The National Indoor Masters Championships took place on March 3rd in AIT Indoor Arena in Athlone. After the enjoyment of the Leinster races the week before I was looking forward all week to competing with the best M35 in the country over the 800M and the 1500M in Athlone. From the club, Michael Cunningham was also running the 1500M in the M40 race. Athlone is a great spot for running with a Greenway to Mullingar, Indoor and Outdoor tracks and only 80 minutes from Dublin.

A fine day in Athlone

Despite my first race the 800M being on at 1:40 PM I was on the road early. You never know if the event will run to schedule so I’d rather be early and relaxed. I was far from relaxing when we were waiting to be called. I knew from the start list that I was racing for a 2nd place in the 800M. The eventual winner Denis Coughlan is the best Masters runner in the country over the distance and can still mix it in a good senior race.

I was drawn in lane 1, the inside lane. Inner lanes on indoor tracks are generally slower (because of the tight turns), so they are generally not preferred. I managed to get off fast and was sitting nicely in 3rd place. I was moving well going through in 30, 61, 1,32 and 2.04. Having not done much speed work I was happy to be only .3 seconds off my indoor PB. I finished hoping I’d run 2.03 but it wasn’t to be. A bit disappointed with that but 2nd place in the National in my weaker event.

Indoor tracks are banked

The setup in Athlone is different from Abbotstown. It’s a smaller arena with a warm-up track on the upper level. I prefer running on the tighter track as the atmosphere is better, with the crowd on top of you. The smaller venue does make warming up difficult. I did a few strides after the race but then went and did 5K on the Athlone Greenway with a fellow runner from Sligo.

Athlone Indoor Arena

Next up was my favored 1500M. I used to prefer the 800M but chasing a PB has gotten progressively harder as my 30’s catch up with me. We were drawn in with the M45 runners so I wouldn’t get a chance to race MC. They often combine races but you win the title for your age group, not the race. I fancied my chances in the race and the age group. It went out at a very steady 35 seconds for the first 3 laps. At that stage of the race, all the runners were just strung out in a line.

800M 2nd Place

The leader Mark O’Shea from Drogheda picked up the pace and me and Shane O’Neill from Rathfarnham went with the pace. As all good championship races so it just kept getting faster. I made one mistake in the race by sitting in with 3 laps to go. At that point, I felt really good and should have pushed the pace a small bit. You need to balance your pace over the whole race. Too fast and the lactic will get you and too slow and you just won’t run fast. Unless it’s a very slow race you can’t rely on a fast finish. I went past Shane with 2 laps to go but he came back at me with 200M to go. I was feeling the 800M and struggled to kick back. I finished just behind the 2 lads, 3rd in the race but first M35 in a time of 4.13. Both these guys were in the M45 category, and have run sub 4.10 this year, a very impressive feat. Michael ran in the race just after mine. he took 5 seconds off his time from last week running 4.43 with a fast finish.

1500M First Place

I set the goal to win the gold in the 1500m last year and missed the indoors and finished second in the outdoors. A hard winters training and many early starts have made all the difference as I am running betterer than ever. I didn’t run any personal bests over the season but lets see what the faster outdoor season brings. It’s now on to the outdoors. I can’t wait to start training up in Tallaght on March 30th. The 400M track is easier to run on but it will seem gigantic for a while as I found out recently in Portugal.

Rare photo opportunity with the Chairman

This year, the Leinster Senior & Masters Outdoors are on June 2nd with the National Seniors on July 27th. I haven’t run Seniors in 4 years but may give the heats a crack this year if I can keep the fitness levels up and shake off some love handles. The last track event of the year is the National Masters Outdoors on August 18th. That is getting close to Sunday, 29 September which is my main target for the year the Berlin Marathon. I’ll have to see if I can get the long run done midweek and sneak down to Tullamore. If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen after all!