” said Faulkner.
“She’s a delight to watch run. It’s pretty special what she has done. It can get pretty crowded on the track even in the early morning. She likes to run certain lanes and we make sure those lanes are clear. We’ll watch and applaud her. It’s a pretty congenial group.”
McCarthy is ranked second in the 60, 200 and 400 by U.S. Track and Field in the 50-54 age division. In the world rankings, she is ranked ninth in the 60, eighth in the 200 and fifth in the 400. Her times at the nationals rank her as world class in the 60, and national class in the 200 and 400.
McCarthy’s goal is to compete in the world masters athletics championships in Lyon, France, in August 2015. She is looking to raise funds through www.gofundme.com to help defray her expenses.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: