Athletics: Masters have massive ambitions
A TEAM of 11 Irish masters travel to the European Non-Stadia Championships in Grosseto, Italy this weekend with high hopes of medals.
Raheny's Mick Traynor had hoped for an M50 team victory either in the cross-country or on the roads, but Ireland's chances of an M50 team medal were hit by the late withdrawal of Paul Cowhie of Civil Service earlier this week.
However Gerry Ryan of Craughwell will make one of his rare appearances in the green of Ireland and, like Traynor, must be a strong contender for individual gold. Two years ago, in the M45 age group, Ryan was a convincing winner of the 10km race with Traynor second and the team taking gold.
Also entered for Grossetto are Paul Elliot M60, previous winner Pat O'Shea M65 and race walker Seán McMullin, soon to move into a new age group.
A larger entry is expected at the World Masters Track and Field Championships to be held in Lyon, France, next August with twenty already signed up.
Among them is Donore's Ann Woodlock, who recently won the BHAA Athlete of the Year award. Woodlock is appealing to older women runners to give masters competition a go.
"Running masters cross-country or track and field is quite different to a 5km or a 10km on the road. It's brilliant - you can go up to anyone at these events say hello.
"Runners are nice people and it's amazing the people you meet.," says Ann.
She herself began her athletics career around the time of the first Women's Mini Marathon in 1983, when she started training in the Phoenix Park.
After getting fit and running a number of road races, she became curious about the world of athletics outside road running.
To explore that world meant finding a club, and in the mid-1980s, she joined Donore Harriers in Chapelizod when it opened its doors to women.
By then her children were safely in secondary school or beyond.
"At first they went mad with embarrassment seeing me heading out the door in my shorts, but once I started winning medals it all changed - especially since their friends were telling them that their ma was great!"
These days she is a stalwart of the Irish Masters Athletics Association, which, in November will stage the annual British and Irish Cross-Country International at Santry.
Although she has won a European bronze medal on the track as recently as last March, Anne would happily give up her place on the team.
"I wish there were a few more women over-70 willing to pull on the green vest. They're asking me to run and I'll be 77 in November! Nobody is expecting you to be super fast - and it's very enjoyable," she says.