Interview with Bill Collins, former WR holder and Masters Sprinter

This is part 12 of the Freelap Friday Five Series, 2013 Edition. To review the 16 part 2012 edition, click here.

Part 1 was Matt Scherer, Professional Pacer-Rabbit.

Part 2 was Stuart McMillan, Bobsled and former UKA Sprint Coach.

Part 3 was Dean Starkey, PV Coach and former Elite Pole Vaulter.

Part 4 was Mike Hurst, Journalist and Australian 400 meter Coach.

Part 5 was Craig Pickering, UK Sprinter and Bobsledder

Part 6  was April Holmes, Paralympic 100m Olympic Gold Medalist

Part 7 was Chip Jenkins, former 600m AR, and 4x400m 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist

Part 8 was Kevin Tyler, former UKA Head of Coaching

Part 9 was Liam Collins, a 400mH, Bobsledder, and dancer with Faces of Disco

Part 10 was Doug Logan, former CEO of USATF and MLS Commissioner

Part 11 was Adarian Barr, Coach and Innovator

If you run Masters Track, chances are you’ve heard the name Bill Collins.

It’s extremely rare to see an open elite athlete to compete at the Masters level.  You don’t see Carl Lewis or Michael Johnson running Masters?

In 2007, Bill Collins was named "World Masters Athletics Masters Athlete of the Year" which was presented at the IAAF gala in Monaco.

In 2011, he suffered paralysis to his legs, rendering him unable to walk, later diagnosed as Guillain–Barré syndrome. As inexplicable as the disease’s cause, was his recovery. After spending the 2011 season in a wheelchair, with the WMA in his “backyard” at Sacramento, in early 2012 he came back to set a new indoor world record in the M60 60m at the USA Indoor Masters Championships.

Bill Collins, along with Rick Riddle, are the authors or the book The Ageless Athletic Spirit (Training With A World Champion).

Bill Collins Masters Track photo by Ken Stone

Photo Credits:

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Interview with Bill Collins

Freelap Friday Five

Q1. This question would have been a good question before London 2012, with USA having so many problems in past WC and Olympics.     You were on the 4×100 relay team that won the gold medal at the first ever 1977 IAAF World Cup, along with Steve Williams, Steve Riddick and Cliff Wiley.  Back in those days, how were the relay teams chosen?  How much practice did you have?  Were there as many relay camps?

Bill Collins:  In 1977, we didn’t have a relay camp. The members of the team traveled to different meets in Europe and competed mostly with other runners making up the team. The final team that ran in Dusseldorf Germany was the first time that we ran the relay with Steve Williams on 4th leg.   Steve Simmons the relay coach, was wonderful, the selection came from the USA championship finisher from both the 100 and 200.  Steve looked for the best turn runners first, I was looked at during that time as one of the best starters in the world.  No one could disregard the ability of both Steve Riddick and Steve Williams flat 100 meter speed on the straights. ( a poor hand-off between Cliff Wiley and Steve Williams cost us from running mid 37’s)

NOTE: Here is that 4x100m WR on YouTube

Q2. Did you take time off from open to Masters?   Can you give an idea of your training?  (i.e. how much less volume and intensity as compared to an open athlete)  For the 100 meters, how do you balance acceleration (start & drive phase), top end speed, and speed endurance?

Bill Collins:   No, I has been training and competing since 1967.  Many things have changed from those days, the body has aged, the mind has much more knowledge of the sport, tracks and training equipment has improved in every aspect.  As you age things change, the volume of work drops off and your intensity level in workouts are cut back, this is mainly to avoid injury and hopefully save the legs for race day.  Nothing much else has changed, as for the 100 meters you still do all the same things just at a little slower rate, you still work on having a good drive phase which set up the body for acceleration phase that leads into the run.

Q3. Do you believe in the attrition rate?  I’ve always said for a 400 meter man, add 4 seconds to your open PR to get a M40 goal, then it’s 2 seconds every 5 years.  For the 200m,  add 2 seconds to your open PR to get a M40 goal, then one second every 5 years.   For the 100 meters, you are looking about “half a second” every 5 years!  Of course, there are some guys like James Chinn or Enrico Saraceni who break this rule.

