The BMAF is the British Masters Athletic Federation. They organise a number of events across the country, targeted at the more mature athlete! The cover all aspects of athletics and embrace all age-groups from 35 years and up. In the UK the traditional age to be a Vet is 40, but around the world 35 is the consistent threshold to start looking at people of your own age and the term “Masters” tends to be used rather than veteran.
Anyway. The BMAF national relays have been going on for a long time and usually take place in Sutton park in Birmingham. We have considered doing them a few times, but haven’t really pushed it. However, with this year’s unusual situation, there was no reason why we couldn’t join in with the virtual version in our own back yard.
Rather then badger people into entering themselves, I took the rash decision to enter everyone that qualified by virtue of their age as there was no significant cost to the club and this amounted to over 50 members. We were asked for a charity donation rather than an entry fee and the total amount raised for Macmillan was eventually over £12,000.
The rules were that you had to run a 5K course at some point over a week long period, ideally an “out-and-back” or circular route that meant you finished close to where you started. This was to avoid people running downhill for 3 miles or waiting for a gale to blow them in one direction. It’s fair to say that some followed these instructions better than others, but they weren’t enforced very strictly!
For this event, the age-groups were in in ten-year blocks from 35-44, 45-54 and so on, with team sizes gradually getting smaller with age and gender. Our membership range meant we could complete teams in five different age-groups if members took part. Admittedly we did need to drag my 74 year old father down to the V55 age-group, but what’s nineteen years between friends!
Unlike in the National relay in March, people seemed to take their time to register a result, looking for suitable courses, good weather and obviously some appropriate time away from the household. A few people went from their doorstep, some travelled a few miles, some went alone and some went with others.
The numbers slowly built over the course of the week, but we were still quite low on participants in the final day, Saturday, when suddenly lots of people were out charging, cruising and limping round 5K’s with some vague sense of competition against an imaginary teammate or rival.
In the end, thirty-three people did a run, with a range of success. A number of them were “testing” injuries, making comebacks or just putting themselves out to try to help improve the team scores. There were quite a few people who were pleased with their results, especially considering the unusual “race” conditions.
Obviously, it was primarily a team event and these were the overall results:
- 8 Participants
- 61st out of 91 teams
- 54th out of 69 clubs
- 13 Participants
- 37th and 79th out of 82 teams
- 36th out of 72 clubs
- 8 Participants
- 41st and 96th out of 115 teams
- 34th out of 80 clubs
- 3 Participants
- 59th out of 76 teams
- 53rd out of 65 clubs
All in all, I think the teams did pretty well really. Lots of people were struggling with injuries and many have been enjoying long slower runs during lockdown, rather than focusing on 5K speed so to get two teams in the top half and complete seven teams in four age-groups is great for a small club. Most pleasing was that around 60% of the eligible members gave it a go, so well done all.
At the sharp end of the field, the leading individual runs based on age-grading were Pete Mackrell who ran 16:31 to score 79.62% and James Bell who ran 18:38 to score 78.09%. These are both excellent times for their relative age-groups, however, the performance of the event went to Tommy Hughes, a 60 year old from Leicester Corinthians, who ran 16:11 to score 98.67% and therefore very close to the world record for his age!
If you are reading this thinking; I’ve heard of age-grading but don’t really get it, then there’s loads of articles online, including this one from Runners World US: https://www.runnersworld.com/advanced/a20794116/a-guide-to-age-grading
Full results for the event can be found here: https://data.opentrack.run/en-gb/x/2020/GBR/bmaf-virtual-rr
Anyway, well done to everyone for taking part. Maybe next year we should head to Birmingham for a day out?