Caren Ware's Blog

May 10, 2010


Filed under: A Runner's Story,Marathon Running — Caren Ware @ 6:50 am


Click on the picture and it will enlarge.  Click on the song and just sit back and listen to the lyrics.

You are probably going to figure out that FIVE FOR FIGHTING is my favorite group. Don’t know much about them, but love their voices, their lyrics, and their instrumentals.  I just like the feel of this song.  It IS all about how the years go by. It kind of celebrates the intensity we carry when we are young, an intensity that can keep us young if we take it with us all our lives.   You know, our bodies age, but our spirits don’t.  One of the fastest masters sprinters in the world, Bill Collins, just published a book ‘The Spirit of the Ageless Athlete”.  In it, he shows the overwhelming benefits sports can play in a life no matter what the age.  He draws attention to the fact that the same jitters and glee come to a seventy year preparing for a track competition as did when he was a 20-year-old college student running a regional meet.  Same feeling, just different bodies to deal with.  

Karlis Smiltens is my ,just going to turn 90-year-old, friend.  Doing triathlons, runs, and cycling have filled his life and his neat and artistic studio apartment.  He has literally decorated the walls of his home with his age division and finisher awards…all 40 years of them.  It is a walking history through the years of age graded athletic events. He loves every nitty gritty detail on bike components.  He kept stats of every single workout and pace.  He kept a chart of how many firsts, seconds, and thirds he has received.  He smiles and relives events through each one of his trophies and medals.   He also took up hiking and kayaking and has traveled every inch of the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon and beyond.  He spent an entire frigid day clinging to a rock in the Snake River after a kayak got sucked under the barely submerged rock. But mostly, he survived World War II and the Eastern Front.  As a 17-19 year old Latvian he was caught between the surging Russians and Germans.  His stories and ability to survive are epic.  The War so escruciating I think it still affects him to this day. He wanted to be an artist.  He peeled wall paper off the walls of bombed out buildings and painting the most surreal and haunting water-color paintings of the war.  Those paintings were kept under the floor boards of his apartment until this past summer.  While I was competing in a World Outdoor Track Competition in Finland, I was able to fly over to Latvia and meet him, his sister, and nephew as they brought him back to visit his home country.  He had given most of his war paintings to the War museum in Latvia.  That is a much better place for his pictures and his unique artistry. People need to feel the deep, piercing pain of death and destruction that  war causes in the heart of a sensitive 17 to 19 year old.

Karlis hid out in the woods with a Russian and German and was struck with shrapnel that killed the other two hide-a-ways.  Karlis was forced to be a German Soldier and was trained back to Berlin when found injured.  He snuck to an American Camp and turned himself in.  It took him seven more starving years in London before he was able to get a granted visa to the USA and reunite with his only remaining relative still alive, his sister.  Tough years that seem to make him appreciate being able to freely run, compete, explore, paddle, and hike.  He became a cartoon animator when situated in the states. He never married.  And he has outlived all his friends.  He doesn’t own a computer.  And he visits his mail box every day like Charlie Brown.  Most of us have stopped using mail, but it you do, it would be a great act of kindness to make this older man’s day and write to him:  Karlis Smiltens.  830 High Ave, Redlands, Ca. 92374.  Don’t forget to put a stamp on!

For me, what I learned from Karlis, was to array and display my medals.  I have my 17 USA National Champion Medals and my 3 World Medals, photos, postcards, etc. and hoards of triathlon, marathons, and such all covering the walls of my timing office.  My staff refers to it as the “shrine to myself” and teasingly bow when they enter.  I ,without apology, smile and  know it’s not about the medals, but it is very much about the character they built and the experiences they evoked…and the people it allows me to meet.

We only have 100 years to live!!!


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