Orville Rogers Member Spotlight
Orville Rogers established six world records in three days this March at the National Masters Indoor Championships in Landover, Md. For Rogers, running on the track is easy compared to the obstacles he tackles off the track at 95-years-old.
Only 11 months before his assault on the record books, Rogers suffered a stroke that sent his left hand, foot and hip into temporary paralysis. On April 11, 2011, Rogers’ stroke left him questioning whether he would ever compete again. The setback held him back momentarily, but someone like Rogers is not easily stopped.
Rogers’ weekend of record-setting performances was a feat of endurance. He competed twice each day during the three-day event. He etched his name in the history books each time he toed the starting line.
On the first day of the meet, Rogers won the 400m (2:24.51) and 3,000m (30:19.33). On the second day he won the 60m (14.82) and 1600m (14:39.91), and he finished his winning-streak on the final day with the 200m (57.88) and 800m (6:53.84). Each established world age-group records.
“I didn’t have a lot of competition when I ran,” Rogers said. “My times are a testament to the way I train.”
Rogers may have sprinted alone in his age-group as he was the oldest athlete to compete at the championships. However, Rogers’ times in four of the events surpassed winning marks in younger age-groups.
To prepare for the Masters Indoor Championships, Rogers’ go-to workout consisted of stretching and running a couple of laps, followed by jogging 200 meters and sprinting 100 meters, which he repeated for two miles. Rogers could not find a training plan for athletes of his age and skill level so he simply created his own.
“At my age there is no one to look for guidance or help,” Roger said. “There is no coaching available to a 95-year-old because there had never been [anyone who competed at this level] before. So I had to devise my own interval training schedule.”
Rogers maintains his 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame by lifting weights and running three times a week at the Cooper Aerobic Center. The 30-acre facility founded by Dr. Kenneth Cooper in Dallas, Texas, has been open as long as Rogers has been running. Cooper and Rogers share a bond and friendship which will never be broken.
“Dr. Cooper almost claims me as a member of his family,” said Rogers. “He is more than just my doctor, he is my friend.”
Rogers credits Cooper with discovering his passion for running. He picked up a copy of Cooper’s book entitled Aerobics, at age 50, and started conquering the pavement the next day.
Later when Cooper came to Dallas to open the first of two health centers, Rogers paid him a visit. He experienced pain from tendinitis in his Achilles at the time.
“I consulted with [Dr. Cooper] about the tendonitis. He showed me some stretching exercises and told me to run on grass for a while. That fixed it,” Rogers said. “From that day, he’s been my doctor. I get a physical from him every year in December.”
Rogers still drives himself around Dallas, and last August he rented a car at the 2012 Masters Outdoor Championship held in Lisle, Ill., to drive around Chigaco during the four-day event.
The Dallas, Texas, native does not confine himself to only seeking challenges on the ground, but airborne as well.
“I went skydiving after my 90th birthday. I wanted to go solo, but I think the instructor was afraid of my age, so I had to go dual.” Rogers said laughing. “I loved it. The sky is my friend, I love it up there. I can’t really describe the feeling. It was pure joy, going out of the airplane and looking at the ground coming up at you.”
Rogers continued his exploration for adventure two years later.
“A couple of years ago I went hang gliding near Kitty Hawk, N.C.,” Rogers remembers. “Every year I take my family on vacation. We have a family of 25 now, and we all experienced hang gliding.”
Rogers affinity for the sky comes as no surprise after he worked for Braniff International Airways for 31 years, until he retired at age 67. Rogers flew all over the world, including exotic destinations such as Tanzania and other East African countries. He captained for the Army Air Corps — the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces — in World War II and after delivered missionary aircrafts.
The owner of nine world records considers his faith a leading reason why triumphs follow him inside and outside the running lanes. He offers a unique perspective on his devout religious beliefs.
“You can’t make me out to be a Tim Tebow or a Josh Hamilton,” said Rogers. “I believe Christians can compete in every area of life without taking a backseat to anyone.”
Rogers enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren in leisure times, but he still has his eye on the track. Rogers plans to compete this summer at the USA Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Olathe, Kan.
“It will be a little harder to set world records during the Masters Outdoor Championships this summer,” Rogers said, ‘’but, I hope to gain to two or three more when I’m there.”