As a new or returning runner, you may have come across the term Masters Running and are wondering what that means. A Masters Runner is a runner, male or female, over the age of 35. Being a Masters Runner means that during a race, your time and position can be compared to others in the same age group category as you. This seems fair as a 50-year-old is not going to be able to sprint as fast as a 20-year-old in a 5 KM race. Yet a 50-year-old might have better endurance than a 20-year-old in an ultra-marathon.
It’s tempting to deny that age has any effect at the lower end of this range. After all, Meb Keflezighi’s PR win at Boston came only weeks before his 39th birthday, and many runners continue to improve during their late 30s. However, at 36 I’m starting to say to people I know what you’re talking about. When I first started with the club, putting together a few fast 400M intervals was easy, now it requires effort, it requires focus.
What’s all this got to do with a race in Tullamore? I’m a firm believer, that if it doesn’t challenge you then it doesn’t change you. If you put in the work then you can reach your goals. With the pending onset of old age, I decided this year was going to count. My goal at the start of the year was to take gold at the Maters indoor 1500M track and Masters outdoor 1500M track. Everything was on track, excuse the pun, until early February. Then sitting on a beach in Malibu on the day of the indoors, I knew I had to adjust plan A. I decided I was to run the Dublin Marathon. To do it properly this year and use the early part of the training cycle to work on my speed.
Goals are meaningless without the intermediary steps to get you there. A bold statement, yes I know. Indulge me for a few moments. Setting some goals brings focus to your training. Goal 1 was to double up in the Leinster Masters Outdoors, running 1500M and 800M. Goal 2 is to win Masters gold in the 1500M at Nationals in August. Goal 3 is to run a PB in the 10K and finally smash the PB in Dublin this October. The journey is a continual process of refinement, leading toward the ultimate victory in October.
This past Sunday with a mid-week long run in the bag I packed the car and headed to Tullamore. I arrived before 9AM to collect my number. The sun was splitting the trees. I knew I was in decent shape but have never doubled up like this before it was going to be a new experience. Masters running is good as the standard is more approachable. You know that if you’re on form, that you will be there or there about’s. At 10.30 they lined us up for the off.
All the men’s masters 1500m were run together so there was a decent number of athletes in all age groups. I knew from the start that there was one man to keep my eye on. Straight away slotting into second place the first 2 laps went by very quickly, albeit at a canter. I had set my stall out that all I was going to do was cover any moves. The first 2.75 laps were run at 72-second pace so this was going to a fast finish,a championship race. With 400M to go the guy in front kicked. I felt like there was some intention so I decided to keep pace. With 320M to go, I made my move and was committed. I had a flashback of Emily the week before in Tallaght saying to move those arms. With 50M to go I was in 1st position and felt like I was flying then the legs started to tighten just a tad too early. I could sense the guy behind had his second wind. Legs burning I tried to keep the form and then right on the line I see his head leaning forward to take the win. A time difference of only 1 one hundredth of a second. It’s rare that you get to enjoy a race and compete at the same time. I’ll remember this one for years to come. A big shout out to Martin who took 3rd in his age category, over the same distance. Martin recently returned from injury.
2 hours later I was back on the track. Not too much of a warm-up needed as it was now 23 degrees and I was still feeling nice and loose. 800M was my preferred distance as a youngster in my 20’s but now I have moved up to 1500M. They lined the younger Masters runners us up with the senior athletes, who all seemed to still be in school. Standing on the start line I asked one of them what their PB was and he said 1:53. This was going to be two races! Off the line into 2nd again the legs were a bit tired but thankfully the first lap was 65 seconds. It’s rare that you get to run an 800M and run a negative split but after a slow first lap I knew it as on. The trick with an 800M is to maintain your pace on lap 2 and push hard down the back straight. Almost like deja vu, the kick came with 300M to go. This time I was giving chase. Once bitten twice shy, I drew from experience to stay close enough and hold the course. With 30M to go, still, in second place, I knew the gold medal was on. Keeping the form and pushing every bit of the way to the line, taking the win with 10M to go.
A great running inspiration Steve Prefonatine once said ‘Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started. Vision, consistency and hard work’ Looking forward to the next race. Here’s to staying injury free.