For Dan Hain of Montague, eclipsing the age of 50 didn't mean the end of anything, but rather a new opportunity.
Hain, 52, competed at the U.S. Senior Games in June, held in Albuquerque, N.M. The Games are held bi-annually in different cities and bring together competitors from around the country who are 50 or above but still have a competitive itch. That definitely includes Hain, who owns and runs Fetch Brewery in Whitehall with his wife Jen.
Hain competed in the long jump and in the 200-meter dash — his best events from his school days — at the Senior Games. He placed fourth in his age group (50-54) in the long jump, with a leap of 16-6.5, and was 10th in the 200, with a time of 28.50 seconds.
Granted, those aren't the kind of marks Hain used to put up in his days as a Montague track athlete, when he finished in third place in the state in long jump in his senior year of 1986 with a leap of 22-2.75. But then again, perhaps even more so than in school competitions, the Senior Games are more about the competing than the finishing.
"I’ve always loved competing, ever since middle school," Hain said. "In high school and college, I had a good career. There’s no real platform after college."
Hain hadn't done any kind of organized competing since he was 26 and his tenure at GVSU had ended. Surprisingly, given his state third-place as a senior, Hain said he received interest from only one school, Southwestern Michigan College, in track following high school, so he went to community college for a few years and then took a year off before ending up at GVSU, where he became a track team captain.
When an old high school teammate told him about his experience at the Meijer State Games of Michigan, though, Hain got the itch and looked it up. Soon he'd found his way to the U.S. Senior Games.
Luckily for Hain, his lack of competitive activity since 26 wasn't a huge obstacle as he'd stayed in, he says, "decent shape". When he came across the Senior Games, he decided to compete. The Hain family recently moved across the river to Montague, just a half-mile from the school track, so that offered Hain easy access to a training ground. (He, Jen and their three kids, he said, are there regularly.)
It wasn't easy — Hain soon blew out his calf, he said, and had to wait for it to recover to resume training — but last summer, he made his way to Rochester for the annual Michigan Senior Olympics, which double, in even years, as qualifiers for the following summer's U.S. Senior Games. Hain took third in both of his events there, high enough to earn a spot in the Senior Games.
Hain said he has been struck by the camaraderie of the competitors whenever he's had a meet; the state event last August was his first major event in his renewed track career.
"The camaraderie was great," Hain said. "It was inspiring to see everyone out there with the ibuprofen and Ben-Gay.
"It was overwhelming. When you haven’t done it in 20 years or more, it’s very humbling. You’re not jumping as far as you used to, and you’ve lost your speed."
Bad luck struck Hain two weeks before the national event, as he sprained his ankle. Remarkably, though, it healed enough for him to compete in Albuquerque, and he said he was at about 90 percent and added that he would have finished third in long jump but for his butt touching the sand on his final scored attempt. He said the facilities — the event was held at the University of New Mexico — were top-notch and again noticed the positivity among the competitors.
"The people were over-generous," Hain said. "They were so nice. It was something special. I’m glad to see they only do this every two years. I think it would ruin the spontaneity and the competitiveness if they did it every year."
Hain doesn't know how long he will continue his second act on the track; after all, as he puts it, it's "a very expensive hobby" to travel around the country to the Senior Games every other year. Jen isn't yet eligible for the Senior Games, and Dan said he would love to compete alongside her if she's interested when that time comes.
"As long as my wife supports us, supports this, and I still feel healthy and competitive, (I'd like to keep going)," Hain said. "It’s a lot to do with a business and three kids. I guess (I'll do it) until its not fun anymore, and I find it extremely fun."