Articles

WHEN SHOULD YOU RETIRE FROM ATHLETICS?

RPK at Avery Hill Dec 2013

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%
1 Mile 
3000m indoors      24.02.13    Lee Valley                16:09.23    74.0%
5000m                 15.09.13    Birmingham BMAF      29:39.96    69.3%
10000m       
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%
10K
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%