It was a historic night at Morton Stadium, Santry on Wednesday evening for the first track and field event since the COVID lockdown. The meet consisted of no more than 200 (including officials) in line with AAI and government guidelines. With all the cancellations of events over the months, the excitement in the stadium of participating in a non-virtual “real event” was palpable. It was, I’m sure, an anxious time for the organisers to make sure the event passed off relatively smoothly and they are to be commended for their efforts. To my eye they got good cooperation from the athletes too. There was a lot of wary circling of athletes around each other but I thought that the social distancing part appeared to be very well observed.
I’ll let Elaine, Emma and Katie tell you their stories of the evening;
Finally, the chance to race came around on Wednesday night in the form of a graded meet in Morton stadium and I was very excited at the prospect of lacing up my spikes again. I decided to enter both the 100m and the 1,500m.
An air of nervousness was in the air throughout the stadium, as officials came to grips with Covid restrictions and athletes raced for the first time in months. So much so that the programme kicked off early and Katie and I ended up rushing to the start of the 100m without much of a warm-up. Slightly intimidated by the seasoned sprinters, I fiddled with my blocks to make it look like I knew what I was doing, before lining up. After a false start, we got away the second time round. I managed to hold my own in the B grade and come in in 6th place.
After a 40-minute break, Katie and I were again on the start line, this time for the 1,500m. A large field of 18 athletes ran in our race, many of them very young and energetic. Generally, when I come up against ‘young wans’ in football I’m told to ‘let them know you’re there and show your strength’, I think this tactic would be frowned upon in athletics! The race went well, I stuck with the front group and I was very happy to hang on for 3rd place.
Finally, an in-person race for the first time since February! I was excited to see if some of that lockdown training would pay off and to get a benchmark compared to last years graded meets. On top of the few race nerves, I was also a bit nervous as to how the event was being organised with the 200 restrictions. Detailed instructions were sent around about warm-up, when to enter the stadium etc. Timing was of the utmost importance!
The Dublin Athletics organisers had it well thought out, and apart from a slight issue of a delay between 100m athletes leaving and allowing 1500m to enter the stadium grounds, there appeared to be little hiccups. As I was about to do my warm up in the park beside the stadium as requested by the organisers, I was actually told at the gate that I should do it around the grounds as they were at 198 people and I may not get back in on time – the stress of that!
Warm up done, I left my stuff with Peter and the girls (Katie and Elaine were getting ready to toe the line for a second time!) and stepped up to toe the line in the 1500 B Grade, a step up from last year.
The gun sounded and we were off, there was a lot of jostling at the start and the 300m line came up quick in 57s, I decided to reign it back for the 2nd lap so as not to burn out – this turned out to be a mistake as I got boxed in, ended up dodging some people, got cut in front of and had to pass out that lady (again!), finally got into a comfortable rhythm and was able to stick on the shoulder of a DCH vest for the second half of the third lap. At the bell I still had plenty left in the tank, passed out my pacer and gave it my all up the home straight. Delighted to have been able to fit right in with the B grade (although still miles away from the winner – a Rio Paralympian) and get a 23s PB on last year!
Definitely some lessons learnt around pacing and race tactics there – next time I’ll definitely be pushing on more!
Afterwards, I got to watch Katie and Elaine fly it in their race, before cooling off together and cheering Peter and Timothy on in the men’s 1500. Excellent results all round.
“My Track Experience” by Katie Nugent
A couple of weeks ago I heard that some of the graded track races might actually go ahead this year. I decided to sign up after months of solo training, no racing and uncertainty as to when we might actually get a chance to race again. Originally, I just planned on the 1500m but decided to give the 100m race a go as it is rare to get an opportunity to race such a short distance.
Track racing is really a whole new ball game for me. I like speed work but when we arrived, I felt a little bit like an intruder. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing. I was also nervous about making sure I didn’t miss something about the race day procedures as there was a lot of information forwarded in advance.
It was not long before our 100m event was called. I was again questioning whether I would go present myself at the start line at all. I could see my competition were already there doing strides and dynamic stretches and fixing their starting blocks. I never used blocks before so just adjusted them so they felt comfortable and did a few strides as practice.
The race took off at lightning pace. I chased the other ladies down the track. You don’t have time to think just pump your arms and legs as fast as they go and it’s over. I had no idea how I did and was so surprised to get a text with my result of 14.61 seconds. I was delighted with myself for actually giving it a go and trying as it would have been so easy to have just opted out instead.
Our next race wasn’t scheduled for another hour so we had some time to relax. It was hard to get a proper warm up in as we had to stay around the grounds. After registration, we were called and the gun went off on our 1500m race. Elaine was in this race too and had an excellent race finishing in 3rd place. It was very bunched at the start with 18 athletes taking part. I started off strongly and sat in behind the top few but I think I started off too fast as I just didn’t have a kick on the last two laps. I still really enjoyed it and finished with a time of 5.39 which is three seconds slower than my time in the club championship last year but which I am happy with given the lack of competitive running over the last few months.
It was just so good to be racing again and to feel that race pain, nerves, excitement, adrenalin and sense of achievement all at the same time.
There are two more graded events scheduled this year and I would encourage people to try and sign up for one of them and try something new.
Well done to Elaine, Emma, Peter and Timothy on a great evening of racing.
Elaine Kennedy 13.93, PB & Club record
Katie Nugent 14.61, PB & 2nd fastest in club records
Emma Meade,B race,5.17.6, PB
Elaine Kennedy, C race 5.24.9, 3rd place & PB
Katie Nugent C race 5.39.5, PB
Timothy Morahan 4.34.6, C race,6th place, PB
Peter Knaggs 5.14.6, D race, PB