SIX medals came the way of the five Stratford Athletic Club runners who competed at the British Masters Championships at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium.
More than 800 athletes took full advantage of the stadium’s facilities prior to its reconstruction ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the championships also gave many of the competitors the chance to fine-tune prior to the World Masters Championships in Malaga between September 4-16.
The two days proved hugely successful for the SAC contingent who won five silvers and a bronze medal between them.
Phil Brennan and David Jones had an early start, with their M75 and M65 1,500m races taking place at 9.30am and 9.40am respectively on the opening day.
For Brennan, one of two SAC members due to compete in Malaga, the championships got off to a flying start as he claimed the silver medal in a time of 6:11.06.
He was up against the formidable opposition of Victor Shirley, whose winning time was 5:51.61. Shirley is comfortably the country’s leading M75 middle-distance track athlete and currently has a UK No 1 ranking in the 800m, 1,500m, mile, 3,000m, 5,000m and parkrun. He is also the all-time No 1 ranked mile runner in the M75 age category.
Brennan is currently ranked third in his age category for the 1,500m and his silver medal-winning performance saw him finish some ten seconds ahead of the third-placed runner.
Jones had a less successful time in his M65 1,500m race, finishing seventh in 6:00.17. He was less concerned about his slower-than-hoped-for time than he was at running, what he felt, was a tactically poor race.
However, having not been able to run for eight months recently due to injury, he was just delighted to be competing again.
Paul Hawkins, the second of the Stratford athletes planning to compete in Malaga, claimed a silver medal in the M60 3,000m race walk. Apart from his delight at picking up a medal, Hawkins was also pleased to post a big 47-second PB and claim a club record with a time of 18:20.26. Having been aiming for a sub-19-minute PB, he exceeded his expectations.
Ian Torode won the race in a PB of 18:08.19. Hawkins also managed to finish some eight minutes ahead of the third-placed finisher.
Dave Battersby was the fourth Stratford athlete in action on the first day. He finished fifth in the M40 400m in a PB of 57.21, missing out on fourth place by just 0.2. Just 0.58 separated the first three finishers, led by Adam Bellis in 52.22.
Battersby revealed he enjoyed his first British Masters Championships and was inspired by seeing the older athletes. He is hopeful he will be able to get some training in over the winter and come back for more next year.
Competitors were greeted with heavy rain and cold and windy conditions on the second day of the championships but, as was the case on the first day, SAC’s first competitor of the day proved to be a silver medal winner.
Hawkins, competing in the 5,000m race walk, finished in 31:18.11 to set another PB and club record – exactly a minute quicker than his previous best.
“I was hoping for another PB/CR but thought it would be difficult because of the wet and windy weather, plus the fact I was still feeling the previous day’s race, although I was pretending not to!” said Hawkins.
“I needed 2:35 per lap to get a PB but did 2:23 for the first, then went steady at 2:30ish, but I was mainly trying to keep ahead of Ian Torode.
“Previously Ian had a PB of 31:55 and I had 32:18 so I knew it would be tough. He stuck with me until 500m to go when he went past and I couldn’t respond. He finished with 31:02.22 and I was 31:18.11.
“I’m very happy with two silvers, two PBs – by 47 seconds and 60 seconds – and two overall and M60 club records.”
Next up for SAC were Brennan and Jones in the M75 and M65 5,000m. The conditions were still wet and there was a noticeable headwind coming into the home straight.
Despite that, Brennan produced yet another assured performance to claim his second silver medal on successive days. His finishing time of 23:08.74 gave him a two-minute cushion over the third-placed runner. The race was won by Martin Ford in 20:56.73.
In the M65 race, Jones finished eighth in 22:26.10 and was only too happy to be competing again. The race was won by Bob Bradbury in 18:16.72.
Just two hours after completing the 5,000m, Brennan and Jones were down to compete in the 800m. Brennan duly collected his third medal of the championships, completing the race in 3:11.74 to claim the bronze medal to add to his two silver medals. The race was won by Victor Shirley in 2:51.95.
Jones was unsure as to if he would run the 800m. His legs were really heavy after the 5,000m two hours previous but, on hearing the runner who was likely to have picked up the silver medal had scratched, he convinced himself it was only a couple of laps.
He was totally vindicated when his time of 2:56.52 was sufficient to claim the silver medal. To say he was overjoyed would be an understatement. The race was won comfortably by Kevin Archer in 2:33.60.
In the M35 high jump, Andy Reeves was unfortunate to finish just outside the medals, finishing fourth with 1.55m, just 10cm off the bronze medal position. The event was won by Michael Barr with 1.80m.
Report compiled by David Jones.