England vs Celtic Nations Age Masters 10K Championships

Birmingham, 26th May 2019

By Anne Chinoy, Women's Masters Team Manager

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In recognition of the numbers of ‘Masters’ runners (aged 35 or over) in running clubs across the country, England Athletics has recently rolled out the Age Group Masters competition. England Age Group Masters vests are earned by achieving a position in a qualifying race (and an England Athletics Age Group minimum standard). Opportunities are currently available each year in distances of 10K, Half-Marathon and Marathon.

My own route to qualification for the 10K Championships was less than straightforward. I entered back in 2018 via Trafford 10K. With this specific goal in mind, my training in the runup to the race was going very well. However, my efforts ended in disappointment when the race was postponed due to snow. What I didn’t realise was that the rescheduled September Trafford 10K would qualify me for entry to the 2019 event in Birmingham. I was delighted to receive an email shortly after Trafford, informing me of my qualification. I then faced a dilemma as the date coincided with a family holiday to Club La Santa in Lanzarote. After some deliberation, I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss and my husband agreed to travel ahead with the kids (who were keen to see their Mum in an England vest!) and I would join them a couple of days later.

I looked forward to the event with a mixture of nerves and excitement. Researching the times of my 8 fellow V45 competitors on Power of 10, I  realised that the standard was extremely high - my own 10K PB was the slowest on the team. As if the V45 competition wasn’t tough enough, I then learnt that my running hero and five-time Olympian Jo Pavey would also be on the start line! I resolved to focus on my own race and at least aim for a PB.

The course for the Great Birmingham 10K was brand new for 2019 so there was no information on the course profile. I naively assumed that as it was a race for the masses, it would be relatively flat. The first inkling I got of the challenging race profile was on the start-line from some other England Masters ladies who had warmed up on the course. Conditions were also poor with rain and strong winds - my hopes for a sub-40 time rapidly went out of the window!

All the Age Group Masters runners had gathered in the first pen alongside the ‘fast-paced club runners’. Jo Pavey joined us just before the starting gun and we set off around a corner on a steep and slippery downhill. The course was a rather uninspiring ‘out and back’ route on a major A road with a series of underpasses to navigate. It meant that support along the route was minimal (though I was lucky enough to have my own support crew of my Mum, sister and nephew at the 2K and 8K points). One advantage of the out and back route was that we got a great view of the race leaders after the half-way point including Jo Pavey and Liverpool V40 Kirsty Longley (who finished the race in second place ahead of Jo). When I turned around at 5K, a brief glance at my Garmin told me I could still get close to a PB. The second half of the race was far more challenging though with long uphill sections into punishing head-winds. I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on catching some of the other Age Group runners and embrace the run as great training for my next running challenge – Welsh Castles! Of course, that slippery downhill start meant a cruel uphill stretch to the finish; I was very relieved to cross the final timing mat. While I was disappointed with my time, I was happy to learn that I had finished 6th out of the 9 V45 England runners. Full results here.

After the event, it was great to gather at the England Athletics tent to chat to the other England Age Masters runners. I was inspired talking to many of them, including a very fast V50 lady who has run all her life, but is still achieving PB’s including a phenomenal 37:55 10K at the recent 2019 World Masters. Jo Pavey also spent a long time chatting to everyone and taking photos. She was delightfully down-to-earth and friendly, and enquired after everyone else’s runs.

Also representing Sale Harriers at the event was M65 Geoff Beattie, running for Northern Ireland. Geoff’s son, Ben Beattie (M35, Hallamshire Harriers), was also there running for England. V60 Sale Harrier, Jackie Cordingley, was selected for the England team for the second year running but sadly had to pull out due to injury.

Another familiar face at the race was Dean Hardman (Vice-Chair of the Sale Harriers Executive Committee), Head of Business Partnerships and Major Events at England Athletics. Dean took a major role in the event as one of the Team Leaders.

It was a fantastic experience and I would strongly recommend all athletes aged 35 or older try and get involved with future England Age Group opportunities. Click here for more information.