Basil Scott’s entrance into the world of running came because he was late for the school bus.
So he ran. And yes, he caught it.
The driver noticed one thing about this 14-year-old kid. He was fast.
“You’ve got to go out for the track team,” the driver said.
“And I was a lifer,” Scott said.
Forty-four years later, the Kauai man is still running. And yes, he’s still fast. Very fast.
Well, he holds the national title holder in the 55-59 age group in the 5k and 10k of the U.S.A. Track and Field National Masters Championships.
He routinely wins his age division in local races on The Garden Isle. At the Kola Sugar Mill Run, he covered the 13.1-mile half marathon in 1 hour, 29 minutes and 14 seconds — 6:48 per mile pace — and looked at times like he was barely breathing, even smiling.
And he’ll be competing this weekend in the Xterra Trail Running World Championship on Oahu. Around 800 top runners are expected to compete on the 13.1-mile, brutal, uphill course, and Scott is hoping to be in the top 75,
“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” he said, when asked how he expects to do.
Scott carries a toned 155 pounds on his 5-11 frame. He has a smooth, relaxed stride that makes it look easy as he’s churning out miles at a pace not many can hold. He’s a regular sight where he lives in Wailua, running six- and eight-mile loop courses and 14 miles, out and back. He runs on trails, on beaches, on the track.
At 58, he’s refusing to ease off when others are stepping away, at least slowing down. Maybe taking it easy. Nope. Basil Scott is still pushing the pace.
The semi-retired electrical engineer simply loves to run. Running, he says without hesitation, is “very important” in his life.
“I wouldn’t want to do without this,” he said. “I set aside time every day to do this.”
Basil and his twin brother, Robert, grew up in Roanoke, Va. Both ran in high school and did well at cross country and track.
“We had it in our genes,” Basil said.
They were the “famous Scott brothers” and difficult to tell apart. Same height. Same hair style. Same smile. And almost the same speed.
“Hey, number five,” their coach would yell, because he wasn’t certain if he was talking to Basil or Robert.
Basil ran two years in college, but never stood out. Both years, he said, he was ill from overtraining.
Later, he turned to road races, meeting and competing against the likes of Australia marathoner Rob de Castella, author and runner Jim Fixx and running guru George Sheehan.
“Running was always fun for me. It’s a habit best acquired early,” Basil Scott said.
Scott breaks his year into two, six-month seasons of running. One for building base aimed at strength and endurance. It’s marked by runs beyond two hours, mixed in with five to eight milers throughout the week.
The second six months, he works more on leg turnover, turning to the 400-meter track to sharpen speed, running repeats of 400s, 800s and 1600s. On roads or trails, he’ll toss in 50 meter strides after an easy three miles.
“There’s never a week that goes by I don’t do some running at my top speed,” he said.
His training runs are geared toward the pace he’s planning for a race.
“I run fast at least three days a week,” he said.
Let’s get to it. After 44 years of pounding pavement, how has Scott maintained his speed?
Well, he’s injury-free, thanks to a disciplined regiment of stretching and some “strategic” weight lifting.
“You do not want to be a body builder. You want to have lean muscles,” he said.
That means high repetition and low weights for classic areas such as hip flexors, quads and hamstrings. He stands with his toes on a curb and lowers himself, stretching calves. He maintains flexibility through repetitions of lunges.
“This dip is absolutely key,” he said.
His weight, he said, has never fluctuated more than 10 pounds from his younger days. He’s meticulous about his diet.
“I’m married to a vegetarian, which is a good thing. I pretty much control junk food,” he said. “I don’t get five a day. I get eight or 10 servings of vegetables every day.”
He runs on trails and beaches often, avoiding the hard surface of the roads when he can. Oh, and he rotates shoes. During a week of runs, he’ll use four different pair of shoes. “For younger runners, it doesn’t matter as much,” he said. “Anybody over 40 needs to start thinking about it. The Achilles and the ankle are typically what nails you.”
He loves reading about running, too. While he tends to be relaxed and easygoing, he’s a student of his sport. He studies the training of those who do well. He studies the psychology of top runners.
“I enjoy the science of running,” he said.
He and Robert, who lives in North Carolina, will face each other at the U.S.A. Track and Field National Masters Championships in Greensboro, N.C., in July.
Basil will defend his 5k title, will run the 1,500 and is undecided on whether to compete in the 10k.
“He’s about as fast as me, and recently he’s been faster than me,” Basil said, laughing.
He jokes about his white beard and being the old guy going up against the young guns. It’s more motivation, more satisfaction, when he crosses the finish line and they’re wondering who this guy is that just whipped them.
You’ll keep finding him at local races. “It’s good to show up for the races, even if you’re not going to race all out,” he said. “Enjoy the run, run with somebody. That’s a good thing to do.”
Scott, who coached at Waimea High School for about six years, operates timing equipment for local track and cross country races.
“I’m always looking for volunteers for that, by the way,” he said.
When he runs, he’s not just running. He organizes. He plans. He solves problems. He ponders. He debates.
“It’s something I do when I’m running, I’m thinking about things,” he said.
He’s probably a fast thinker, too.