Roger Chapman is one of the world’s top runners in his division at 60 years old, taking home his medal in the 800 meters this past weekend.
Plant City’s Roger Chapman won gold in the 800 meters last weekend at the USA Track & Field 2022 Masters Outdoor Championships at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, K.Y.
At 60 years old — racing in the 60-64 year old division — he clocked in with a time of 2:19.54 to take the top spot on the podium.
Born in England, Chapman has always been a runner, ultimately leveraging that ability into a track and field scholarship at Eastern Kentucky University where he ran in the 400 meters and 800 meters, earning a degree in computer science. After his time at EKU, he attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for his masters degree before returning to the states and earning his PhD in cognitive systems engineering. With graduate work filling his time before the focus shifted to his career, running had become an afterthought for Chapman, especially at the competitive level.
Chapman spent much of his career in Pennsylvania before later starting his own small business — Collaborative Work Systems, Inc. — and relocating to Plant City in 2008. Just running recreationally for exercise, he was re-introduced to competitive running when former friends through track and field posted photos on Facebook from USATF events. In 2016 he attended his first National Senior Games Association meets and returned to competition through the NSGA and USATF Masters again in 2019. He slowed down in 2020 and 2021, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but decided to really take it more seriously and ramp up his training over the past year, culminating in his championship-winning performance this month.
“At this age, I’m 60 years old, for me it’s like going back in time,” Chapman said. “For me to get back on the track it’s really like going back in time. It’s something that is a bit of a comfort zone for me, it brings back memories and it brings back a lot of intangibles. I run like a lot of people, there’s a lot of people in Plant City that run, but it’s different to be on a track and run a race. And a lot of people that used to run track in their youth are not aware of the opportunity to keep running. You can look at Disney, the races they have for long-distance runners, for 5K runners, for half marathon runners, there’s so much opportunity to do that but I think that people who maybe enjoyed track in high school, they don’t understand that you can keep going. You’re not just limited to running on the roads and those Disney-like runs. Through those organizations, the USATF Masters and the Senior Games, there are opportunities.”
The USATF Masters offers local, regional, national and international competition opportunities in track and field and long distance running for competitors 25 years or older, divided into age groups based on five-year increments. They also offer race walking for athletes 35 years and older. The National Senior Games Association is similar, a non-profit organization dedicated to motivating active adults to lead a healthy lifestyle through the senior games movement and offering competition opportunities for athletes 50 years or older.
Chapman trains on the local tarmac roads and paths around town, using phone apps to manage his training and track his progress, but yearns for a more accessible option to train on a rubberized surface and a community of older runners that can all train together. He suggested the possibility of a non-profit track club that could potentially gain access to Plant City High School’s new track for training once it’s completed.
In 2019, Chapman was ranked 125th in the world and 15th in the United States in his age group for the 800 meters and after increasing his training and competing and moving into a new age bracket, he’s currently ranked 10th in the world and second in the United States for the Mens 800 meters.
At 60, Chapman just wants to keep running, primarily to stay fit but adds that track meets also give him something to train for. His next goal is the World Masters Outdoor Championships, to be held in Poland in 2023, which would be another experience and a chance to both represent and potentially medal for the USA.
“Track and field changed my life in the sense that, I was a very shy kid,” Chapman said. “And like a lot of people, being good at something and having somebody pat you on the back, winning something or winning in sports, that can be very good for your confidence. It changed my life in that way but it also changed my life in coming to America, it gave me an opportunity to come, it absolutely changed my life. Now I’m a U.S. citizen. After getting my masters, I’ve spent the rest of my life in this country. It opened up opportunities to me but it also benefitted my health.”