The WMRA-WMA Masters Mountain Running Championships were staged in Janske Lazne, Czech Republic, on Saturday, August 31, with USA’s Tommy Manning running the fastest time of the day, 37:44, on the mostly uphill 8.6-kilometer course, nearly 3 minutes ahead of the next finisher.
Manning, a school teacher from Colorado Springs, CO, and three-time member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team, earned the gold medal in the 35-39 age group. At the event, masters competition starts at age 35 with the oldest participants at 79 years of age. Each of the respective five year age categories starts separately making it a “race within a race,” for age-group individual and team medals.
Among the medals awarded on the day, U.S. athletes won three. Manning’s gold, a bronze for Nancy Hobbs, Colorado Springs, CO, who placed third in the 50-54 age category, and a silver team medal for the men’s age group 45-49 with New Englanders Francis Burdett, Tim Van Orden, and Dave Dunham finishing with 23 points, just two points out of the gold medal.
In order to score in the team competition, there must be at least three athletes from the country to score in the contested age group with the finish position of the three determining the score.
There were 95 medals awarded in the competition with 13 different countries earning podium spots, and 23 different countries represented among the nearly 500 entrants. Germany led the medal count with 28, while the host country finished the day with 22, followed by Italy with 12.
The competitors treat this event very seriously, some training all year for a chance at a podium position, many coming back year after year to defend their title from the previous year. There is no question that every athlete has a story including gold medalist in the 70-74 age group, Martin Ford, Great Britain, who represented the Cheltenham & County Harries.
“I didn’t start running until the mid-80s. I played competitive field hockey for years, but I wasn’t a runner,” said Ford. “There was a corporate division in a half marathon, and our company decided to participate. A group of us went out to run 13 miles and everyone, but me and another co-worker, dropped out after a few miles. I ran one hour 30 minutes and thought that was pretty good.”
Ford has gone on to achieve great results since then and as recent as October 2012, ran 1:26:02 in a half marathon beating many runners his junior. He can still run under 20 minutes for the 5K, and recently ran 38 minutes for 10K.
“The race today exceeded my expectations,” said Ford with a beaming smile, “I got into good position in the first few kilometers, but I did have to walk a few steps on the climb. The really steep section of grass on the ski area was really tough. Overall, it was a good course for me.”
Ford beat Peter Lessing, Germany, to the finish line by just three seconds posting a time of 54:47 to Lessing’s 54:50. In third place, Bruno Innocente, Italy, was not far behind in 55:01.
Ford is already planning to race at next year’s championships which will be held on September 6, 2014, in Telfes, Austria.
Complete results from this year’s championships are available at this link.