|LE Magazine December 1997 |
Setting The Bar Ever Higher
By Christopher Hosford
Philippa Raschker, 50, doesn't work out too much, eats what she wants, and is modest in her consumption of supplements.
The payoff: This spring, she'll become the oldest college scholarship athlete in the nation.
According to Philippa Raschker, "everything in moderation" is the best way to approach life. True, the 50-year-old accountant from Marietta, Ga., works and plays hard-you'll find her most days working out at the local track, for example-but her approach to diet and dietary supplements doesn't seem too very different from many healthy people.
But the fact is, Philippa Raschker is very different from other healthy people. Despite her balanced approach to life, Raschker is an athletic phenomenon, having set more than 100 world records in age-group track and field. Since 1983, she has won 51 world championship titles in a mind-boggling array of events, including the 100 meters, 200, 400, high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, the multi-event heptathlon and sprint relays.
A recent highlight occurred last summer in Durban, South Africa, at the World Veterans' Track and Field Championships. Raschker won 10 gold medals in the 50-54 age group, setting seven world records in the process. Her 200 meter world record time in that meet, 25.72 seconds, was faster than the winning times in the 40 and 45-year-old divisions. She has even been picked for the national U.S. track squad for her ability-against any and all ages-in the pole vault. Her best mark is 11 feet, 1 inch.
Now, Raschker is looking forward to an equally unusual second chapter to her brilliant athletic career. This spring, she expects to become, at age 51, perhaps the oldest college scholarship athlete in the U.S. Life University, in Marietta, recruited her for its women's track team, and Raschker will compete alongside women much less than half her age. She'll major in business.
"I help out at Life's track meets, and one time the coach mentioned the idea to me, just kidding around," she says. "But then he found out I had never gone to college and had full eligibility. I have a full-time job, but thinking about it, I thought it was intriguing." Life University is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which sets no age limits on college athletes.
A Lifetime of Athletics
Raschker, a native of Hamburg, Germany, came to the U.S. as a 20-year-old governess in a German household. She was always athletic, and it may be a lifestyle of exercise that is one secret of her ageless abilities. As a youth she participated in gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, track and swimming. Later, in the U.S., the only age-group sport available to her was bike racing, so she avidly did that for two years. Then, with the running boom heating up in the late 1970s, she re-entered track and field and began accumulating her lengthy list of records.
"Participating in track has really kept me going," she notes. "You look forward to the next year, and so, in order not to make a total fool of yourself, you have to stay somewhat fit, maintain your diet, etc. I don't keep a diet year-round, but when it's time for the big competition, it's time to get serious again."
She was briefly married, but had no children. "My teammates are my children," she says, admitting she sometimes takes a motherly attitude toward younger competitors.
"I'm sometimes the person who keeps things calm. I think the younger athletes get caught up in their events because they can't see the bigger picture of where we're going. Sometimes, the girls talk about school, track, their personal lives, and they may speak to me and not somebody else." Like parents? "Especially not the parents!"
Raschker tries to watch her sodium and fat intake, but doesn't go to extremes. "If I have a craving for something, I don't say I can't have that. But I do try to eat right. I eat a lot of vegetables, rice and chicken. But that's just because I like them."
Her intake of dietary supplements also is modest. She takes vitamin-C and vitamin-E twice a day. Since 1992, she has taken creatine for enhanced muscular performance after reading about its use by international athletes. "Studies have shown that athletes can recover much quicker," she says. At first, she had to acquire a combination of vitamin-C and creatine from suppliers in Britain and Italy, but it is now widely available in the U.S. She sometimes takes manganese for Achilles tendinitis.
Raschker's workout schedule can seem daunting-it consists of repeated sprints, weight training and working on skill events like the jumps and hurdles. And she readily admits she's not a great fan of training. But for her it's worth the effort.
"I'm sure we all have done things we don't particularly care for. But then you know a certain thing has to be done to get where you want to go. So then you try to do the best that you can."
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