Richard Soller, 93, North Bend, Ohio
Richard Soller feels like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders after chasing a dream goal for 32 years. We’ll make you wait and read on to fully appreciate his story and eventual reward.
When Richard went out for track in high school, he suffered a torn hamstring and never ran again until he was 50. “When the running craze was coming on, my wife Jean and I were heavy smokers and had young children, so we decided to try to get healthy and do what we should be doing,” he recalls. “That’s what prompted us to get into the running business.”
Luckily for Richard, Cincinnati was already conducting local Senior Olympics in the early 80’s before the National Senior Games were formed, and he enjoyed participating in track and field and road races with others of his own age. When Nationals came along in 1987, he eagerly registered for the inaugural Games in St. Louis. Then came the irony of ironies – Richard sustained another hamstring injury shortly beforehand and had to scratch.
That might be a bad omen for some, but it lit a fire under Richard – he has gone on to compete in every National Senior Games since then, an impressive string of 15 in all. His overall masters history includes earning gold medals in many regional and state Senior Games and in USATF Masters National Championship age division events. He’s traveled to Canada, Mexico, Barbados and Australia to compete. High points were earning a medal in the World Master Games in Australia and being the oldest finisher at age 85 in the 2012 Chicago Marathon.
However, one huge goal eluded Richard through the years – to win a National Senior Games Gold Medal. Then, finally, in Albuquerque, he beat out his friendly nemesis Joe Barger of Texas to win the M90-94 5K Road Race at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana. His 47:24 time was good enough to rank 5th in his division in NSGA history. (Joe stands in the #2 and #3 slots after besting Richard in previous Games.) “That was a top thing, maybe the high point of my career,” he muses.
“I’ve always considered myself a mid-packer, but at my age now there’s not much competition,” he continues. “I’ve always had a positive attitude and I love going to The Games for the competition and to see and meet people. I’ve made many good friends over the years.” He adds that the real goal since toeing the line has been to work hard and enjoy the benefits of good health as he ages.
Another source of pride is that his daughter has followed his example and became a runner. “I motivated her. We did a lot of running together when she was young, and she actually became a personal trainer for several years.”
There have been other challenges and injuries along the way in Richard’s journey, all of which he says he’s handled with grit, determination, self-motivation and especially perseverance. His advice to others is simple: “Don’t expect to win every time. Keep at it, and in the long run, you might come up with your dream right at the end.”
Good advice, Richard, but we don’t think you are anywhere near the end of your running career. Go get another Gold Medal in Greater Fort Lauderdale!