Shaheed finds rhythm in athletics

They seem worlds apart, music and sport.

For U.S. athlete Nolan Shaheed, however, middle-distance running and jazz trumpet - both passions of his life - are more similar than different, sharing traits that complement each other, allowing him to succeed brilliantly at both.

The Pasadena-based runner and professional musician is competing in the World Masters Indoor Athletic Championships in Kamloops, in the 800- and 1,500-metre events.

Both running and music demand hard work, discipline, determination and perseverance, the slimly built 60-year-old said.

There is no cheating the physical training required to run 800- and 1,500-metre races at near all-out speeds. Running requires long and at times lonely hours on the road or track, building the endurance that will allow for race day's speed.

Likewise for music. Shaheed practises his instrument at least four hours a day and that often feels as though it isn't enough, he added.

"You're alone in your room. No one can hear it, no one can appreciate it," he said. "You have to do it. Both have the same amount of boredom and tediousness. You have to put in the miles, no one is watching you."

Both pursuits also give tremendous reward, Shaheed said.

His musical resume reads like a who's who of American jazz and soul. He has played with Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Duke Ellington, Phoebe Snow, Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross, to name just a few.

They are highlights of his career, moments as grand as his best on the track, he said, of which there have been many as well.

Just weeks ago, Shaheed set a world record for his age class in the indoor mile, covering the distance in four minutes 57.06 seconds. The effort also garnered the honour of USA Track and Field athlete of the week.

He hopes to set two more world records in the coming days. He wants to best the current 800-metre record by running less than 2:14, and the 1,500 metre in 4:36 or less.

He easily qualified in the 800 metres Tuesday, winning his heat by sprinting past the field from behind in the last 100 metres. The 800-metre race is scheduled for today, while the 1,500 metres goes Friday.

If he runs over the current records, he will feel what he always feels when he hits his stride - when he is giving his best - on the track or with a trumpet in hand.

"Joy is measured by emotions. I get the same emotions whether it's running or playing," he said.

"When you set a world record, you know that no one has ever done better than you. That's a great honour. But you also know someone will beat that. The thrill, the ecstasy, is in doing something no one else has ever done, but it's humbling to know it can go away in the next race.

"It's the same with music. When I step out on the stage, I try to make magic. But there is always someone who will come by and play it better. Always."

If he doesn't break the record -if he doesn't win - so be it, he adds, so long as he knows he did his best.

And he will keep running, because it pays dividends well beyond the investment required.

"Running helps my music, it helps my trumpet playing," he said. "And it keeps me healthy.

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