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A Good Long Run

Courtesy Don Carpenter

GOING THE DISTANCE: The Angell Field Ancients in a time trial circa 1973.

They began running in the mid-1960s, a calm period before the campus erupted in war protests. Their ranks burgeoned during the 1970s, and they sped through the '80s and '90s into the 21st century.

Members of the so-called “Angell Field Ancients” running club still meet most days, despite the deaths in January of two of the three original members—electrical engineering professor Alan Waterman, age 89, and Jim Gere, PhD '54, professor emeritus of civil engineering, at 82. The third, materials science and engineering professor Dave Stevenson, died in 1994.

More than 200 runners have been associated with the informal, close-knit group. The drill hasn't changed: they arrive at what's now called Cobb Track and Angell Field around noon and run four to six miles through campus. Wednesdays are set aside for interval drills at the track. In November 2005, the group ran a final set of intervals in the old stadium before it was demolished. The Ancients also do longer weekend jaunts in the hills near campus. Many have competed in marathons and triathlons over the years.

On a blazing hot summer day, a robust group of 18 runners ranging in age from 20 to 80 arrives. Nancy Ikeda, a member for 21 years who used to work near campus, commutes from her Redwood City job. She calls out the intervals and the group takes off.

Stanford affiliates once made up the majority of the group, but community members are now a significant presence. One subset of the current team is a group of employees from VMware. They run over from their offices on Page Mill Road, do the workout, and then head back to work. One of them, Ole Agesen, MS '94, PhD '96, says he started running with the Ancients when he arrived on campus in 1990. “He's one of the newer people,” teases Tom Knight, a retired SLAC employee. “It takes a while to get established around here.”

The group flourished in the 1970s, when running gained popularity everywhere. Gere suggested they compete with other universities, and many members traveled to weekend meets. The Ancients have always had fun, dreaming up playful awards (one, the “Golden Jock,” is a huge athletic strap bedecked with dangling medals) and challenging each other to go just a little bit faster.

Professor emeritus of electrical engineering Don Carpenter, an unofficial group leader, credits the Ancients with keeping him healthy enough to continue running into his 80s. He's been running with them since 1968. “It has, in a way, saved my life,” says Carpenter, '49, MS '59, PhD '62. “It relieved me of all the tensions that built up in the morning when things were difficult in my work. It put it all in perspective and allowed me to return with a more relaxed attitude.”

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