Last week was a 56km ultramarathon. This week attention turned to the 15th Australian Masters Games – ‘Australia’s greatest multi-sport festival for 30+ year olds’ (according to the cover of the Games guide!)
I had entered the Games just before the earlybird cut-off. At the time I had entered just two events, the track 5000m and the half marathon. I was later convinced to enter the City Mile by multiple Masters gold medallist Ros.
My mum, a recent convert to parkrun, had entered one event, the 5000m walk, which was the first event on the track on Saturday. She had won gold, 2 laps ahead of the second placegetter! The pressure was on…
Monday morning rolled around and it was going to be a hot one, with a forecast top of 36 degrees. Fortunately the 5000m had been rescheduled from the middle of the day to 9am, the first track event of the day. I had never run on a track before so didn’t really know what to expect.
I was up early and had my breakfast shake before heading to the stadium. I was there well ahead of my event so that gave me time to chat to some other competitors, many of whom had travelled from interstate. I realised then that I had probably missed an opportunity because most of the people I spoke to had entered multiple events. There was the steeplechase (supposedly a lot of fun), cross country, and of course the shorter track events like the 800m and 1500m. I would have had no idea how to race those last 2 distances, but at only $15 per event, you get best value for money by entering lots of events. Also, being in one of the younger age groups, there seems to be less competition. The 40s and 50s look to be the most popular age groups.
I looked over and saw Lisa, who is in my age group and seems to win everything. I wasn’t holding out much hope… she said she was sore after the steeplechase but I told her she’d have to be REALLY sore for me to have a chance of beating her!
It was about 28 degrees as we lined up to start the race. I had set the lap distance on my Garmin to 400m and we would be running 12.5 laps of the track.
I was close to the inside lane, where we would all eventually be running, to avoid running further than we needed to.
The starting gun went and we were off! I started well, with my first 3 laps being 1:32, 1:36 and 1:34. I passed 2km (5 laps) in 7:57. If I could have sustained that pace I would have run 5000m under 20 minutes for the first time EVER!
No matter what distance I’m running, I don’t like getting ‘stuck’ behind anyone. So I did overtake a few people early on so I could settle into a rhythm and not run slower than a comfortable pace. I soon found myself in 4th position overall (I’m not sure exactly how many runners were in the race), behind Lisa and 2 runners from the 45-49 age group, Frina and Sarah. They were all a long way in front of me.
The field included one runner from the youngest age group, 30-34, and two runners in the 80-84 age group. Over the course of the 12.5 laps I passed both of the 80+ ladies several times, offering encouragement all the way. In my job I do get a very skewed view of ageing and it’s quite inspirational to see 80+ athletes out there competing -I sincerely hope I can still compete at that age! (I even saw a man in the 90-94 age group – I don’t know what event he was in but I had to look twice at his bib to be sure of his age – he looked at least 20 years younger than he was!)
Unfortunately (and not really surprisingly) I wasn’t able to sustain that pace. Possibly I should have started a bit slower, and the heat may have been a factor, but my pace gradually slowed over the remaining laps.
I knew I was still in 4th overall… not that that mattered. In Masters Games it’s all about age groups. Everyone runs together but you only compete against those in your age group. Therefore, the 80+ year old who finished the race in just under an hour (to HUGE applause from all the crowd and the rest of the 5000m runners who had long since finished) still walked away with a silver medal.
I had no hope of catching Lisa, or even 3rd placed Sarah. I couldn’t actually see any of them anymore.
I had a rough idea how far I had to go, although I was trying not to check my watch too often. It wasn’t until almost halfway that I noticed the lap counter at the finish line – 7 laps. At the time I didn’t know if it was 7 gone or 7 to go. The next time around it showed 6. That answered my question!
I got to the finish line as the bell rang and the counter showed one lap to go. I was ecstatic… Lisa would be finishing momentarily and hadn’t lapped me! But I miscalculated – the ‘one lap to go’ was for her, not me. I still had two laps. And not 100m after I started my penultimate lap, she lapped me!
After cursing myself briefly I regrouped and set out to finish strongly, hold my position and avoid getting lapped by Frina or Sarah!
I heard the track announcer call Lisa across the line. Predictably, I was running for ‘so-so silver’!
I passed the start line for the last time. 200m to go. I couldn’t see the runners behind me and dared not turn around. I put my head down and focused on a strong finish.
My last 100m or so was at 2:55 min/km pace. I wasn’t letting anyone get past me! I hadn’t realised that the finish was off to the side of the main track but the marshal guided me in the right direction.
My Garmin time was 21:07. That was well outside my 5km PB but I was happy enough. It was hot, it was my first time on a track and I was just over a week post ultra. And I would have a SWEET silver medal to show for it!
It was a long wait till the medal ceremony as we had to wait for the rest of the runners to finish. Eventually the time came and I stood up on the dais next to Lisa. In the other age groups all the medallists got up on the 1st place position together for a photo op. Lisa started to tell me to get up and then thought better of it… even down in the 2nd place position I was still taller!
I really enjoyed today, it’s a great event to be involved in and I highly recommend it to anyone who is eligible (ie anyone who is 30 or over!) It’s fun and friendly, and there’s heaps of social activities too.
I’ve got 2 events left, the City Mile on Friday night and the half marathon on Saturday… stay tuned to my blog for my report next week!