Area senior athletes are gearing up for the event.
Walter Witkowski, 75, and table-tennis doubles partner Karol Skrbec, 80, are competing in the games. Witkowski has won the silver medal in doubles in the national 2005 Senior Games, in the 75 to 80 age category.
He hopes to take the gold or silver medal at this year's event, with an eye on the Senior Olympics in Louisville, Ky. in 2007. To qualify, athletes must have medalled in gold or silver in their home state championship, he said.
Harvey Gotliffe, 70, also a competitive table tennis athlete and medallist, has played for nearly 56 years. He is looking forward to the Senior Games because it will be his first foray into playing within an age group (70 to 74), he said.
Table tennis has been "a great stress reliever. ... When you're playing, you are there. It's really a Zen-like experience," Gotliffe said. "I don't feel aches and pains when I'm playing."
According to Witkowski, the sport has helped him maintain good eyesight.
"You have to focus on the ball when it is very close, or then when it is 20 feet away — near, then far, near, then far, so it keeps the eyes in good shape," he said.
Those who prefer their tennis on a court rather than a table will partake in doubles matches on 11 courts at Stanford's Taube Tennis Center. The event is open to seniors "45 to 110," said Michael Schneider, president of the Northern California Seniors Tennis Association and organizer of tennis at the games.
Schneider expects 60 or more participants, including a number of "super-seniors" — athletes who are well into their 80s, he said.
Senior sports aren't only for "geezer jocks," as one enterprising online magazine, GeezerJock.com, refers to senior athletes.
Isobel Fox, 52, typifies the Baby Boomer runner attracted to the Fifty-Plus Fitness Weekend. She runs 20 to 25 miles each week, sometimes with the Angell Field Ancients (a local group of top senior runners) and sometimes with the Palo Alto Run Club.
She won the annual fitness weekend's feature event, the Fifty-Plus Paul Spangler Memorial 8K Run, two years ago, and placed second last year against five-time record-holder Shirley Matson.
"I was beat out by a woman over 60 years old," Fox, a resident of Menlo Park, said.
The Spangler race is one of Fox's favorites.
"It's the only race I run in now. Just being around people in their 60s and 70s, it's inspiring to see what they are still doing. They look great for their ages," she said.
Fox is in good company.
Several local senior runners have set U.S. records in divisions for ages 50 and older at the Spangler Run, according to Anne Cribbs, managing director of Fifty-Plus Lifelong Fitness.
Last year, Joyce Hanna, 71, came in first in her age group of runners 70 and up. She is Associate Director of Stanford Health Improvement Program (HIP), and past-president of Fifty-Plus Fitness. She still remains active on the Fifty-Plus board — and runs up to 30 miles each week. She began running after her children were born in the 1960s.
"I started running down to the corner, then around the block; then someone said, 'If you run a little further, you can be in Bay to Breakers,'" she said. She became a marathon runner, ranked 46th in the U.S. — at age 46.
Participants in the Fifty-Plus Weekend don't have to be record-holding champions. Armchair athletes are also welcome.
"Walk in the fitness walk. It's a great way to get started," Cribbs said.
Friday's opening features an awards dinner and keynote address by football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott (reservations required). The Emil Zatopek Award, named for the distinguished Czech Olympian distance runner, will be given to former Olympic figure skater Peggy Fleming.
A Saturday conference includes lectures on health and fitness topics and demonstrations of anti-aging exercises, race walking and yoga.
Speakers include Palo Alto Medical Foundation physicians Meg Durbin, discussing cardiovascular fitness; William Straw, speaking about exercise without pain; a panel with sports medicine professionals discussing preventing exercise-related injuries, (moderated by Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson); and lecture by Stanford Clinical Associate Professor Walter Bortz, M.D., author of "Diabetes Danger: Your Legs are Your Best Doctor."
On Sunday, race and Senior Games day, a health fair with vendors representing all types of fitness products takes place. KGO radio personality and fitness expert Joanie Greggains will be master of ceremonies at the 11 a.m. awards for winners.
Fifty-Plus Fitness was co-founded 26 years ago at Stanford, by Dr. Peter Wood and entrepreneur Ibrahim Clark. Wood contributed to the discovery that very active people have a high level of good cholesterol (HDL), and low levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), he said. Fifty-Plus was an outgrowth of his studies of runners, and the aim of others to organize runners through events and a newsletter. The organization now has nearly 2,000 members with an average age of 63, according to its Web site.
Beyond this weekend's Bay Area Senior Games, athletes are setting their sights on the 2009 National Senior Olympics, which will be coming to the Bay Area. The national games are expected to attract more than 15,000 athletes ages 50 and older, according to Cribbs — more than the 11,099 young athletes who attended the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and 2,573 athletes at the 2006 Winter Olympics combined.
Friday, March 10
Opening Session and reception, 7-9 p.m., Classic Residence by Hyatt, Palo Alto
Saturday, March 11
Health conference, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Annenberg Auditorium, Stanford
Annual awards dinner, 6-9 p.m., Sheraton, Palo Alto
Sunday, March 12
Bay Area Senior Games, fitness events and health fair, PA/USATF 8K Championship Run, 7 a.m.-1 p.m., various venues, Stanford and the Bay Area.
For more information about Fifty-Plus Lifelong Fitness Weekend and Bay Area Senior Games, call (650) 843-1752 or go to www.50plus.org. Online registration is at www.active.com.
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