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By Peter Giles

When athletes reach the age of 35, they become ‘masters’ or veterans’. Until about fifteen years ago, it used to be 40 for men and 35 for women. Many athletes, including myself, think that 35 is too young to be a ‘veteran’.

For instance, Haile Gebrselassie’s M35 10,000m all-time record is 26:51:20, and F35 Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran 100m in 10:62 in August 2022 (faster than you can say her name!).

The master athlete categories run in five year age groups. Hence 35 - 39, 40 - 44 etc.

It is not necessary to belong to an athletics club to take part in most races / competitions. However, being part of a running club and having a licence number (issued by the EMAA) will save you £2 (usually) off race entrance fees.

Then there are ten area masters / veterans clubs, the oldest of which is the Veterans Athletic Club which was established in 1931. You will need to belong to one of these clubs (as well as, or instead of, your local running club). In order to compete in national or international events, as only these area clubs are affiliated to the British Masters Athletic Federation.

There are no qualifying standards for taking part in national (BMAF) or even international events, where you will represent Great Britain. However, in order to run for England (organised by the English Masters Athletic Association), you will need to qualify. The EMAA organises a Five Nations International Cross Country race between England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland which takes place in November each year. You must finish in the top six in your age group (35 - 59), or the top four (60 - 75) athletes at a qualifying cross country race held in October.

I have represented England ten times since 2004 and managed to win the Five Nations Cross Country against the other nineteen competitors in my age group (five teams of four runners) on three occasions.

In recent times, the EMAA has also allowed master athletes the chance to represent England in annual 10k, half-marathon and marathon road races. Again, there are qualifying races for the team places.

So there are plenty of opportunities for those athletes who want to compete against other masters at domestic, national and international levels.

Peter (in the lead) competing in the World Masters Championships in Lyon, France in 2015.


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