Running is a welcoming and accessible sport to people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures. The England Athletics Masters programme, and the masters athletics community more widely epitomises this, giving friendly and supportive competition opportunities to athletes and runners from age 35+.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Lucy Marlow – mum, solicitor, and a keen club runner, who recently earned her first England Masters vest at the Chester 10k.
Continuing her passion for the sport
Beginning in the sport aged 11, Lucy found her love for middle distance running whilst at school after winning a cross country race. She first joined her local athletics club, Sparkhill Harriers, and then later moved onto Solihull and Small Heath Athletics Club in the Midlands. At the age of 38 she continues to train and race over middle distances, but now wears the colours of Cambridge Harriers AC.
"Back as a mere 11 year old, I was fortunate to come across a great coach, Joe Tilt, and it took off from there. I am now 38 and still running. I started in cross country and track, and did a few road races, stepping up to the longer distances when I was 16.
"I started to race over 5k to 10k, but my passion was always the middle distances, so I kept that ticking along. Years later, I now predominantly stick to the longer distances on the track. As I have got older, I have also become a little slower than I used to be. I enjoyed continuing my athletics at university and upon moving to London, I joined my current club Cambridge Harriers. I’m now coached by Ray Daniel."
Juggling a career, being a parent and her love of running
"As a mum with a demanding job as a solicitor, it can be challenging to fit training in as well. However, like most things in life, if it is really important to you and makes you happy, you will find a way
"Running helps me to press reset on everything, and it gives me time to relax. I will always come back feeling more energised and ready to tackle the next thing."
“I am very lucky that I have a support network which enables me to keep running. I have a wonderful athletics club, a great coach, family, and workplace. Sometimes I can run into the office to get in my long run, and have family to support with childcare so I can still go out to train, and achieve my sporting goals."
The beginning of Lucy’s masters journey
We are lucky that the athletics and running club system in England is fantastic with something for everyone. For Lucy, this proved crucial in introducing her to the world of masters athletics and running! Coming back into the sport after having her first child, Lucy had some anxieties about getting back to racing and being on the start line against younger athletes.
"I didn’t want to be stood on the start line next to 20-year-old whippets that would be super-fast, and I was quite nervous about stepping back out on the track. Christine Bond at Cambridge Harriers mentioned to me about the masters league which my club competes in and I thought it sounded great.
"It was really friendly and inclusive, and you didn’t need to worry about times, you could just put on your vest and enjoy the experience of competing."
Earning her very first England vest and representing the country
Like many young athletes growing up, Lucy dreamed of one day being able to represent her country whilst going through the ranks of competing at English Schools', regional and national level competitions. Racing at the Regent’s Park 10k, Lucy gained the qualifying time, and finished in the top three to secure her spot on the England team for the Chester 10k in March.
“It was amazing to think that I’ve been involved in athletics, competing and training hard from the age of 11, and now that I am 38, I finally got the call up. I felt so proud to pop on the vest and go to the team meeting before the race. I used to dream of representing my country and always thought, wow, how amazing it must be."
"It was a lovely opportunity and I was so grateful.”
The masters race at Chester included over 200 runners from both England and Wales, with athletes representing all the different age groups.
“When I looked around at the England team photo and saw the breadth of ages, I was impressed and looked up to the older runners. I am at the lower end of the masters ages and when you look at some of the older people competing and the shape they’re in, it’s outstanding.
"Despite the different ages, we all share the same experiences. We all push our bodies to try and maximise our performance."
The beauty of the masters programme
Aside from inclusivity and friendship, the masters programme is great at keeping runners motivated. As a runner ages, it is no secret that due to changes in their physiology, times achieved may begin to stagnate or slow, but this is natural and something the masters community celebrates!
"The beauty of the masters is it gives you a goal to aim for- to try and represent England. I had a target time and I knew what I needed to aim for in the qualification race at Regent’s Park. If I was to benchmark all my races on what I achieved as a 20-year-old it would be quite disappointing and unrealistic as I’m not as fast as I was back then.
"The masters takes into consideration your age, and it is really uplifting to have an age appropriate target to try and achieve. When competing against people in your age category, it is more of a fair comparison."
"As a runner, I love training and I love competition, and it doesn’t matter who the person is in front of me, whether they’re in my age category, a senior or 60+. Competition is competition, and that is amazing, but I think it is quite nice to look at results and see, for your age, how well you fare against peers.
"We all respond well to receiving recognition for performance in all walks of life. As a master you may come 50th overall, but first in your age group. As an athlete the achievement and recognition is so uplifting and motivates you to train, especially on those days where you need an uplift."
Lucy’s advice to other runners and athletes considering masters competition
"Whatever you loved about athletics before, if you have stopped, or whatever you enjoy right now, what originally attracted you to the sport is still there. If you have loved the sport before, you are bound to love it now! No matter what level you are at, athletics has something to offer, and it is really inclusive. Don’t worry about what your current fitness levels are and don’t compare yourself against what you used to be.
"I love road racing, but my passion lies within track and field. There are a lot of road runners out there who love a 5k or a parkrun, but who would never enter a track race. People are often intimidated by track and field, but the masters competitions and league races are really fun. Often you are competing to gain points for your team. Regardless of your performance on the day, you have contributed and gained points for your team, whilst having a great time! I am a middle distance runner, but at league matches, and especially when I was younger, I would often do events like the long jump and shot put just to gain extra points and have a bit of fun.
"From my experience, at a track competitions, people often look at others running longer distances on the track in awe of such endurance, especially the sprinters! We are watching other athletes with admiration and in celebration of everything one another are achieving."
Want to find out more?
If you feel inspired by Lucy’s story and would like to explore more masters opportunities:
- See all qualification and race opportunities section on the website.
- You can also visit the British Masters Athletics Federation page to learn more about masters throughout the UK.