Mike Devaney only started his career as a track and race walking senior athlete last year, but his face is rapidly becoming as familiar as any of his more experienced peers. That's because Mike, who went through a serious health scare in 2014, is acting on an inspiration to go to the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana, and to compete in as many qualifying games as he can get to along the way. He has already made it to 12 states this year, and has 16 more on his 2016 calendar.
Two years ago, the 65-year-old Miami, Arizona resident was still pursuing a successful career designing and building casinos and hotels, but it was also a fast-paced and stressful life. The Seattle native ran cross country and middle distance track events in high school and earned athlete of the year honors at Green River College, but sports fell off the radar when he went to work.
"I came back and ran some 5Ks at 36, but after I turned 38 I did nothing and got really overweight." His wakeup call came in April, 2014 when he suffered a severe shingles outbreak that led to pneumonia. "I coughed so hard my ribs exploded - three of them broke and one got permanently dislocated. The other three are still healing slowly."
After a few weeks, Mike couldn't take sitting propped up in his recliner any more, put on shoes and went out to walk, which was excruciating at first. "I had to tell myself I needed to improve myself both in mind and body. I decided to start race walking, and began training and gradually losing weight." In May of 2015, Mike entered a USATF masters race walking event in Las Vegas and wanted to find more opportunities to compete.
"I Googled and found National Senior Games and a whole list of state games. It intrigued me, so I researched further and just set up as many games as I could for the year. I knew that would keep me training and going."
The goal began as an active way to regain his health, but the sport sojourn is paying broader dividends. "I've seen and done a lot in my life that few people have experienced," Mike says. "I owned seven houses before I got sick, and went from making a lot of money to making no money overnight. But I have to say, this is turning out to be the most enjoyable thing I've done."
"People have really been receptive so far," he continues. "They don't treat me like an outsider. In fact, they're interested in my story. It's great to travel and meet all these people. I never would have gone to beautiful communities like Bend, Oregon or Sheridan, Wyoming otherwise. It's just a wonderful experience."
Mike eagerly looks forward to going to Birmingham in 2017, and intends to continue to add state games to visit into the future. "I want to go to Nationals because I want to experience the pageantry and be a part of it all. It's an amazing thing for these games to get people out enjoying life again with sports."