Six of the best for Stratford AC’s masters

Stratford AC's Paul Hawkins, Phil Brennan, David Jones and Andy Reeves.

FIVE Stratford AC athletes picked up six medals at the British Masters’ Championships at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium.

More than 800 athletes competed in the event, taking full advantage of the facilities prior to its reconstruction ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The championships also gave many of the competitors the chance to fine tune prior to the World Masters Championships in Malaga from 4-16 September.

Two of the five Stratford athletes who took part will be representing their country in Spain.

The two days proved hugely succesful for the Stratford AC contingent, who between them won five silvers and a bronze.

Phil Brennan and David Jones had an early start, with their M75 and M65 1500m races taking place at 9.30am and 9.40am respectively on the opening morning.

For Brennan, one of the SAC members due to compete in Malaga, the championships got off to a flying start as he claimed the silver medal in a time of 6.11.06.

He was up against the formidable opposition of Victor Shirley, whose winning time was 5.51.61. Shirley is comfortably the country’s leading M75 middle-distance track athlete.

He currently has a UK No.1 ranking in the 800m, 1500m, mile, 3000m, 5000m and parkrun. He is also the all-time No.1 ranked mile runner in the M75 age category.

Brennan is currently ranked third in his age category for the 1500m and his silver medal winning performance saw him finish some 10 seconds ahead of the third-placed runner.

David Jones had a less successful time in his M65 1500m race, finishing seventh in 6.00.17.

He was less concerned about his slower-than-hoped-for time than he was at running, what he felt, was a tactically poor race. However, having not been able to run for eight months recently due to injury, he was just delighted to be competing again.

Paul Hawkins, the second of the Stratford athletes planning to compete in Malaga, like Brennan, claimed a silver medal in the M60 3000m race walk.

Apart from his delight at picking up a medal, Hawkins was also pleased to post a big 47-second PB and claim a club record with a time of 18.20.26. Having been aiming for a sub-19-minute PB, he exceeded his expectations.

Ian Torode won the race in a PB of 18.08.19. Hawkins also managed to finish some eight minutes ahead of the third-placed finisher.

Dave Battersby was the fourth Stratford athlete in action on the first day. He finished fifth in the M40 400m in a PB of 57.21, missing out on fourth place by just 0.2. Just 0.58 separated the first three finishers, which was won by Adam Bellis in 52.22.

Competitors were greeted with heavy rain and cold and windy conditions on the second day of the championships. But, as was the case on the first day, SAC’s first competitor of the day proved to be a silver medal winner.

Paul Hawkins, competing in the 5,000m race walk, finished in 31.18.11 to set another PB and club record, exactly a minute quicker than his previous best.

“Today I was hoping for another PB/CR but thought it would be difficult because of the wet and windy weather, plus the fact that I was still feeling yesterday’s race, although I was pretending not to,” said Hawkins.

“I needed 2.35 per lap to get a PB but did 2.23 for the first, then went steady at 2.30ish. But I was mainly trying to keep ahead of Ian Torode who won yesterday. Previously Ian had a PB of 31.55 and I had 32.18 so I knew it would be tough. He stuck with me until 500 metres to go when he went past and I couldn’t respond. He finished with 31.02.22 and I was 31.18.11.

“I’m very happy with two silvers, two PBs, by 47 seconds and 60 seconds, and two overall and M60 club records.”

Next up for SAC were Phil Brennan and David Jones in the M75 and M65 5000m. The conditions were still wet and there was a noticeable headwind coming in to the home straight.

Despite that, Brennan produced yet another assured performance to claim his second silver medal on successive days. His finishing time of 23.08.74 gave him a two-minute cushion over the third-placed runner. The race was won by Martin Ford in 20.56.73.

In the M65 race, David Jones finished eighth in 22.26.10, but he wasn’t too disheartened, being only too happy to be competing again. The race was won by Bob Bradbury in 18.16.72.

Just two hours after completing the 5000m, Brennan and Jones were down to compete in the 800m. Brennan duly collected his third medal of the championships, completing the race in 3.11.74 to claim the bronze medal to add to his two silver medals. The race was won by Victor Shirley in 2.51.95.

David Jones was unsure as to if he would run the 800m. His legs were really heavy after the 5000m two hours previous but on hearing that the runner who was likely to have picked up the silver medal had scratched, he convinced himself that it was only a couple of laps, so why not give it a go?

He was totally vindicated when his time of 2.56.52 was sufficient to claim the silver medal. The race was won comfortably by Kevin Archer in 2.33.60.

In the M35 high jump, Andy Reeves was unfortunate to finish just outside the medals, finishing fourth with 1.55m, just 10 centimetres off the bronze medal position. The event was won by Michael Barr with 1.80m.