I was just about 50 when I first discovered “Veterans Athletics”, as it was then known, and being a lover of running and athletics I was astonished that I had never heard of it before.
Admittedly I had retired from senior level around age 31/32-ish, when I started dropping down the field. Vets was already established in this and other countries, but I had no idea.
The truly international side as it is now had not started at that time, the first World Championship was in Toronto 1972 with just a handful of countries (compared to now) participating, and I still had no idea — in fact, it was by pure chance that I heard about it.
A friend at a dinner party, knowing that I liked to keep fit by going for a run (apart from football) mentioned that a relative of hers had won a silver medal in what she called “The Old People’s Olympics” in Canada, that intrigued me, it then sort of slipped to the back of mind, but I could not resist trying to find out more.
I went along to my old Club, Enfield Harriers as was, to make some enquiries, not expecting to see anyone I knew after many years, to my surprise there were quite a few, some coaching, some training, but no sprinters.
I met up with the Club Secretary, whom I remember as a young sprinter/hurdler, who in turn remembered me, and advised me, yes indeed there actually was older people’s athletics, “Veteran Athletics” and it got better and better when he told me about National Outdoor and Indoor Championships. He mentioned that a 50-year-old from Barnet AC was a European Champion, but “how could that be?” I said, not at 50, to which he replied, “no it’s European Vets, and it is in 5 year age brackets”. Wow !! this is too good to be true, and when he told me there was also a World Championships and get this – ANYONE – can enter… I was a young man again, my schoolboy dream of being an Olympian could come true.
And that is how it started for me.
The images are taken (with permission) from Tom Phillips’ archive, specifically from records of World Championships in Malaga in 2018, Riccione in 2007, and the World Indoors in Clermont-Ferrand in 2008