David Watson BMAF 5k Bronze 2022David Watson BMAF 5k Bronze 2022

It is a delight to be able to update this story with the news that David took 6th place in Torun in the M65 3000m in the World Masters Athletics Championships Indoors

I think my reflection on my very first year in Masters Athletics took place on a specific day and date . I will never forget it . It was December 4th 2022 , and I was in Battersea Park having a moment of reflection before the start of the British Masters 5k Championships.I was 65 years old  I’d been a Master for less than a year and shivering at the start , but just to get  to the start was a story in itself .

I am not an experienced runner , I enjoyed running, but really only took it up as a way of staying fit , getting fresh air , and as a break from work . I have no background in athletics and my training consisted of going out of the door and running the local streets and paths of my home , and further afield as travel took me . I got quite excited when I created my powerof10 account and explored all the various parts of it . I came across Masters running years ago , but assumed that was for retired professional athletes and nothing to do with me . I concentrated on doing Parkruns and various road running adventures .

As time went on ,, my times steadily slowed , and although I kept running, life and pressures encroached and various operations slowed me down (though didn’t stop me ) including hernias , sepsis  and a colostomy . To be honest I was glad just to be able to keep going .

This all changed forever one Saturday in late September in 2021 . I was running and I got a serious pain in my arm , and jaw , and eventually had to stop . Short version of a long story is that I’d had a heart attack actually whilst running , and a spell in Liverpool Heart Hospital and a stent fitted confirmed it . Clearly just to survive was one thing , running was out of the question .  Or so I thought when I went through cardiac rehab and told my cardiologist how much I missed running . He looked at me and said ” Why did you stop ?”  . And so with his help I started back again , and it’s here that Masters came into my life .

My first “run” back was at Widnes Parkrun , the support was fantastic  (I told everyone !) and I managed to get round a 5k course in 35 minutes . Its still I think the bravest thing I ever did … but the heart stood up to it well . I was then ready to look at support networks , perhaps cardiac rehab runners when I came across the Masters races again . I looked wistfully at these races , and then suddenly realised that there were people happily running 5k’s in similar times to my Widnes effort and competing and enjoying running . The seed was sown . I actually went to watch a Masters 5k race and yes it was true , there were runners of my age and above competing but also enjoying and my 35 minute 5 k would be no impediment .

So that’s how I started . The prospect of running at similar level with similar runners excited me , and notwithstanding the heart attack , working with my cardiologist I actually started to do the things I needed to do to become a runner . I lost weight (40 pounds over 6 months steadily ) changed my diet totally , and started to train properly for someone of my age . And my 5k times came down and down . By the start of 2022 I was down to 27 minutes and the miracle kept on happening . I got under 25 minutes and it didn’t seem to end . I started entering Masters events , enjoyed it immensely , and progressed again . Come November things took on a slightly surreal turn … I was selected to run for Wales in the British and Irish Masters in Dublin . I couldn’t believe the year I’d had , and the confidence and happiness Masters running had done for me . I can truly say it has changed my life.

So now back to that 4th December freezing day . There were some great M65 runners there but here I was , a bloke from Warrington recovering from a heart attack ,and I was there holding my own in the pack . I hoped to come mid division , but it really didn’t matter if I was last runner home ; I was here , alive and grateful to be so . The race itself was the hardest I’ve run , the pace for me and fellow M65’s was very high from the start and the leaders duly pulled away from me . But I hung on to the pack and rather incredibly at the 4k mark I was still somehow in 3rd place . That last kilometer was the longest hardest run I have ever done . I was tiring and there were competitors just behind me ; but I kept thinking of the incredible journey I was on and just hung on and hung on . And got there!  In 19 min 51 sec. The most amazing wonderful fantastic feeling in the world to get a Bronze Medal at the Masters 5k Championships . I confess broke down in tears at the finish , sobbing pretty much uncontrollably,  but  composing myself after the presentation is the photo you see attached .  Cheesy ? Yes maybe ,but quite honestly I don’t care!  My fellow Master runners were fantastic , the occasion was amazing .

And that to me , is my story of Masters Athletics , getting into it and enjoying it !