Hop, jump and run – age no bar

Over 3500 participants in the age group of 35 - 80 participated in the recently concluded Masters event. Advancing age does not mean no fun for these athletes.

Benglauru hosted the 33rd National Masters Athletic Championship from the 23rd – 26th February 2012 at the Kanteerava stadium.

Pic: Anju K P

For the uninitiated, the Masters meet is for people aged 35 or above. At this meet, there were 10 age categories (for 5 years each) ranging from the 35-39 group to the 80 and above group. There could be more categories in the future with increasing life expectancy in line with global trends. The meet is organised by the Masters Athletics Federation of India (MAFI), which is the nodal body for the organization of events for athletes in the masters category.

There were over 30 track and field events on each day, starting with the 5km walk on the first day and ending with the relays on the last day for each of the 10 categories, making it a daunting organizational exercise across 4 days. The track events included the 5 km walk, hurdles (80m, 100m, 110m, 200m, 300m and 400m), middle distance events (800m, 1500m), long distance events (5000m and 10000m), the sprint events (100m, 200m, 4*100 Relay and 4*400 Relay) and the Steeple chase. The field events included the javelin, shot put, hammer throw, discus, high jump, long jump, triple jump and the pole vault.

Pic: Anju K P

According to MAFI, there were around 3500 participants from 28 states. While some of the participants from states such as Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Haryana were supported by their states through their respective Masters athletic associations in the form of kits as well as either partial or full funding of expenses for travel, the host state’s athletes were largely supporting themselves. All athletes were accommodated by MAFI, although some participants chose to make their own arrangements for food and accommodation.

The event had a budget of around Rs. 12-14 lakh, a majority of which came from participants who paid a nominal entry fee of Rs. 300. Some sponsors provided support in kind, by providing water and food although as per MAFI there are others who have similar individual commitments of various amounts. The Karnataka state government has also made a commitment towards providing three lakh rupees towards the event.

All participants were given participation certificates and winners got an additional certificate along with their medals.

Who can qualify?
Typically, the top two athletes in each discipline at the state level Masters meets are eligible to represent their state at the national meet. The Karnataka Masters state meet was held between 7th and 8th January, 2012 at Mandya.

Age no deterrent

Most participants, especially in the age groups beyond 50 and in the track events, were not necessarily athletes in their youth, most of them had trained for their events. By nature of the events, the field events involving jumps (high jump, long jump, triple jump) as well as throwing events (shot put, discuss, hammer) are not easy for beginners to pick up. The track events which involve running (except hurdles) are perhaps much easier for a beginner to pick up.

This writer caught up with two participants at the meet, one of whom is a relative newcomer to athletic events. The two athletes couldn’t have been more different as you will learn from their profiles.

Running for 40 years

C Selvaraj from Tamil Nadu won the gold medal in the 5000 and 10000m events in the 60-64 age category. He is 61 years old and has been attending the national meet for over 20 years now. He retired as an employee of the Indian Ordinance Factory a few years ago. He has been a national level athlete in the 1500, 5000 and 10000m events in his youth. He has even run in the Pune marathon almost 20 years ago.

Pic: Anju K P

Selvaraj has been running for over 40 years now. He begins his training about three months before the event, although he runs nearly every day of the week in the hills of Ooty, where he resides, pausing to rest only when the weather is not favourable. He has been victorious several times in the past at the National and Asian Masters meets but he has never been to the World Masters primarily because it is too expensive to travel abroad.

His dominant performances in the 10000m where he won by almost 2 laps and the 5000m where he won by almost 3/4th of a lap as well as his graceful running form, are testimony to his fitness and dedication to training.

He started running after 65

T D Rajendran, also from Tamil Nadu, took the 4th place in the 5000m in the 75-79 age category. He is 76 years old and this is his maiden appearance at the National Masters meet. He was placed in the top two in the 1500m and 5000m events in the state of Tamil Nadu to get to this event.

Citizen Matters had caught up with Reeth Abraham before her participation at the Master’s event. She won the gold in Javelin and silver in Triple jump.

Rajendran runs his own business of exporting medicinal herbs in Sivakasi. He began walking and running only about 3-4 years ago, to improve his health in general. He walks or runs every alternate day for about 10 km and exercises at home 3 days a week when he is not walking or running.

Being quite new to running, he was quite eager to learn about how to improve his speed as well as resolve issues with shoe-selection, which had led him to run barefoot in his events.

Both the above athletes were striking in their humility and should be an inspiration for the rest of us.

Tamil Nadu tops medal tally

Tamil Nadu emerged as the best performing state accumulating the highest number of points across the four day meet. Now the athletes move onto the Asian Masters Championship in Taipei in November 2012 and then the World Masters Championships in Brazil in July-August 2013.

The National Masters Championships (organised by the MAFI) and World Masters Championships (organised by the World Master Athletics) occur in alternate years.

MAFI’s plans

In the future, the MAFI has plans to roll out initiatives in collaboration with the World Master Athletics (WMA) including a training programme to help aspiring masters athletes as well as a website which has information relevant to its athletes in the future, which will serve to improve the awareness of the general public.

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