Don Burroughs studies his feet and his 10 survivors.
One home accident scalded his feet to the bone. Another nearly severed his toes.
Quick to recover, Burroughs is even quicker on his feet. His size-10 sneakers are his heart and sole.
“You could say I’ve been lucky,” says the goodnatured Burroughs, 80.
“For me, it’s exhilarating to run,” he says. “I’m used to going all out.
“I put my strong right foot back … get a good push-off,” he says. “If I start fast, they have to catch me.”
They didn’t on a hot afternoon in Texas early this spring.
Burroughs, in his third trip to nationals, came up golden, cooking the 200 meters in 34 seconds at the U.S. Senior Sports Classic in San Antonio. He settled for silver in a photo-finish 100, stopping the watches in 16 seconds. For the first time, Burroughs wore national gold - and a wide grin.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” he says upon reflection. “It means even more when the boys you’ve run against are appreciative. We all hold hands and hug each other afterwards.”
At play, Burroughs is seldom beaten. “If he doesn’t win, he’s hard to live with,” says Norma, 75, his wife of 53 years. “But he eventually comes around.”
With a long, smooth stride, Burroughs has covered a lot of ground. The miles extend over years of circling all-weather tracks and skinned diamonds.
A good all-around athlete since his days at Seattle’s Franklin High, Burroughs remains fit and trim at 165 pounds. He packs plenty of punch as a heavy-hitting Renton Merchant, the oldest member of a widely successful over-70 softball team.
During one Arizona summer league season, he launched 12 home runs and stole his share of bases.
On the lanes, at 73, Burroughs bowled a 277 and carried a 183 average.
Out of the blocks and on the bases, Burroughs takes flight.
“I’m used to going all out, no matter what,” says Burroughs, a World War II veteran who worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 37 years and as a maintenance engineer for nine more years before retiring.
Today, Burroughs is enjoying a late childhood.
“Like everything else,” he adds, “I don’t know how old I am until somebody tells me.”
Persuaded by family and friends, Burroughs entered his first senior track meet 11 years ago. He won all three sprints.
Between races and games, Burroughs went in for repairs. He had metacarpal surgery on both hands. Then, two nasty accidents at home - several years apart - severely burned his feet and cut his toes.
“But he was up and running before you knew it,” Norma says.
Today, he feels as strong as ever. His looks belie his age.
“At 80, who wants to see a doctor,” he says. “But no matter what happens, you slow down.”
In the 80-84 group, Burroughs is too young and too fast.
After earlier disappointments at nationals, San Antonio proved different for Burroughs. With Norma urging him on at the other end of the track, Burroughs broke through.
“I beat him by a foot,” Burroughs says of the 200-meter finish. “I was pretty sure (I won) when I crossed the finish line … and then I looked over at Norma.
“When they made it official,” he says, “well, that was really great.”
Even greater will be a repeat performance. Burroughs plans to return to the biennial Senior Games at Tucson, Ariz., in 1997.
Until then, he’ll keep his feet planted and ready to explode out of the blocks.
No skydiving for this kid.
“I’ll stay on the ground,” he says. “No bungee jumping.”