European Masters Championships report

European Masters Championships report

After a good National Championships and a solid summer of training I headed for my 2nd Major Championships of the year the European Master Track & Field in the lovely city of Aarhus in Northern Denmark. Usually these championships are held in parts of Europe which are very hot at this time of year so it was to be heading to an area with very similar temperatures to Ireland.

With all my endurance training having gone well I fine tuned my preparations with some fast sessions in ALSAA. My last fast session included a 300m in 45 seconds & a 200m in 27 seconds so that indicated I was in shape to run sub 60 seconds for 400m & a fast 800m as well. I was now ready for some fast running in Denmark. Having been to a number of previous European Championships over the last number of years & having failed to get out of my Heats I knew the extremely high standard I was facing at these championships. The standard in Europe is probably the highest standard of any area in the world when you include Germany, UK, France, Italy & Poland who are usually at the top of the pile in almost every event.

The UK alone had 300 competitors in their team but it was great to see Ireland with their biggest ever team of 60 Athletes. The Irish team had competitors in almost every 800m event men,s & women, s  from 35 age group right up to 60 age group and the same in the 1500m,s.

There were 40 countries competing which is the highest number ever and 3.900 athletes competed.

The standard was the highest ever seen at a European Master, s Championships with some fantastic times recorded in many of the finals including some European & World records set.

An example of this showed in some of the times run for the various age groups & enclosed is a small sample of these times. M75 400m winner 68seconds, M60 400m winner 56.47 sec, M55 400m winner 55.18 sec,M45 400m winner 51.48 sec. M45 200m winner 23.24 sec. M45 800m winner 2min.02ec, M55 800m winner 2min.06sec, M50 800m winner 2min.07 sec, In the men,s 050 800m we had the extraordinary sight of 10 athletes coming down the finishing straight fighting for 3 medals with the winner running 2min 7sec & 10th running 2min 10 sec. Irishman Cathal Mcloughlin from Derry was in the middle of the pack but  no way through as a few runner fell just before the line.

My first event was the 400m with a tough schedule of heats at 10am in the morning & the semi- final the same evening at 6 pm with the final scheduled for the following day. If I made the 400m final I would then be running the 800m heats the following morning with the semi- final the day after & the final on the following day again. This is what makes Championship racing at International  level so difficult.

Running in heat 4 of the 400m I ran well  , doing enough to qualify finishing 4th  in 61.8 seconds and qualifying for the final.  I felt that I would need to run 59sec to make the final and so it proved as having another solid run for 7th in 61.1 seconds was not enough to make the final. In a one off race I was in shape to run 59sec but not two races at that level on the same day. It would have been bonus making the 400m final as most of my training had been geared towards the 800m and this gave me a days rest before I tackled the heats of the 800m.

I had an interesting battle in both my heat & semi final with Roberto Aguirrebenfoa from Spain who won the bronze medal at the world championships in Daegu. This was the race I withdrew from to make up the team for the m45 half marathon. In both these races he finished one place in front of me with less than a second separating us but such was the level of competition here that he failed to make the final despite running under 60sec  in the semi final.

Despite all the months of preparation & training you never know until you step on the track how a major championships will go with so many other factor to consider like sleep patterns ( I only managed 4 hours sleep a night in South Korea) food, transport, managing your down time as suddenly you have free days and coming from working full time, family & training this can be strange. Some people can get it very wrong by doing extra training or something unusual as maybe a swim or too long on your feet sight seeing.

I felt I had done enough preparation to progress to the final all going well, 40 athletes being entered in my category. On checking the heats I was drawn in heat one of 4. Usually the 1st heat in these events are run slightly slower in most major championships so with only 2 to qualify automatically & 4 fastest looser, s to go through to the final (the semi -final day had been scrapped) I would have to be in the top 2 to guarantee a place in the final.

