The 2016 World Masters Athletics Championships commence in Perth tomorrow. They run from October 26- November 6. “Masters” you may chuckle. Oldies hobbling around trying to recapture their youth. The grey brigade looking for another shot at athletic fame and glory. Grannies trying to recapture their high school performances. Everyone will have a different agenda as they line up in Perth in the classic track and field events. I will focus on middle and long distance in this article.
Age groups in the world masters competition begins at 35-39. In many circles it is debated whether masters or vets comps should begin in the 40-44 age group, but we will leave that debate for another day.
Masters champions and record holders are fast. The number of agile, super fit, older age groupers roaming the planet are mind boggling. Those at the cream of the crop hit hypersonic speeds. When looking at all the world record performances across the masters age groups, one can only come up with superlatives such as astonishing and incredible.
Take W 50-54 world record holder in the marathon, Tatayana Pozdnyakova from Russia. Her record is 2.31. I am in my 50th year and I understand first-hand the difficulties of trying to keep the body moving fast after it has been bruised and battered for half a century. 2.31 for a female at that age…. Staggering.
Or let’s look at the mighty Bernard Lagat, who ran for the USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, even though he is now is the 40-44 masters age group. His world records for 40-44 are 1500m (3.41.87), mile (3.57.91), 3000m (7.42.75), 5000m (13.06.78) and 10000m (27.49.36). Breathtaking.
Or our own Keith Bateman from Australia. “Fossil” holds the world records in the same events as Lagat but in the 55-59 age group. A lot happens in 15 years, but Keith held it together very well for his age group with 1500m (4.12.35), mile (4.35.04), 3000m (8.56.80), 5000m (15.29.70) and 10000m (31.51.86).
The W 40-44 world record in the 1500m will take a lot of beating. Yekaterina Podkopayeva from Russia holds it at 3.59.78. This is quicker than the current Australian open record!
For those quite a deal older, Ed Whitlock stands out. Amongst his marathon world records are those for 70-74 (2.54.48), 80-84 (3.15.54) and 85-89 (3.56.34). Plus Australia’s Lavinia Petrie has really shown younger runners how it is done in ParkRuns. She is consistently at the top of the global list for winning age percentage performances. Her world records include W 70-74 in the 3000m (12.52.03), 5000m (21.34.08) and 10000m (44.43.27). Amazing!
Amongst those whom I coach online, there are some outstanding masters athletes lining up in Perth over the next 12 days.
Chris Maher will be competing in the M55-59 age group in the 5000m and 10000m. The “flying physio” has consistently won his age group at major Australian road races in recent years. He is well known for being in the top three in Australia each week for age percentages at ParkRuns.
Brad Sharpe is lining up in the M55-59 age group in the 800m and 1500m. Brad has regularly competed on the world stage over the distances during the last decade. Regular speed sessions with the SWEAT SYDNEY squad, decent weekly mileage and at least once a week racing have honed his middle-distance skills to the elite level for his age.
Deb Drennan has entered in the 55-59 age group in the 400m, 800m and 1500m. The “blond bullet” has made several successful world champs campaigns. Perhaps the highlight of her career thus far was when she competed alongside the AUSTRALIAN FLAME athletics team at the 2015 World Indoor Championships in the US in the masters 800m final.
Tony Craig is still just a spring chicken in the M 35-39 category. The “dashing dentist” may usually be a gentle giant, but once he puts on those racing spikes he turns into a monster on tartan. Tony is priming himself for big runs in the 5000m and 10000m on the picturesque Perth track. With Halloween, just around the corner, Tony will be in his prime!
Darren Purcell has had a stellar past couple of years, including having the honor of representing Australia as an “open” athlete in the World 50km Championships in 2015. This agile ultrarunning speedball has made a rapid charge up the masters rankings in the past 12 months. Watch out for him in the M 45-49 age group in the 5000m and Marathon. He is likely to go close to 15.00 in the 5000 and 2.30 in the marathon in decent conditions.
Jacquie Calandra has been keeping injury free and loving her prolonged health and fitness in the W75-79 category. She will be lining up in the marathon and looking to do her country proud.
Best of luck to everyone competing in Perth. No doubt there will be some performances that will thrill and amaze the world yet again. Whatever happens, all competitors deserve a big pat on the back for having a go and inspiring the rest of us.