by Len Ferman, Masters Athlete & Ultima Ambassador
It seems that runners these days are always in search of the next challenge. While 5k road races are more popular than ever, there has been an explosion in non-traditional running events over the past few years*. Color races, mud runs, and warrior dashes are taking off. And now it seems that even marathons are not enough for many long distance runners, as ultra marathons are growing exponentially*.
As a 52-year-old masters runner, however, classic track & field is my favorite type of running, and I wish more runners, especially masters runners, would consider giving the track a try for their next big challenge. Masters track is an incredible and surprisingly accessible experience for anyone who will give it a try. In 2004, shortly after I turned 40, I signed up to compete in my first USA Track & Field National Masters Championships.
I had been a runner at heart since the very start of the running boom. I had watched Frank Shorter on television win the 1972 Olympic marathon when I was a little boy, and I wanted to be like Frank. While I loved running, I was never close to being world class. In fact, my biggest race in high school was just finishing in the top ten in my county cross country meet. Suddenly, however, once I turned 40, I was competing in a real national championship in my age group. I didn’t even have to qualify or post a certain time to be able to compete. That’s because, despite the fact that the USA Track & Field National Masters Championship is in every way the most important and professionally operated track meet in America for people over 40, it is still not well attended enough to require any qualification to participate. Imagine if you could just sign up to go to the Olympics.
This is what you have here in the US every summer. It’s a grand opportunity for any runner over 40. Since 2004 I have competed in all types of masters track competitions. I’ve gone to the Florida Senior Games, the National Senior Games, and the World Masters Games.
This summer I’m looking forward to a brand new event, the inaugural USA Master Games in Greensboro, North Carolina. The track events will take place from July 28 – 31, 2016. I have entered in the 800 and 1500 meter runs. And I will be proudly serving there as a running ambassador for Ultima Replenisher. Runners over 40 that take up the challenge of a masters track meet will find that track running has many advantages to offer over the roads. For older runners, the track simply makes sense as a place to run.
The bouncy running surface of a rubber track is far more forgiving on the ankle, knees, and hips than the roads. The risk of injury is far less in running a track race than a road race.
Track meets also offer an opportunity to compete in multiple events over multiple days. The typical national or international masters track meet includes all of the track events that would be held in the Olympics, with separate races for each five-year age group. I have run masters track events from the 400 meters up to the 10,000 meters. The nature of the track also enables your friends and family to watch you run. And to see your entire race.
In a road race, your significant other might see you at the start and the finish. That can be a little frustrating after a long trip to attend the event and support you. But in a track meet, they can cheer you on the entire way, making for a much more enjoyable experience for the spectator. And masters track meets are free for spectators!
Finally, the comradery in meeting masters runners from around the country or across the globe is unparalleled vs. other running events in which I’ve participated. Since the meets usually last more than one day there are lots of opportunities to spend time with other runners. And since events are spread out across gender, age groups and distances, you can often cheer on your new friends as they compete in their events. A trip to a national or international masters track event can be the most rewarding running experience of your life. If you’re over 40 and looking for a new running challenge, it’s time to give masters track a try.