More on Master’s Athletics

Author: Neal Mason (formerly Willson)

Continuing from his previous article Neal wrote, he wanted to mention other thoughts over fifty years from the sport.

The first shows my age. Young athletes don’t seem to be taught track and field manners now – in fact, I’ve even seen coaches wander blithely across run-ups as jumpers begin their approach. Maybe they’re all on drugs nowadays; after all, so many athletes are caught cheating, we don’t know whether ‘the highest they’ve reached this season’ refers to a PB or a chemical trip.

When I was young, we were fairly certain the East Europeans were world-class dopers etc. and there were rumours the Russian throwers, Irena and Tamara Press, were men, which might have been true – or half true. But I never heard similar rumours about British athletes. The British were amateurs on steroids (metaphorically speaking) who had full-time jobs that meant they trained in their spare time, often improvising – e.g. Don Thompson, Olympic gold medalist, filled his bathroom with steam and trained in it to get used to humidity. The worst breech I heard of that needled (metaphorically again) some people was that a few English athletes had competed in Scotland – events had a suspicious number of entrants named ‘Smith’ – and won a few pounds. This wasn’t allowed. You could win prizes – I remember winning crystal cut glass at an invitation meeting, for instance – but not money: that was a banned substance. When you represented the national team, travel and expenses were paid, but you certainly wouldn’t be in pocket.

Having mixed with masters athletes for the past couple of years, it seems to me their attitude is reminiscent of the athletics of years ago. No-one does it full-time or for money or would even think of cheating. So why, when other events are so dubious, including para athletics, doesn’t masters’ athletics get more coverage? Standards are high, organisation is fairly good and competitions are conducted in a spirit that recalls Roger Bannister, Robbie Brightwell, Ann Packer etc. Money has corrupted most sports, but not Master’s athletics.

If we can publicise these things by alerting our local TV and papers, and through our websites and social media, the public might show increased interest. I, for one, am prepared to put a free ad on my website, although it’s not aimed at the ideal target audience, if the BMAF wants to do this. Maybe others will want to take up this idea too.

Neal Mason (