Masters runners from across the UK gathered in Birmingham over the weekend to compete in an England versus Celtic Nations match incorporated within the Simplyheath Great Birmingham 10k.
130 runners representing age groups V35 through to V85, joined European and world class athletes, Olympians and senior England internationals on an elite start line courtesy of the Great Run Company. Approximately 75 affiliated clubs from across the country were represented within the England team giving clubs plenty to shout about in terms of the achievements of their members.
England age group runners sporting their specially designed vests stood alongside the blues, greens and reds of their fellow age group competitors from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Wales, as well as the Isle of Man.
Whilst the England team conclusively won the team match there were many friendly, but highly competitive battles within the age groups and some superb age graded performances achieved on the day despite the unusually warm conditions. The masters runners really did demonstrate that age is no barrier with a number of the V35s, V40s and V45s mixing it at the front end of the race.
In the women’s race Kirsty Longley F40 (England, Club: Liverpool Pembroke Sefton, Coach: Mark Bleasdale) was undeterred by the elite field and took the race on from the start by setting the pace for the leading pack. Although she had to relinquish the lead in the second half of the race, she nonetheless held onto a commendable 7th place overall in 36:14 and was first home in the England v Celtic Team match. The overall race winner was Poland’s Aleksandra Lisowska in a time of 34:14.
Maria Heslop F50 (England, Club: Tonbridge) was the second of the masters athletes to finish in an impressive 36:30, one of the highest aged graded performances of the entire starting line- up of men and women.
Isobel Burnett (Celtic Team) was one of the few individuals to break the England stronghold winning the F60 category in an impressive 45:00 minutes. Whilst Sue Garner F70 (England, Club: Lingfield / Hermitage / Seaford) in 52:13 and Patricia Cummins F75 (England, Club: Run Academy Worthing) in 67:11 were the impressive winners of their age groups.
In the elite men’s race M35 athlete Michael Cayton (England, Club: Horwich) demonstrated the class of many of these age group runners in finishing 8th overall in 31:25 and over 30 seconds ahead of France’s Olympic steeplechaser, 40 year-old Bouabdellah Tahri. Cayton was first of the masters athletes, with Martin Williams (Celtic Team) taking the age group win for the M40s in 32:38.
Andrew Leach M50 (England, Club: North Herts / Bedford & County) produced one of the best age graded performance of the day amongst the men with a time of 33:36. James Skinner M45 (England, Club: Haywards Heath, Coach: Martin Delbridge), Stephen Watmough M55 (England, Club: Warrington AC, Coach: Nick Anderson), Paul Mingay M60 (England, Club: Tiptree), Paul Whelpton M65 (England, Club: Brighton Phoenix), Peter Young M70 (England, Club: Ryde / South West Vets, Coach: Geoff Watkin), Tony Brackstone M75 (England, Club: Sandhurst), John Smithhurst M80 (England, Club: Bingley) and Richard Pitcairn-Knowles M85 (England, Club: Sevenoaks / Veterans) were all age group winners.
The event was televised on Channel 5 and it was great to hear plenty of reference to the masters runners in the event commentary.
England Athletics Road Running Manager said, “There was a fantastic atmosphere in Birmingham today and it was great to see the masters athletes getting the opportunity to start with the elite runners and be recognised in their own right for some superb performances. This could not have happened without the support of the Great Run Company and also the British Masters Athletics Federation. Congratulations to everyone that competed in either the England or Celtic Teams today.”