My dubious claim to be the fastest man in the county

Jan 23, 2020

Credit Walt Rubel

Commentary: In the spring of 2009, I was the fastest runner in all of Dona Ana County.

It’s a boast I can make now after having won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the Senior Olympics. I think it’s safe to say that the 100-meter race is the universal standard for who is fastest, and I still have my medal to prove that in 2009, I was that guy.

I should probably mention at some point in this story that I won my gold medal by finishing second in a two-man race, but that detail can wait.

I always knew that I was pretty fast. I went out for the track team late during my sophomore year, after failing to make the baseball team. And so, they stuck me in the 3,200 meters, where I was constantly getting lapped in meets. But I used to race against the sprinters in practice, and held my own with most of them.

For some reason, in the winter of 2009 I got it into my head that I was still probably pretty fast. But I knew I wasn’t in shape. So I went to my backyard and put two ropes 60 yards apart to mark my course, then started running sprints every morning.

I did that pretty regularly every morning until one day when my hamstring popped. It wasn’t bad. It eventually healed itself. But when it happened, I went down in a heap as if I’d been shot.

The hamstring was fine by the day of the race, but my training had been set back.

I arrived at the Mayfield High School track early on the big day and immediately sized up the competition. As I looked around, I figured there was only one guy who I couldn’t beat. Just by the way he was stretching and warming up, I could tell he was a track guy. He was also competing in the jumping and throwing events.

I figured for sure that he would be entered in the 100 meters, but I was encouraged by the fact that there were three runners listed for the race. And as I looked around, I liked my chances against whoever the third would be.

When they called the participants for the race, just as I expected, the guy I knew I couldn’t beat stepped to the starting line. I was next. Then they called for the third guy, and nobody showed up.

It was going to be a two-man race, though the term race may be a bit generous. As soon as the starting gun went off, he was gone. I still don’t know how I fell so far behind so quickly. It seemed like I got off to a good start, but when I looked up he was halfway down the track.

Luckily for me, he was in the next age class up. So, we were both gold medal winners. In fact, mine was more impressive because it was in a younger age group.

I finished with a hand-held time of 15 seconds, only 5.42 seconds off the world record time of Usain Bolt.  

I bring all this up now because of the recent announcement that the state Senior Olympics will be in Las Cruces the next three years.

And, I’ve noticed lately that despite being a few years older now than I was in 2009, I’m still feeling pretty fast.

Maybe that other guy isn’t here anymore. Maybe, just maybe, I can once again be the fastest man in Dona Ana County, or even the whole darned state.

Walter Rubel can be reached at