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Ryston Runners relive British Masters Athletic Federation (BMAF) Road Relay Championships

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The top memory appearing on the Facebook pages of several members of Ryston Runners AC last week was of the club’s sortie to the British Masters Athletic Federation (BMAF) Road Relay Championships.

The event took place at Sutton Park, near Birmingham, four years ago and it was an experience that many members will never forget.

Triggered by the enthusiasm of recently “qualified” Master athlete Mel Watts, who organised the women’s teams, and Malcolm Tuff, who brought together the men’s, a busload set out on the adventure, with no idea of the nature of the event nor the quality of the competitive field.

Ryston competitors at the 2015 BMAF relays. (34962849)
Ryston competitors at the 2015 BMAF relays. (34962849)

As it turned out, all the Ryston teams were pretty much overwhelmed by the cream of the country’s Masters, but that was not the point.

It has gone down in the annals of club history of one of the best days ever, epitomising the club’s philosophy of inclusiveness and team spirit.

The world of Masters Athletics can be a bit bewildering to newcomers to the sport. In many countries it is an integral part of the national athletics set up, but in the UK, as the governing bodies do not cater for the Masters as a distinct competitive section, there is a separate, voluntarily run, body to govern this area of the sport.

To affiliate to the BMAF, athletes have to join a second claim club, preferably in their own region, so interested Ryston members also belong to EMAC (Eastern Masters Athletic Club).

Ryston has a long association with EMAC.

Peter Duhig was its chairman for many years, and he was one of the instigators of the popular EMAC Track and Field League in which the club still competes with considerable success, under the enthusiastic eye of Helen Reed, who uses the “home made cake if you take part” method of team management.

Several Ryston members have also enjoyed success at National and International Masters level, including Peter and Cath Duihg, Gaye Clarke, Martin and Marlene Simmonds, Malcolm Tuff, Paul Harrison, and, when he was a member of the club, Matt Pyatt.

These, and others, including Jeff Reed, Mick Ennis, and Elizabeth Blakie, as well as past member Jo Isbill, have also represented the East in the annual Inter Area Masters matches, both indoors and out.

Masters Athletics was also the impetus behind the development of the Age Grading system, which will be familiar to parkrunners.

This is a method of calculating relative performances across age bands and can be a great motivating factor for athletes.

Ryston runs its own Age Graded Standards Awards, in which members can submit times and receive certificates across a range of road distances, with five categories from Copper to Diamond to aim for.

The potential for a similar system exists for track and field athletes in the club, and the charts for seeing what standards have been achieved are available on the club website at: www.rystonrunners.org.uk

At the other end of the age scale entirely, Rhys Howard, not yet old enough to be a club member, was nevertheless featured in the results of the first Athletics Norfolk Virtual Long Jump competition when they were published last week.

Designated “Ryston to Be” and allocated his own U7B category, Howard recorded 1m 30.

His older brother, Aidan, an U11B, placed 12th overall in the chart, and first in his age group with 1m 93.

More seasoned competitor Liam Clare was fourth overall in the county and second U17M with 2m 40.

Both the age grading systems and virtual competition initiatives are proving invaluable in terms of maintaining motivation for club members in these times of restricted movement and meeting opportunities.

Members will be actively seeking out an event at which they can reunite and celebrate coming together once more, when regulations allow.

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