England vs Wales Masters Half Marathon

By Paul Morris

The short version of the England vs Wales Masters half marathon held on 26 May as part of the AJ Bell Great Manchester Run. Another opportunity to wear my England Masters running vest. Finished 2nd in my age category (70-74) in a time of (1:34:20) which was a new personal best. The winner (David Gibson) in my age category was representing Wales with an awesome time of 1:27:47 which means I was the fastest 70-74 year old representing England. For those interested in more background read on. Last year I represented England in the Masters 10k and marathon by a series of happy coincidences. After the marathon in October, which did not go as well as I wanted, I thought the half marathon was the distance I should try for – if only to give me the full set of race distances. How do you get to wear an England Masters running vest? For each distance there are a set of qualifications:

1. Must be over 35 and a member of England Athletics. As an aside, you know you are getting old when your children meet the Masters age qualification.

2. Compete in one of the 5 or 6 designated qualification races within the qualification time which are in 5 year age bands. One of the good things about getting older is the qualification time become more generous. Have a look at the England Masters website to see if you are fast enough. View England Age Group Masters team standards


3. Come in the first 3 in your age category in a qualification race. The trick is to find a less popular race. North Lakes was my preference but it was cancelled so had to run in the Four Villages in January which as the last race in the series had lots of aspiring England Masters runners in my age category. As well as entering the qualification race you also have to register on Roster Athletics entry system. If you pass the qualification criteria you then get a congratulations email from the England Masters programme inviting you to participate in an international against Wales. You also get a code to access the website to buy an England Masters runners vest and other kit. The day of the international is very different from most running events. For a start there is attaching the front (race number) and back numbers (age category) to your England Masters running vest – this usually takes me at least 3 attempts before I’m happy. They are always big race events and England Athletics usually have a venue to collect your back number, changing facilities and after race presentations. For Manchester all we had was a gazebo outside the bag drop. We did have the customary group photo before being escorted to the front of the start with the elite runners. You have to overcome feelings of being an imposter and a sense that there are thousands of pairs of eyes on you who are determined to be faster than the old people wearing an England or Wales vest. Manchester was no different with over 9,000 runners taking part in the half marathon. All very well organised by Great Run. Everyone was on chip time, rather than gun, with a controlled flow before the start. It was still the usual fast pace at the start but there was plenty of room on the course which was on closed roads from the city centre out to the Etihad Stadium then to Old Trafford and back to the city centre.

Any race resulting in a personal best is a good run but it was hard work. I got off to a good start managing to hold the pace I wanted for the first 8 miles. The weather was light rain and

it felt very humid. I could feel the legs were starting to feel bit of cramp and I was having difficulty taking on the water and fuel I needed. Managed to hang on to a reasonable pace and was pleased to see the finish.

I don’t know whether it was England or Wales that won the international but it really does not matter as it is just an excuse for some veteran runners to proudly represent their country and test themselves against others in their age category.