WHEN SHOULD YOU RETIRE FROM ATHLETICS?
It was the recent announcement of the death at the age of 82 of Chris Chataway, who paced Bannister to break the four minute mile, that made me think about when one should give up running, writes Richard Pitcairn-Knowles. The answer is, never if you can avoid injury or illness and have the will to keep at it. The point of this little article is to remind everyone to keep training and avoid injury. If you can keep to the times you set at age thirty, and even beat them at forty, there is no knowing what you might achieve if you can stave off the slowing down with age.
In 1998, warmed up and ready to compete in the M65+ 1 mile at a Veterans Athletic Club meeting at the Battersea Park Track, we competitors were just slightly upset when told we would have to wait while the M80 mile race took place separately. When you are sixty-five, eighty sounds very old. Bit of a freak show, we thought, and why do they do it, surely time to give up racing. From the gun the field of four M80s soon split into two ‘groups’, with a great battle for first and second followed by a slower battle for third and fourth. At the finish the waiting athletes cheered, realising how a serious but friendly competitive spirit can live on. Then it was my turn to compete, finishing about fifth in 5.51.1.
It was a week or two later at the Kingsmeadow Track VAC Championships that I came up against Chris Chataway in another 1500m and the adrenaline flowed for a gold medal 5.19.9. finish and a WAVA score of 84.8%. I was surprised to find him second to me, after I had started too fast in his opinion! Fifteen years later, failing to fight the slow-down, I have added over two minutes to that time - when you are eighty, although you feel twenty-one, you come to realise how slow eighty is, but it is still fun if not a pleasure!
On my eightieth birthday I decided that in 2013 I would set M80 club times, as none existed, at all the distances I could manage, so as to give members something to aim at in the long term. Were the 3000m and relay 4x200m silver medals worth it when I overdid racing in spikes at 200m, 400m, 800m at the European Masters Indoor Championships at San Sebastian in March and suffered all summer with Achilles tendonitis? For months I jogged only Park Runs, without any other training, just to achieve my black 100 runs T-shirt! You see, there is always something to aim at, however lowly. I failed to cover the 10k road and 10,000m track races but did all the other main distances from 100m to marathon, and this year I hope to record times in a 1 mile, 10k and 10,000m, plus maybe a 60m! I could manage only quite soft times with lowly WAVA scores, so when you reach eighty and beat these times – that is what records are for – to be broken – you will realise that it was a good idea not to give up just because you could not run as fast at seventy as you did at fifty.
The M80 times eventually within your reach are:
Distance Date Venue Time WAVA
100m track 22.09.13 Erith 19.90 71.4%
200m 21.09.13 Erith 43.17 70.4%
200m indoors 22.03.13 San Sebastian 43.28 70.2%
400m 25.08.13 Battersea Track 1:51.95 63.4%
400m indoors 24.02.13 Lee Valley 1:34.90 74.8%
800m 21.09.13 Erith 4:03.58 66.9%
800m indoors 22.03.13 San Sebastian 4:11.48 64.8%
1500m 22.09.13 Erith 8:16.08 67.6%
3000m indoors 24.02.13 Lee Valley 16:09.23 74.0%
5000m 15.09.13 Birmingham BMAF 29:39.96 69.3%
5K Road 25.01.13 Hyde Park 28:16 74.4%
5K Park Run 12.01.13 Orpington 27:25 76.7%
5 Miles 18.06.13 Battersea Park 56:50 61.2%
10Miles 17.02.13 Poole BMAF 1:46:44 67.3%
Half Marathon 10.02.13 Deal 2:23:12 66.6%
Marathon 21.04.13 London 6:31:30 51.2%