Veteran running events and competing
Rivalry at veterans' events can be just as intense as in senior competition - though most veteran athletes realise it's just one part of life!
As with senior athletics, there are a variety of challenges open to veteran competitors. Although there is often fierce rivalry, and not just at the top levels, there is generally a more relaxed approach. Yes, people are very proud of their achievements and medals, but also realise that it's only one part of life.
UK events are popular, particularly in the younger categories, and international competition, open to all who can travel to the event, is a great experience. Well organised vet-only events provide an age indicator number to be worn on the back of the running singlet. You still have to be close enough to read it though!
One of the things you will notice when competing at veteran events is that at all levels, veteran athletics is generally organised by people who are still competing in their chosen activity. So you can expect to be officiated by a person who understands your particular event and problems.
in the UK we have Single-Age Bests at these distances, which chart the best known marks at any particular age for men and women
There are carefully kept records at UK, European and World levels for all the standard track and field events and 'Best Performances' are recognised at 10km, 10m, Half Marathon and Marathon. Normally these are recorded in five-year age bands, but in the UK we also have Single-Age Bests at these distances, which chart the best known marks at any particular age for men and women.
Most veterans clubs organise their own cross country, road and track & field championships, with awards usually available for the first three in each five year age group, and team competitions also. It is a feature of veteran athletics that, for instance, an older athlete can step down age groups to complete a team of younger aged vets.
At UK level there are similar championships open to all veterans, even if they are not members of area associations - you just pay a surcharge on the entry fee. Each winter there is a Home Countries and Ireland Cross Country International event which is keenly contested, and team places are hard to earn. In athletics there is an annual Inter-Area match and road runners can also take part in Inter-Area competition.
Taking part in European and World Championships is a great experience. You may be fighting for a very minor place with someone from a different continent, but you will find that at the finish a smile broaches all barriers, and it is surprising how you can get by in sign, pidgin or simple body language. Unlike some competitions, all runners in the track events are allowed to finish the distance, even if their times are very modest. In all events the younger age-groups are well populated with entrants and the short distance races have heats and finals.
However, over 5000m (5km) and 10,000m (10km) there is a different process. Runners are asked to declare their likely finishing time and are then allocated to a race, in their age group, which would suit them. Below M60, for instance, there might be three races over 5000m or 10,000m, graded as to supposed ability. It may be that the winner of the second race was faster than a 'first three finisher' in the first race. So, the medals are awarded on times, not positions.