Last month, when Dot Brill headed toward the finish line of the 400-meter -- at the National Senior Sports Classic IV in Baton Rouge, La., she was fighting exhaustion and the collapse of rubbery legs.
But the shouts from the bleachers -- "Put your head down, Dottie!" and "Pump your arms!" -- encouraged the 67-year-old runner to give it her all. She did, breaking a national record of 123.7 seconds with a time of 121.8 seconds and winning a gold medal.
"I sat on the finish line; I couldn't have gone another inch," recalls the Columbia resident.
Clark Brill was elated as he watched his wife's victory. The 70-year-old retired sales engineer is a swimmer and he knows the taste of victory, having won gold medals in last year's Maryland Senior Olympics in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle (his wife earned four gold medals at that event.) Between them, the Brills have won 48 gold medals in Maryland Senior Olympics competitions since they enrolled in 1982.
This year's gold medal was the first one earned nationally by Mrs. Brill, who said she didn't begin training until three months before the competition.
In past competitions, Mrs. Brill's preparation usually consisted of running three or four days a week in the village of Wilde Lake where she and her husband live.
That all changed this year when a friend suggested that Mrs. Brill contact Charles Shoemaker, coach of the Wilde Lake High School track team. Mrs. Brill practiced two hours every day with the team, learning pointers from the students as well as Coach Shoemaker.
"She has a lot of natural ability," said Coach Shoemaker. "My part was minimal. We worked on racing tactics, like running the turns and what she should be thinking. The kids enjoyed seeing her out there -- she was inspirational to many of them."
During the three months of training, Mrs. Brill was introduced to interval training -- a program in which she ran hard for one mile, then slowed down to allow her pulse to drop to 120 beats a minute, repeating the entire cycle four times.
"I thought I would die; you almost get sick," said the retired Hammond Middle School nurse, crossing her eyes.
But it paid off. Besides earning a gold medal, she believes those efforts also enabled her to win a silver in the 800-meter -- and a bronze in the 100-meter --.
"I ran faster this year than I did five years ago," she said.
Clark Brill -- who has two artificial hips -- has enjoyed his share of victory in this year's national competition, as well. He placed fourth in the 50-meter butterfly, fifth in the 100-meter freestyle, and sixth in the 50-meter freestyle. His training consists of swimming three or four times a week about three or four months prior to the competitions. Both he and his wife also do circuit weight training at the Columbia Athletic Club.
In spite of the couple's success, however, they are not willing to attend meet after meet. Their eight children and nine grandchildren are an important part of their lives and they enjoy traveling, golf, spending time in their Ocean City condo, and working part-time together at a nearby golf course three or four days a week.
Still, with the sweet taste of success lingering, Mrs. Brill said she woke up in the middle of the night, recently, and realized, "My God, I broke a record." She is already thinking about the next national seniors competition scheduled for 1995.
"I'll be 69," Mrs. Brill said. "I've got to go back and keep my record, even though those 'young chicks' are coming up."