Running at the 2016 World Masters Athletics Championships

Newton World Masters XC

I am one of 4000 athletes, aged between 35 and 97, from 92 countries, who have converged on Perth in Western Australia for the 2016 World Masters Athletics Championships writes Jackie Newton.

I am now 52 years old but this is my debut on the 'masters' scene' and I'm wondering why I didn't do it sooner! Well, I suppose I know why I didn't. I was a reasonable runner before the age of 35 (and for a short spell afterwards) and when I started to slow down I no longer wanted to be competitive and so started running for fun and fitness rather than to compete. However, I heard that the World Masters Championships were being held in Perth this year and I have a strong affection for Western Australia after having lived here for three years in the 90s and without further ado, I had booked flights and contacted friends and family who live here to request B & B for our stay!

Before I even got here, this has been good for me. There is nothing like a big goal and the excitement of being part of something ispectacular (and perhaps a tinsy winsy bit of a fear of failure) to motivate your training! Over the summer, I went from just running for fun to actually doing some sessions, having a bit more structure and putting some effort in! You only have to look at my handicap score to see how it has given me a kick...I got myself up for several parkruns and even some track races before coming out here!

The event itself is incredibly inspirational - there are so many extraordinary athletes putting in performances that people half their age would be proud of. Star of the show is John Gilmour, who is a local lad, at 97 years of age and was a prisoner of war in World War II. After I had run my 5000m on Friday (and finishing 11th in 20:48), we travelled to the other stadium to watch his 800m race. He ran 9:19.93 in a two-man race with Dumitru Radu of Romania, who is 90 years old and ran 8:59.53. Before that, we had witnessed a World Record in the W65 5000m when Kathryn Martin, of the United States, ran 40 seconds faster than I did with a time of 20:08!

In addition to the inspiration that is all around with the amazing athletes that are here, there is also an immense feeling of camaraderie from fellow competitors and the team management and supporters that have travelled out with the team. I am really enjoying the chats and friendships that are being struck up between myself and the other girls in my races and am made to feel very special by those that have come out to support other members of the GB team who always take time to shout  me on and follow it with a cheery "Well done Jackie!" when they see me after the race and genuine interest in how I am feeling and how I rate my run. What's more - the team management  are superb and are doing a tremendous job of ensuring we have all the information that we need both before and after each race, including giving us a list of our split times on a pre-prepared sheet of paper.


Along with the usual Olympic events on the track and road, there has also been a cross country race (8km) and there is a half marathon too. Even though I am a much stronger road and long distance runner, I have shied away from the road because the surface is so much harder than our tarmac and I'm not sure how my old legs will cope! Instead I entered the cross country, 5000m and I've also entered the 1500m although I'm sure my leg speed isn't up to such a short distance!

The cross country took place on Day 1 of the competition, last Wednesday. The weather was hot (around 30 degrees) and our race was on at midday but with the help of lots of water poured over my head at least once on each of the 2km laps I put in a performance that  I was proud of and finished 7th. I consider myself to have been extremely fortunate to be running in a team with the likes of Lucy Elliot (handicap 3.1), who was the winner of the race, and Sue Ridley (handicap 7.6), who finished in 6th, and so come away with a team gold and a cute toy quokka! (After the cross country we had a free day before the 5000m and so went off to Rott Nest Island to see some real quokkas!)

I was a little bit disappointed with my 5000m and think that I was perhaps overly worried about the heat and so didn't push the pace as much as I could or should have but I still have the 1500m to go and so intend to go into that with an 'all-out' attitude. Before running the 5000m I had considered 'binning' the 1500m because I'm really not a middle-distance runner, especially these days after years of plodding long distances but, you know what, there are runners here of all different abilities and levels of fitness, from those that are setting World Records, to others who just want to take part and so, what the heck? And, on that note, if you are over 35 and haven't yet made your debut on the 'masters' scene', I can thoroughly recommend that you do - you have nothing to fear and so much to gain!

Thanks so much to Steve Jones (handicap 6.3), Jayne Lawton (handicap 6.2) and all of the others  from Stockport Harriers who have encouraged me and trained with me to get me here in good shape and also to Bashir Hussain (handicap 2.2) who is here with me and keeping me focused whilst also competing himself!