After starting to run aged 55 it’s taken me 10 years but I have managed to run for England in the OAP category.
It started when club member Craig Stokes (thanks Craig !) forwarded to me an England Athletics Facebook post inviting people to enter a qualifying race to run for England. The prize was the opportunity to wear an England vest in a competition against the Celtic Nations, in other words England v the rest of the UK. I entered two qualifying races in 2018 but both were cancelled due to the Beast from the East, and then the Mini-beast from the East. Ah well, I thought, it wasn’t meant to be.
Then in 2019 the same invitation was repeated, again with a prompt from Craig, so I entered the nominated qualifying race in March, the Chester 10k. I also had to register my interest with England Athletics. To qualify I had to finish in the first 3 for my age category in this Northern qualifying race, with races already held in Chichester in January and Telford in February for the South and Midlands areas. Chester was an out and back course with a tough 2k uphill finish but I stuck to it and I won my age category. A week later I received a congratulatory email and confirmation of my selection for the England v Celtic Nations Masters race in May 2019.
The England Athletics Masters 10k was a competition within the Birmingham 10k. There were 7000 runners overall so the race had a separate start for elite and masters runners. The route was an out and back from Birmingham City Centre to Perry Barr along the A34 dual carriageway with its numerous underpasses. It was a tough course and I was pleased to finish 4th in my age category for the masters. As you would expect the overall standard was high and I was well down in the age grade percentage league with the winner scoring an incredible 98.9%. Olympian Jo Pavey, now 45, finished 3rd in the women’s race. England won the masters competition but the age grade winners for both men and women were Scots.
There were brief meetings before and after the race for photos and the atmosphere was terrific. Everyone was chuffed to be wearing their National vest and the place was buzzing. It was an opportunity to meet those names at the top of the runbritain rankings and to run against them. So, if you want to test yourself against the best in your age grade then I can recommend trying the masters events.
Any downsides? The cost. You have to pay your own entry fees, travel costs and pay for your own vest. On the day they were more relaxed and allowed you to run in your club vest but most people had bought a National vest and ran in that.