All who have subscribed to the belief that one of the characteristics of aging is to slow down have forgotten to inform Bill Collins, the phenomenal sprinter who has broken countless Masters’ records. Collins’ destiny to become one of the fastest men in the world was not apparent during his youth. In high school he dabbled in track, baseball, and football, but initially did not seem to excel at any of these sports. His limitations may have been his 90 pound frame and slight stature, however, this did not stop him from competing. Bill recalls that during his sophomore track season there were many whom were much faster than him, but most likely no one that trained with the same zeal and commitment. His dedication paid dividends and as a result he began to tap his prowess for sprinting, not only emerging as the fastest in his high school but in New York state. He never lost a race in the 100- or 200- meters and subsequently broke all the school and state records in both events, running the 100-meters in 9.3 seconds, and 200-meters in 21.5.
Recruited by universities with over 250 scholarship offers, Collins selected Texas Christian University as his alma mater. During his college career from 1969 to 1975, he broke all school records in the 100, 200, and 440 relay. With a degree in physical education under his belt he moved to Houston, Texas and began competing in the Gulf Coast Track Club, which enabled him to qualify for the Pan American Games in 1975. At those games he broke the 100-meter world record and was ranked tenth in the world. Unfortunately, as he continued to excel and work towards becoming an Olympian, he was faced with an injury that hampered his performance. During the 1976 trials, which could have led to a Montreal Olympic berth, Bill pulled his hamstring during a 100-meter race at about the 70-meter mark. At the time, he was leading the race and would have easily qualified for the Olympics. Unfortunately, the hamstring pull would thwart his quest to compete for the gold. Four years later he qualified for the 1980 Olympics to be held in Moscow. However, due to Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, the United States, among other countries, boycotted those Olympics. Bill was ranked first or second in the world in the 200-meters and had a great opportunity to medal in Moscow. The boycott ended his Olympic hopes and dreams but never crushed his quest to be the best.
Most athletes would have been dissuaded from pursuing any additional goals but the determined Collins did not allow these setbacks to deter him from competing. He began his Master’s career in 1984, and would go on to break every major Master’s record in both indoor and outdoor competition in the 100, 200, 400 relay, and mile relay. Phenomenal is a word that is often overused but only fitting to describe his illustrious sprinting career which has not diminished in spite of Father Time. At the age of 58 he has amassed an unbelievable number of world records in the 100 and the 200 meter, as well as 400 meter relay. He currently holds the age 55 to 59 world record in the 100 meter sprint with an 11.44 second mark. In the same age group category, 55 to 59, he holds the 200 meter record at 23.36 seconds. His Master’s achievements include 127 national championships, 25 world records, 27 world championships, IAAF/WMA Male Athlete of the World 2006, US USATF Male Master’s Athlete of 2008. As a member of the Houston Elite Team, Bill Collins and his protégés battered the Master’s 55 World record in the 4x4m relay. The Houston Elite broke the record with a time of 3:41.07 at the Penn Relays held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2009.
Calling Collins a superstar is an understatement. He quietly and resoundingly has smashed the world’s perception of fitness and speed as defined by the aging process. Bill attributes his success to his never ending quest for achievement and improvement. "I’ve never stopped training or had any significant time off." He utilizes weight training strictly for speed rather than a body building effect, so therefore his use of weights are for quick, fast, explosive movement. His training routine usually focuses on strengths rather than long distance running. He rarely uses spikes in his training, but does train with those using spikes, which helps him build a great speed base. He points to a supportive family as a catalyst to his success. Not only has his family been supportive, but his five children, four boys and one girl, have all captured the sprinter’s spirit and are high school and collegiate participants in track. The family must also support an economic burden in excess of $12,000 a year which includes gear, travel and lodging.
When asked if he has improved with age Collins affirms his growth. "Yes, in many ways, the biggest being the knowledge of how to train the body as it ages. This way the body now can stay at its peak level. I think I’m better now than my younger years."
In his book, "The Ageless Athletic Spirit," Collins discusses in detail the pyramid paradigm shift that occurs when one ages. In youth, he cites an energetic spirit that requires little sleep and thrives on an unstructured diet; whereas, the ageless athlete must focus on shifting the pyramid to gain more sleep and rest between training sessions, as well as focusing upon a diet that deliberately supports good health and fitness. As a fitness consultant, Collins attributes his motivation to achieve continued improvement and success to the love and enjoyment of the sport. As the director of Acala Sports, he trains many clients to become better athletes and realizes that his fitness level can be a motivator to them. Collins can quantify his overall improvement as he’s aged chronologically: "Yes, I feel that the records I have set over the years speak for themselves. Age graded, I’m running faster today than I did when I was 21." He says no to special diets and supplements, but advises others to set an easy training plan and reach achievable goals. More detailed information is provided in the book "The Ageless Athletic Spirit."
Collins’ overall concept of aging is simply to continue to think in a youthful manner. As he states, "If you think young then that’s what it’s all about." Or stated in another way, "As the mind goes so does the body." Collins will never retire from pursuit of athleticism. He may decrease the high level of competition that he’s been pursuing for over 40 years, but will always perform some type of fitness activity. His best advice to others is to "do a little something everyday and really enjoy what you are doing." He denotes his greatest accomplishment as being recognized by the WMA/IAAF as the Greatest Male Athlete in 2006. His humble demeanor and phenomenal spirit merge together to make him one of the world’s most outstanding athletes.