"You’re never too old to challenge yourself" - Masters action at the European Off-Road Championships

The European Masters Off-Road Championships in Madeira in early May saw a small but successful British team pick up plenty of medals over three action-packed days. Athletes faced either an up and down 9km race, a vertical kilometre, or a tough 32km in the mountains the island is so well known for. Or all three for a hardy few!

Races like this tend to include plenty of home countries internationals given the testing terrain and with the mountains Wales and Scotland enjoy, this race was no exception. Welshwoman Helen Brown (Club: Mynydd Du) won the W50 race after a tough battle with Spain’s Isabel Miguel. She also led the team to a silver medal behind host nation, Portugal.

Also in superb form was Scotland’s Susan Ridley (Edinburgh) who led the women home in the W55, finishing second overall. Despite modestly claiming she wasn’t great at descending – a key skill on this tough course – she comfortably claimed the European title, more than a minute clear of the silver medallist. Penelope Barber (Andrew Bentley, Tipton) was also in medal winning action, securing a silver in the W65 race, impressive indeed for someone hailing from the West Midlands!

In the men’s race, it was all about the M60 age group which saw Britain win a silver medal in the team competition, the first of three silver medals. Chris Upson (Cambuslang), Steven Worsley (Lancaster and Morecambe) and Ian Thurlbeck (Westerlands) made up the team. The M60s repeated that podium place in both the vertical kilometre and the long race on the final day, with Worsley teaming up with David Weir (Forres) and Alan Roberts (Vale of Aylesbury) for the two other races.

"That was a tough race," said Colin Walker (Pudsey and Bramley), who finished 6th in the M50 up and down race. "You had to concentrate on the runner in front of you the whole time. Usually, I like to be able to look up but you couldn’t on this occasion."

Runners faced a fast opening climb before hitting almost 800 metres of stairs up the side of the cliff, which in turn culminated in three sets of ladders on two demanding laps where the descent was as tricky thanks to the loose dirt and rock as the climbs.

Barely 24 hours later, Europe’s best mountain runners lined up for a taxing vertical kilometre. The island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean is all about its mountains and hellishly sharp hills and this race proved a perfect test for runners specialising in hill running. The M60s picked up another silver, while Scotland’s Ridley added a bronze to her medal tally clocking 55:22 on what was an exceptionally demanding course.

"I’m more of a cross-country runner," said Alan Roberts, looking forward to the rearranged National Cross Country this September, "so that was an interesting test for me," he laughed.

In the women’s ex-pat Diane Esson who lives in Madeira used her local knowledge to great effect to become European champion in the W35 category. She described the course she runs regularly:

"After the final big climb at around 15km, there was a shaded forest path, which was great as it was such a hot day. At 26km, we dropped down to a very rocky path which was super fun to run, but very technical with lots of opportunities to face-plant. Then there was that sharp downhill back to the beach."

Great Britain won silver in the W50 race and Ridley completed a perfect set of medals with a silver in the W55 event.

"It was an amazing off road EMA Championships on a beautiful island which included three very well organised Masters’ Championships which were testing and very challenging."


said team manager Walter Hill (Crawley), who took on the role for the first time. “I enjoyed pushing boundaries and trying something new."

"And remember, you're never too old to challenge yourself."

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