I have been asked to write a blog on my experience at the World Athletic Masters in Lyon to put on the Lothian Running club page. I hope that it may encourage other over 35 year olds to give it a go.
When I discovered that the world masters was in Lyon this year I asked my family if they would like to go to Lyon-France to watch me run, they all thought it was a great idea as I was running well(running at the worlds was on my bucket list) and we all love holidaying in France. The process of applying was straightforward but a little more expensive than the usual entry fee and I sent off for the official GB vest and the holiday preparations got underway.
We arrived in Lyon on Wednesday 5th August on a roasting hot afternoon. One of the first things we noticed at the airport were billboards advertising the Worlds Masters Athletics which were actually posted all over the city making it seem very real and I was here to take part in this big event.
As we travelled about the city doing all the tourist stuff we couldn’t believe the amount of athletes going around wearing their national vests/tracksuits and special athlete passes around their necks. I later found out that you could travel free within the city with your pass.
On the day of my heat – Friday 7th it was 40 degrees and energy sapping. We arrived at the stadium early having a few hours to spare to register and get settled. I thought all I had to do was turn up to register and get my number (and the special pass) but I had not read the small print which was a lesson to be learnt as I should have registered at the main stadium which was on the other side of the city. My girls were out shopping and were going to meet us to watch my race so we phoned them and they went to the rescue by jumping in a taxi to the main stadium and luckily my daughters are pretty fluent in French and the authorities gave her my pack with my number in it. Yippee, we were all set to go.
As the kids arrived with my numbers I started getting nervous as It was all beginning to feel a bit real, even though the stadium wasn’t any bigger than Pitrevie there was a big crowd there and the heat was searing. We watched the men’s 5k final which looked horrendous in the heat. There were cool water sprinklers at opposite ends of the track to cool the guys down.
I was becoming increasingly nervous and trying to stay out of the heat. The 800m races were starting youngest to oldest so I managed to watch some of the heats. It was only the women’s heats at this stadium as the men’s 800m heats were at another stadium.( The events were spread over 4 different stadiums).
As I started to warm up I could feel my foot painful – an injury I had been carrying had decided to flare up today of all days but in this heat it was the least of my worries. I just had to focus on getting through to the final. My mouth was so dry I couldn’t swallow.
As the starting gun went off I just set off and gave it all I had in me and managed to get third. I knew some of the other heats had been slow and just hoped I had made it to the final as it was fasted in heat and 8 fasted losers who would get through. I was very disappointed with my time as I had ran 8 seconds faster 6 days before but elated that I had made it to the final.
My niggling foot pain had now increased quite significantly and I knew I should not have been running in the final but hey- this was my chance. My sensible head was telling me not to run but the athletic non sensible head was saying “you need to go for it – all the work you’ve done to get here, all the work you coaches (Steve Cottom and Sandra Hardacre) have put in”.
We moved on the Saturday from a city apartment to a villa with a pool which was in a little village about 18km from the main stadium where we could relax before the final on the Sunday.
My final on the Sunday was not until 6pm but we set off early in the afternoon to find the stadium and try and catch some of the earlier races.
The stadium was much bigger than the one where the heats were held and it was packed with people from all over the world and it was buzzing. I felt overwhelmed as I watched the crowds and soaked in the atmosphere. The commentary was booming and music was playing between races.
As I was warming up I spoke to a number of fellow GB runners, everyone was so friendly and wondered how they knew my name – forgetting my name was on my number.
I knew running on my foot was going to be painful as it had not settled at all after running my heat but I just had to go for it so I warmed up and prepared for the race. My race was delayed 15 minutes due to an 80 -85 year man running his 800m final collapsing 50m from the finishing line. Thankfully he was ok and was waving his hand like the Queen as he was stretchered over the finishing line with all the crowd on their feet clapping and whistling. Not a dry eye in the stadium. Watching men and women doing these events in their 70’s,80’s and 90’s was absolutely amazing – their children,grandchildren and even great grandchildren watching them. It was so inspiring – you’re never too old to chase your dreams and aspirations.
The call room was noisy as team mates chatted to each other while others, like myself, sat in silence with my thoughts and eyeing up the opposition. We were escorted out onto the track and lined up in our lanes. Some of us were doubled up as there were 12 of us and only 8 lanes. As we lined up our names were called over the tannoy just like major athletic events you see on the telly and my family told me I had to wave to the crowds as I was representing GB (and everyone else was doing it) so I reluctantly did it and there was a large roar from the crowd as there was a large GB presence at the games. It all seemed surreal.
As the gun went off I set off far too slow and got knocked as everyone headed for the inside lane and I ended up at the back but by the time I got to the 200m mark I just gritted my teeth (the pain in my foot was unbearable)and I managed to pass 5 women to finish in 7th place. I was so happy to have managed to get to a world’s final and finish the race. I was disappointed with my time and know I could have done better but just how many others throughout the ages have said the same. You’re only as good as you are on the day. The important thing was that I enjoyed the experience –it was wonderful and I look forward to going to Denmark in 2 year’s time to give it another go. Unfortunately it is in Perth, Australia next year which is a little too far.