Retired Chesapeake Sheriff Sergeant chosen as Virginia’s 2019 Men’s Master Track and Field Athlete of the Year
by Rob Lauer
You’re never too old to get into shape,” Ronald Humphrey says with a smile.
If anyone doubts the truth of this adage, they needn’t look any further than this retried Chesapeake Sheriff Sergeant for verification. With the lean, well-muscled physique of a 30-year-old, jaws may justifiably drop when people learn that Ronald is 61 one years old. But his aura of youthfulness is not limited to his physique. The self-assurance in his walk, vitality in his movements, the sparkle in his eyes, and warmth in his smile all radiate youthful good health.
There are also medals and trophies on his shelves. Most recently, Ronald was chosen by USA Track and Field as Virginia’s 2019 Men’s Master Track and Field Athlete of the Year. He received the award at a celebration in the Jepson Alumni Center on the campus of the University of Richmond on February 9.
“The judges look at what an athlete does over the year—the types of events in which they compete,” Ronald explains. “Last year, I had a pretty good year. At the national games, with 14,000 athletes competing, I won three gold medals—for the 400-meters, the 100-meters, and the 50-meters. I also won second place in the 200-meters. My 400-meter time was the fastest in the nation for my age group—age 60-64.”
Ronald’s love for running track began when he was young. He competed in high school, but like so many teen athletes, upon graduation, he stepped away from sports. After time in the military, Ronald settled into a career with the Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office.
“During my years with the Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office, I was active with the department’s Law Fit program,” Ronald recalls. “One of the program’s goals was to make sure the recruits were fit. We were all regularly tested with the mile-and-a-half run and the number of sit-ups and pull-ups we could do in 60 seconds.
“At that time, there were city games at Indian River High School,” he continues. “I thought that it would be interesting to participate, so I ran in the 50-meters and the 100-meters. Others told me, ‘Wow, you’re fast. You should run in the Senior Games.’ So, I did. At 55, I started training again, and every year after that, I got stronger and faster.”
Ronald’s commitment to training impressed the department. He was asked him to help train recruits. “I really felt good about doing that,” he says, “especially when people thanked me for helping them. One particular recruit had never run track or field. In the beginning, it was a pretty emotional experience for her. So, we worked out on Saturdays and Sundays, and she trusted what I told her. Later, her dad said, ‘Wow, if not for you, she wouldn’t have made it.’ But she stuck with it. She put in the work, and it paid off.”
Encouraged by friends and co-workers, Ronald also began participating in USA Track and Field events. There, he not only fully reconnected with his youthful love of the sport but joined a nationwide community of fellow runners.
“One of the things that I like the most about running in track and field events are the bonds I’ve made with other runners,” Ronald says with a smile. “I’ll see friends at one event, and they’ll ask, ‘Hey, are you going to that event in Greensboro or one in Mexico’—and I’ll say, ‘Yep, I’ll be there.’ There’s such a strong sense of camaraderie. We know we’re building long-lasting relationships. This spring, we have an indoor championship coming up in Baton Rouge, and I’m looking forward to seeing my old running buddies there.”
Exercise is now a regular part of Ronald’s life. “I try to work out about three times a week,” he says. “I’ll stretch, then warm up with a jog before running for 200 or 400 meters. The next time I work out, I might do some speed training, and then incorporate some weight training. A healthy diet is important, too. I eat high fiber fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water.”
“The main thing with starting an exercise routine
is to take it one day at a time,
gradually pushing yourself
a little further at each stage.”
In addition to the exhilaration of competing, the sense of community with other runners, and the winning of awards, Ronald has a new appreciation for how exercise can improve one’s overall quality of life.
“You really are never too old to begin exercising,” he insists. “Start out with simple walking. Then when you’re comfortable with that, move into running. After a while, start doing some weight training to get stronger.”
Often when people hear talk of running and weight lifting, images of running marathons and bodybuilding come to mind. But this is not what Ronald and health experts mean when they recommend such exercises. By beginning with simple walking and then easing into running at one’s own pace, one’s physical stamina increases. Weight lifting should start using lighter weights that can be picked up comfortably but which will leave one’s arms feeling fatigued after ten repetitions. When ten repetitions become easy, slightly increase the weight. This approach to exercising can quickly increase one’s strength. Daily tasks that have become difficult with time can once again become easy.
“Stretching is also vital—in fact, that’s one of the most important things we can do as we age,” Ron explains. “The main thing with starting an exercise routine is to take it one day at a time, gradually pushing yourself a little further at each stage. Each time you push yourself, your muscles might feel a little sore the next day. So, you rest for a day. People think they have to go to the gym or exercise every day. They don’t. “I had one friend complain, ‘Man I work out every day, and I’m worn out.’ I told him, ‘That’s the problem. You need to rest.’ Our bodies will let us know what they need. If your body hurts, you need to rest. It’s important to rest a day between workouts so that your body can recover. Exercise and rest, exercise and rest—it’s a cycle. The result will be a healthy lifestyle that leaves you feeling better and able to fully enjoy the good things life has to offer.”