British and Irish Masters XC International Championships – Dublin
I am lucky enough to have been selected for a few of these annual races, and always look forward as much to the social part of the weekend (catching up with the runners who regularly race these Internationals) as to the race itself.
Athletes are represented in 5-year age groups, eg. 35-39, 40-44 up to the last one 75-79 (although there’s talk of an 80+ group being created.) One of our Fife runners was 82 and he ran for the 75+ team, winning a team silver medal for his efforts.
Each age group has a team of 4 with the best 3 results counting for team medals (the 4th team member gets a medal as part of that).
This year Dublin welcomed us with better weather than 7 years ago when it was monsoon weather. The venue, Santry Park, has no changing facilities etc so after a bus ride from the hotel to the park, each country found a place to stash bags etc. It reminded me of club XC days before tents were de rigeur and we would find a tree, if we were lucky, to shelter under. On Saturday the Scottish contingent claimed a big old oak tree to tie our flags to and change under.
The course was a relatively flat one but with enough twists and turns to keep the interest up. It was a 1500m loop so the women had 4 laps, and the men 4 laps plus 2x 1k loops. They divide it up into 4 races depending on age/gender and us oldest folks were the first to race, a relatively small number of about 120. So suddenly we knew what it felt like to be at the front of a XC start line… however, there were no elbows out or jostling as far as I could see!
Despite it being 4 laps, the race seemed to fly by, and it was great to be able to hear the commentator each time we approached and passed the start/finish area as he was on top of names, age group and country. It allowed us to know who was in front or just behind, and the support from watching runners gave us all a boost. I was delighted that in our age group Scotland came 2ndand 3rd with a 6th place close behind, securing a gold team medal and an individual bronze for myself – a first time for both.
Scotland had some great placings, especially given the relative smallness of our nation compared to England. One outstanding result was for the 70+ men who had a clean sweep of the board, Tony Martin (Fife AC) leading the men into the top 4 places, a first ever, with the 3 individual medals as well as the team gold going to Scotland. The overall placing for the Scottish women was 2nd (tying with England) and for the men 3rd, with the host country producing the best results for both men and women.
Normally we have a very atmospheric prizegiving and meal on the Saturday evening but what was otherwise a great weekend was marred slightly by the fact that there was no large function suite to accommodate us this year and we were divided into 5 rooms to be fed and for the prizegiving. The meal was extremely good but the difficulty in presenting prizes to people spread across the hotel, along with some IT issues with the big screen(s) in each room, took away from the normal atmosphere of loud cheering and phototaking, etc.
Next year Glasgow will be hosting, so a great chance for all you keen runners of 35+ plus! You need to become a member of SVHC (Scottish Veteran Harrriers Club) as they are the ones who organise all the teams; a selection race is held in September in Glasgow; and they also use your general race results from the previous 12 months. If you’re tempted, have a chat with me. There’s also an open race for anyone of masters age. (Note: Scotland is the only country that starts its masters age categories with 40+ for home-organised events such as Scottish XC Masters Championships – the other 4 nations start at 35).
The camaraderie of these events is great and instead of running against other Scots as in most races, you’re running with them or cheering the other age teams along. And as a few other Carnegie Harriers know, getting to represent your country and wear a Scottish vest is something very, very special.
Photos courtesy of Pete Bracegirdle and Paul Reilly