Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Helly Vissier gets inducted in Cdn Masters Hall of Fame

Calgary Herald
Today is Tuesday July 20, 2010
Visser heads for the Hall
By Keith B. Fri, Jul 16 2010 Calgary Runner

If Helly Visser has proved one thing, it’s that it’s never too late to start running.

"I didn’t run until I was 50," says Visser, a 76-year-old retired kindergarten teacher.

"You have your family and your work. I was a mother, so you don’t have time — at least I didn’t think I could take time."

On Saturday, Visser will be one of 10 athletes inducted into the Canadian Masters Athletic Hall of Fame — the only one from Alberta.

She is being recognized for an outstanding career as a Masters runner, one that has brought her a total of 14 Canadian and world records and a trophy cabinet full of medals from eight world masters championships.

"I never thought I would be competitive but I was," says Visser. "You do something and you really try your best and that, I think, is what you get with running. There’s some measurement there. I started training, of course, and that’s how it all started."

Visser joined the Calgary Roadrunners in 1985 and nine years later she experienced her ‘Aha moment.’

"In 1994 I went to Las Vegas and did the half marathon and had the North American record for that," she says of her time of one hour, 36 minutes.

"That really encouraged me so I started to look at what people were doing in the world masters championships for athletics and I thought, ‘Oh, well, I can run there.'

"Buffalo in 1995 was my first worlds masters athletics championships. It was a big learning curve but it was very interesting. I had never run on the track and I had to learn an awful lot. I came away with a gold in the 1,500 metres and a silver in the 5,000. From then I have gone to all of them. it’s a wonderful way to travel and it’s so good to have a goal in mind."

Visser, a mother of three and grandmother of two, credits the Natural Posture Running technique she now teaches with not only sustaining her career, but helping her to run faster.

"You run better, you run more efficiently. It’s easier on your body," she says. "If you relax your body, it works the way it’s supposed to work. If you watch the Olympics and see the (athletes’) movements, it looks so (relaxed)."

Visser says the highlight of her running career came in the fall of 2008, when she was part of the four-woman team (alongside Diane Palmason, Louise Reed and Mary McCarron) that set a 4x400 metres world record in the 70 to 75 age category, with a time of 6:12:25.

"The championships were in Saskatoon but someone made a mistake and we were disqualified, so we organized for the relay to be in Calgary," she says. "It was a world record. That was the event that was really exciting."

The other athletes being inducted in Toronto this weekend are Sverre Hietanen, Lenore Marvin, Maurice Tarrant and Palmason, all of B.C., Judith Kazdan, Robert Moore and Art Obokata, of Ontario, Emil Muller of Quebec and Alex Oakley of Newfoundland.

Visser, who is part of the Hall’s selection committee (and admits to voting for herself), left for Toronto Friday to take part in the small ceremony, in which she will be presented with a photo and recognized on the CMAA Hall of Fame website (www.canadianmastersathletics.com).

"I don’t think I’ll ever be in another hall of fame," she says, laughing.

"I’m at a time in my life now, I’m 76, where I’m sure I will be active now for another 10, 15, 20 years. But still, you have to do the things that you want to do now."

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