As the race unfolded I tucked in behind the leaders and with 200m to go and still feeling comfortable I moved up to the leaders shoulder and as the pace increased rapidly we pulled clear of the rest of the field with the Swedish runner 1st & me 2nd and a place guaranteed in the final with my fastest time outdoors this year of 2min 19sec. I was absolutely delighted to have made my first European final & felt I had still a bit in reserve when finishing and with all the other heats won in slightly faster but similar times I felt I would be in with a medal chance in the final.

A days rest before the final and the key was to conserve as much energy as possible. This can sometime be problem with all the free time so for me I get to catch up on some reading. All the 800m are held on the same evening so there is a feast of racing for the spectators with approx. 8 men, s finals & 8 women, s finals.

I had the privilege of having the  M55 800m world record holder from Germany Peter Oberliessen in my race with a  best time of 2min 02 sec so I knew the pace would be fast. With the German going through the first 400m in a very fast 64sec and myself in 4th in 65sec this was the fastest opening lap of all 800m except the mens 35 race.  The pace told as I tried to stay with the leaders on the back straight but with 200m to go I could not sustain the pace and suddenly the leaders were away and gone was any hope of a medal. I felt frustrated but of course did not realise how fast we were  all running and pushing hard down the finishing straight I  finished slightly disappointed until I saw the times we had all run. The Germany winning in 2.09 with the winner of my heat 2nd in 2min 11 sec and I finished in 8th with my fastest time in 8 years & 2nd fastest time ever as a master in 2min 17sec. I felt this was a brilliant way to finish my year and everything had gone as well as possible. My fear going into the final that its always possible to run badly after so many races and that I would be letting people down so this was great to be able to perform in a major final.

The following day I was part of the 0 50 4x 400m relay squad and though  I was slightly disappointed that I  didn’t get picked to run  we had an exciting evening as the  lads won a brilliant team bronze medal . I was thrilled for 3 of the  guys winning their 1st ever International medal which is always a very special moment. After some great celebrations in the stadium by the team we headed into Aarhus for a meal & some celebrations which included some vino.

For me Denmark crowned my most successful year ever as a master making 3 major final , World 800m indoor 5th, World indoor 400m 6th and European 800m outdoors 8th. Having also got a World Gold (cross Country) Word Silver (4x200m relay) World Bronze (half marathon) ,five All Ireland track medal ,s including 400m outdoor a & Indoor gold and a European relay medal.

People have asked me about Daegu and I describe it as in life most athletes hope they will have a dream race or dream week of competition . I had that dream week in Daegu from the brilliant opening ceremony with an almost packed stadium cheering & waving as we paraded around the track we felt so proud s we walked around the track representing our  country.

To win Irelands first gold medal of the Championships on the first day & to the dream anyone representing their country to stand on a podium listening to Amhran an bhFiann being played as World Champions , to running 6 races in 6 days  from distances of 200m up to half marathon . the deliberations of having qualified for the 400m final and the decision to withdraw as I was needed to make up the O45 half marathon team. Ian Egan had travelled out from Tuam and had no team for  the Cross Country so if I decide to run the 400m final they had no team & no chance of a medal. If I pick out two highlights from my year this decision is one of them as it was so difficult but in turn it was great as we picked up team bronze medals & Ian had his 1st international medal to take home. That moment for any athlete representing his country is very special. My second highlight is running that time in the 800m in the European final with the exception of the World medals won & finishing on the last day of the World championships with relay silver.

I had that dream week.

I feel privileged to represent my Club, County & Country at these Championships. I also feel lucky to be able to train and race at this level but it does take a lot of commitment and hard work. The Irish masters teams were brilliant and what a successful year with 23 athletes in Daegu winning 28 medals and 16 more medals won at the Europeans.

Thanks to all the support from the club during the year and especially Keith Eglington & Con McCormack  who kept in constant contact with me while in Daegu, South Korea, Donal Cashin who kept my legs right all year from injury ,s  , my coach Robert Denmead and of course all my family.


We all dream on for next year


Categories: Senior News & Reports

About Author