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'Because I Can' At 83, Greenwood man not running on empty

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The man who in his younger days danced with Carol Brady continues to do pretty well on his feet.

Only now, Byford Reed demonstrates his moves on an all-weather track; and the 83-year-old retired Greenwood dentist refuses to slow down.

“I always tell everybody I do it just because I can,” said Reed, a competitor on the Master’s Track and Field circuit who is ranked fifth nationally in the 60-meter dash. “Medals and ribbons don’t make any difference.

“It’s fun for me.”

Growing up in Chrisney, 14 miles southwest of where Holiday World now stands, Reed had to get his bearings running sprints on cinders. Even now, 65 years after his high school commencement, a tiny black spec remains lodged in his left palm, a permanent reminder of a fall during his senior track season at Dale High School.

It’s in this oft-forgotten section of southern Indiana, at an establishment called Billy New’s Dance Hall, where Reed found himself moving across the floor with a young Florence Henderson. It was one of those Saturday night dances common during 1940s and ’50s. A simpler time.

“She was real nice. At that time she wasn’t a celebrity,” Reed recalled of the woman who from 1969-74 portrayed the mom on the hugely popular ABC sitcom “The Brady Bunch.”

“She probably never tells anybody that she danced with me,” he said.

Reed lets out a gentle laugh as he tells the story. And yet, even at a time in his life when some feel he should be listening for bingo numbers rather than the pop of a starter’s pistol, a competitive streak remains.

It’s why he’s occasionally spotted practicing on the track at Greenwood Middle School.

“His favorite saying is, ‘Gosh, I’m out of shape’,” said his wife, Jessie. “He’s always looking for that next year so he can move up to the next age group. For me it’s just kind of fun to watch.

“I do worry sometimes that he’s going to fall and hurt himself.”

Reed’s interest in competing began years ago and never really waned.

During his Master’s Track and Field  career, he has run various sprint events (50, 60, 100 and 200 meters) and even long-jumped for a time. He’s now at a point in his career where he generally opts for the shorter distances.

Master’s Track and Field is big business in the United States, with men and women 35 and older from all over the country and representing a buffet spread of fitness levels putting their best feet forward.

The number of Masters athletes worldwide is believed to be about 50,000, with about 10,000 coming from the United States.

Moreover, the number of events per calendar year is impressive, though the Reeds try to keep their travel itinerary limited to “four or five.”

In the Master’s world, turning an age ending in “5” or “0” is considered a good thing, as competition categories are in five-year increments. Being a “3” like Reed means he’s no longer one of the young bucks in the 80- to 84-year-old sprints.

“This year won’t be that much fun for me because I have to run against those guys that just turned 80,” Reed said.

Master’s meets do on occasion ignite the amusing anecdote.

Jessie Reed recalled a meet in Ohio not long ago when her husband and another competitor got to talking and either never received or didn’t hear the message about how they were supposed to compete at a different level that day.

The gun sounded. Athletes ran. Reed wasn’t among them.

Such times are rare with Byford Reed, who is not only running but doing so with the best.

Why? Because he still can.

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