Harris Richardson, 69, Sumter, South Carolina
In the Caribbean the expression “cool runnings” means “peace be the journey.” For Trinidad born and raised runner and cyclist Harris Richardson, the saying took on a literal meaning because 28 of his 69 years have been spent working and living in less-than-balmy Alaska.
As a young tradesman Harris landed a job helping build an oil refinery in St. Croix in 1968. When the Alaska Pipeline started in 1975 he tried out a nine month contract and convinced his family to move to Tacoma, Washington. In 1979, Anchorage became his base for oil production operations work. Asked why a tropical son would want to endure working in wind chills of up to -79 degrees, he replies “I’m adventurous. I wanted to travel. In school I read about Eskimos and igloos and I wanted to see those things. It was a good stay there. I’ve always been running, and I did a lot of cross country running there. Alaska is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth.”
Now 69 and retired to Sumter, South Carolina, Harris recalls how he became a senior athlete. “Back in the ’70s, I was watching Wide World of Sports and they showed these older gentlemen and women competing in some games in Arizona. I said ‘Wow – isn’t that magnificent! I don’t mind doing that when I’m that old.’ I didn’t hear anything else til I retired and a guy in my church told me he cycled in the South Carolina Senior Games. So I started riding too. When I went to my first state games in 2006 I saw the track and field action and started that the next year.”
Harris has qualified and competed twice in track events at the national level. He earned a Gold and two Bronze medals in the 2011 National Senior Games Presented by Humana in Houston, but fate intervened on his 2013 results in Cleveland. “Last year was a bad year because I tore my meniscus in a meet and it really set me back. But I’m still running and just now getting it back. I will be in Minnesota for 2015.”
Why is he so hot to do something so cool as competing in Senior Games? “I do it more for fitness but I like the competition and being with others. I’ve gotten several people motivated to start running and riding too. Some say they can’t go fast but I tell them if you just show up you’re winning.”
Peace be your journey, Harris.