European Masters Half Marathon Championships, Grosseto. By Tony Martin

1st V70. Team GB Bronze1:29:26 139th/321 runners.

It’s 7:00 in the morning (6:00 UK time) temperature is already hitting 22c-you’ve just come from wet & windy unseasonal weather in Scotland, the race starts at 8:30 & you’re looking at hundreds of runners who are judging by their tans obviously used to running in the heat & they look super fit. We’re definitely outnumbered by the Italians who are racing on home soil, however the Swiss who seem to be embracing the whole Masters ethos are there in numbers , but also making the most noise with cowbells, rattles, whistles & anything else they can make a noise with. Nerves are building, then the team manager comes up to tell you that as there aren’t enough MV70’s to make a team he’s moving you up to the MV35’s, OK there’s pressure & then there’s pressure! It’s a fine balancing act trying to stay cool in the heat-but also having to warm up without overdoing it, I tried to find some tree lined road for shade & get some strides in, then get inside out of the sun.
8:15 we were led to the starting gantry-then past it for around 100mtrs down the road & through the call up zone, then we were held there, it was getting pretty warm corralled like that, amongst a sea of blue & white Italian vests. We were expecting to be taken back to the start line under the gantry, but for some inexplicable reason-only known to the Italian start team the gun went & we had 100mtrs to run before we hit the mat, but, guess what, the chip timing wasn’t counted from the start mat-they didn’t seem to have it on, they instead went for gun time, which added around 20-30 secs onto the final result.
300+ runners hit the road all vying for position & a European title-especially the Italians who just swarmed around the road. It’s a very difficult race to judge as most of the runners are on top of their game & you don’t know anyone, so it was a case of trying to mange pace against not ending up in a blubbering heap at the side of the road having overdone it in the heat.
The route took us out of town, country roads are loooooong & straight, so you could see the leaders 2 miles in the distance they were that straight, open roads no shelter, all the time monitoring how you’re feeling, it’s so easy to feel great at 5 mile & then later on really struggle. I had a runner in front of me for around 10 mile were I passed them, later on looking at the results they’d lost 10 mins on me over the last 5K so it’s easily done.
First 5k passed fairly rapidly, but I could feel it was going to take a lot of concentration & conservative running to get to the end, my legs felt lumpy-especially my quads, must have been the culmination of all the travelling-it took nearly 12 hours to get to our hotel on Friday & we only had Saturday to rest-but also had a couple of hours watching the 5K races & tried to pick our numbers up. The hotel was around 20 min drive from all the events, so not much resting!
Got to the 10K point in 41.21 taking every chance to drink water at the stations-this is something I never do in races in the UK-so it felt a bit strange, didn’t do any harm though & it was best to be sensible. At the 10K point I was within European Record pace, which gave me a boost, but then I thought ‘yes but I’ve got to get to the finish line first’ so I decided that I’d throttle back on the enthusiasm a bit, so my pace dropped to around 6:30-6:40 miles.
It was quite a fluid race with runners passing me-youngsters of course-V35’s & 40+ but towards the end I managed to pull most of them back, as you can see their ages on the bib on the back of the vest, it helped to make a decision on whether to chase or just hold back.
We hit the 12Km cycle path which runs from Grosseto to Termine Marina, where quite a few of the GB team had congregated to cheer us on, after the cycle track we at last headed into Grosseto itself a welcome break from those miles of straight roads, we were taken through the old town area & headed under the viaduct, populated by the Swiss & their cowbells, we then turned onto a gravel path in the park which then led up above the viaduct where we were greeted by……..!Nice touch running through the city was the church was ringing it’s bells-it was Sunday, but I like to think it was for us.
The last 5K saw us running back towards the start-on the long roads again, don’t know what happened at 10 mile but my pace dropped to 7:15 miles, I rallied again back to my usual pace, but those last 5k seemed interminable, trying to keep focused on running & holding the tempo.
Last roundabout & we could hear the commentator in the distance, but it felt like ages before we hit the straight for home, nabbed a few more places, but something that will stay with me was the feeling when the commentator yelled out my name with “Primo, Primo Tony Martin European Champion” Felt close to tears as I finished. 1:29:26 139th/321 runners.

Quick fast forward to the presentation, close to bubbling up standing on the podium listing to the national anthem being played & the athletes in the hall all standing for it, then giving you a big cheer & clap. Given commemorative certificates as well. Bonus was Team GB M35 bronze medal, no panic! I came in first counter for the team, so that was just the best end to a very tiring day.

My wife Margaret won individual bronze (1:48: 27) in the FV65 cat & Team GB silver in the FV 40 team as she had been moved up to the FV40 team. (3rd counter) so a good trip all round for the family.😀

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