Disciplines: 5km/10km road, 800m/1500m track, Duathlon (bike,run,bike).
Years competing in Masters: 2 years
Age group: 70-74
My first serious event was in 2018 at the age of 70, although I have been running since I was 55 when I was living in America. There was rarely anyone in my age category in the few events I entered back then, but when I returned to the UK in 2018, I specifically chose to enter Master’s events as there were lots to choose from in UK.
My greatest fear when I started was that I might trip people up in the narrow lanes on the track since I was used to road racing. But once I’d survived that first event I just loved the fact that there was stiff competition and lots of people competing.
My best performance, in terms of times, was when I was 65 and I did a 5km in 20:40. My proudest moment though, was winning the world Duathlon title in my 70th year. Now that was a phenomenal experience!
There have also been times when I’ve just been proud of myself for finishing and they are just as important, like the time I did a triathlon for my 65th birthday! I’d never swum in a wetsuit, I had to hire a bike, it was cold, and I was frightened. At the end of the swim I was tired and stiff and it took me seven minutes to get my wetsuit off. But, as I struggled, there was a family cheering me on at the transition. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me, but they were so supportive and it had an enormous impact on me. I look back with tremendous joy that I finished that event and it was in part due to that family.
Where it all began:
I had moved to America and at the same time just been diagnosed with Bronchiectasis. My then husband suggested that I should start running, I didn’t like the idea, but once I started I began to quite enjoy it. I was doing it for one reason - to improve my health, but my husband encouraged me to enter a race. It was cross country and it nearly ended in divorce because he was telling me to warm-up and I had no idea what to do! It was ridiculous. I was terrified. But I was very lucky, I pottered around and came 2nd in my age group, 55-59, met a lot of lovely people and that was that!
My Bronchiectasis doesn’t seem to have got any worse, so I presume it is helping. Running means I breathe deeply which clears my lungs and helps get them going. I spoke with my consultants at the time and my GP here is very supportive.
Getting started in Masters competitions:
I entered a masters 5km in 2015 on a visit back to the UK. It was just for fun but I really loved the it, so when I moved back to the UK three years later I decided to enter lots of different events. It was quite difficult to find out much information really, so I joined Bristol and West athletics club with a view to trying track running. Here I met amongst others, Chris Elson who taught me how to run on the track. I love being part of the club because it’s so intergenerational and everyone is so supportive of each other. It gave me the confidence to enter the Malaga World Masters event in 2018 before I had even thought about it really. That’s were I met Alex and a whole new community.
Training or racing:
Racing, I love the buzz and sense of occasion, and the cameraderie
Summer or winter:
Summer definitely; the winter is cold on my lungs so I love warm weather.
Outdoors or indoors:
Outdoors, I find the indoors hard on lungs too, I think it’s something to do with the dry air!
I have to have a plan, and if I have a plan, I have to stick to it. If I don’t have a plan then things fall by the wayside. If I don’t feel like going training, I say to myself “come on, let’s go out and do a mile, just jog”, and that gets me out of the door. Once I’m out of the door it’s ok and I generally end up going six miles, sometimes a bit less, sometimes more.
I do have a fear of failure and It’s not getting any easier to manage. When I first competed there were no expectations, everything was a PB because it was all-new, I was nervous, but not about the actual running. Now though, I’ve set standards and I put more pressure on myself with regards to times and performances. So, every now and again I just have to drop back and say to myself, “this is just a running race, it’s not important” and it isn’t; in life it’s really not important how I do.
Angela Copson and Penny Forse [two distance runners in Anne’s age group].They are just supreme athletes. They inspire me because they are so good, but they got where they are because they work so hard and I really admire that. They are both lovely people too!
Back in America there is an amazing woman called Willy Moolenaar, who’s in her 80’s now. She’s a leukemia and Graves Disease survivor who competes in triathlons. She encouraged me to give it a go. I really admire her because
she just gets on with it, no fuss. I would never have done a triathlon if it wasn’t for her; she’s just utterly amazing.
My dear friend, Sue. She was the most determined, sassy lady and, had she been well, we would have been fierce age group rivals. I am pretty certain she would have had the beating of me. When I met her she had been suffering from uterine cancer for some time. We used to run together once a week if she was well enough. She would apologise to me for being so slow when she was trying to keep away from the pain! I would have been curled up at home in her situation. I used to help arrange a race to raise money to provide facilities for the newly visually impaired. Sprint for Sight. This was Sue’s last race and at the end we had to get her a chair she was so exhausted. Inspiration…absolutely…but also a driving force. If ever I am feeling like I want to slow down or give in because it is too hard, I hear Sue sitting on my shoulder shouting in my ear…Put your Big girl pants on and do it! And I have to push on.
I love being part of a team, that’s one of my main motivators. I also feel the joy of going to an event, especially if it’s an international masters event, because you’re representing your country alongside your friends and teammates and you’re all supporting each other.
It’s the same when I’m running for Bristol and West because if I am representing the team it’s way different to if I’m just running for myself. It’s just much, much better, I can’t really describe it.
I cant imagine my life without athletics. My life has been altered immeasurably by being involved, whether that’s international competition or parkrun (which I adore). I just think we are so lucky these days that we can carry on doing whatever we want. Plus it’s just such a great way to meet people. When I moved to Bristol I didn’t know anyone, and though it’s a friendly place, still most of the people I know now, I met through running.
Internationally, I’m hoping to compete in the World Duathlon Champs in September and if not this year, then maybe next year. To become the world champion again is a big ask because I’m getting older in my age-group, but I just want to give it a go again, it’s such a great experience.
I’d also love to compete at another World Athletics event, because it’s just an amazing experience and long term I’ve got to do a better parkrun time at my local event!