Bill Collins:   You are correct as it comes to your calculation on the attrition rate, but you do have a few athletes that break those rules.  It’s a great standard for the majority of athletes running today.

Q4. Are starting blocks overrated for Masters?  Masters athletes don’t have the same amount of strength and power as open athletes, and maybe they should be using a 3 point or 2 point start?   You’ve set records using a standing start!

Bill Collins:   Started blocks are okay up to a point, for those 70 plus athletes I would look at going without blocks. Many of the 70 plus athletes that I work with have all gone to a standing start.  Even here you will find a few athletes that will be the exception.  I was able to developed a good standing start, that was due to the fact that I had pulled stomach muscle at the time and could not get down in the blocks.  Without blocks for most of the younger runners, it shortens your drive phase.

Q5. Out of all the AR and WR, which one is the most memorable?  The toughest one to break (for you)?  In my mind, your 21.86 M40 200m former WR and still the AR record comes to mind.  Is there a record you are targeting?  (joking aside, maybe the M100 records?)

Bill Collins:  Many of the indoor 200 meter races which were done on some of the old wood tracks.  I don’t have a favored, I just enjoy the sport and all the runners that make up the masters movements  One record that isn’t mentioned anymore and no team has ever ran faster which was ran at Madison Square Garden back in 1981. The "Sprint Medley" 440, 220, 220, 300  we ran a world record time of 2:00.19.  I ran the 300 leg. 

Looking forward to getting my health back to 100% after my battle with GBS and just have fun running.  We have a lot of great masters athletes running today.   The 100 record in my age group as well as the 200 and 400 are very good records, by some great runners so nothing is going to be easy if those records are broken.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Great and inspiring running streak Bill !
    Would you like to share some of your training secrets ? ;-)
    Long may you run Bill ………..

    best wishes JJ

      • Prudence is the better part of valor and a founding horse does not win the derby thats the perfect truth. ;-) Jimson

        But a little insight into Bills training strategies would certainly be
        great benefit for many of us ……….I think ……..

  • Inspiring article!
    I am a novice masters “sprinter”-had never ran, took it up 3 years ago when I turned 54!
    I struggled with starts-tried standing but found I wobbled about and took forever to get going. Tried conventional blocks start but still horrible.
    Did a bit of research and found the Moye start. Found this was easy-very little weight on the arms/hands.
    I currently use a modified version of the Moye start-I am no expert but it has really helped me-I use conventional blocks (I bought my own to practice) each one set as flat as it will go. Then I put only the heel of each shoe on the block-the entire spike plate of both feet is on the track, this puts most of the weight on the legs. I have my left foot foward, my left hand is back several inches behind the right. I position the blocks slighly closer to the line than the “rocket start”. Once in set I concentrate on throwing my left hand forward as fast as possible with the gun.
    Google Moye start for a better description.

    • @Roberto, I can see Bill avoided the question :) (These 5 questions were prepared in advance, then sent by email, so I don’t get a chance to follow up.. at least no on this article. Maybe I can have him on SpeedEndurance TV?

    • by giving no feedback I can clearly see what Bill’s tip is:

      show presence on track and do not waste time in the internet ;-)

      lesson learned ?

      – yes Sir I have ….


      • @JJ, the #1 tip is to stay injury free. Once injured, you are no use to your body. Also, injuries take way longer than young people, so your season can be over in a flash.

  • I want to start sprinting again but have not laced up my shoes in a long time ,since 1986 many injuries from service but I will not mention them but I just completed running 5 miles for my base and know I need to know what to do—- LSD one day and sprints the next –I was very quick but not very fast –at 18 ran the 50 in 5.5 but lose speed after that ran 100 yards in 9.7 in 1976–ok I am 62 now and want to see what I can do against people here in Maine .
    Thanks .