15 May

Vets In Practice

Chris Broadbent with veteran team pals

Chris Broadbent makes the disconcerting discovery that he is a veteran but finds out that particular cloud has a silver lining...

When it first happened several years ago, I really wasn’t sure what it meant. There I was looking up the results online from a sprint triathlon I had taken part in and there seemed to be a rogue ‘V’ next to my name. V? What could this possibly mean? Veteran, my ageing brain belatedly realised.

I was a bit perturbed at first. I’d not considered myself ready for the older brackets yet.

The veteran status is afforded to triathletes a few years earlier than their running cousins. In triathlon, by 35 you are a veteran. Runners have until 40 until you are bestowed – or tarnished – with the label. I’ve always preferred the term veteran to the more sensitive ‘Master’, which tends to be favoured as of late, but feels a little politically-correct to me.

I’ve been running for 15 years now and - to be honest – I can’t say I have ever ‘mastered’ it. So, now I am in my 40s, I’m a little uneasy with the apparent expertise I am now supposed to possess. Anyway, veteran feels much more apt with its connotations of being battle-hardened. Yes, I do have a wealth of running behind me and yes, I have some scars to prove it. More mental than physical to be fair. Either way, I’ve relaxed into my new age-group now. If anything I’ve begun to enjoy it.

I’ve even picked up some bling along the way. (I know. It’s cringeworthy when middle-aged dads use words like ‘bling’ isn’t it?). A couple of years ago, I collected a third place trophy at a marathon for the over 40 males. I had the same award at a 5 miler event earlier this year, supplemented by another prize for being in the winning veteran males’ team.

It’s not something I ever really aspired to. But now I’m there, I admit it, I quite like it. Plus, when my four-year-old twins ask if I won the race (as they do every single time), then sometimes, I have something to show them which makes it fairly plausible that Daddy is indeed the champion.

Any extra incentive to push yourself to go that little faster when your body is gradually slowing has got to be a good thing right? It’s not just about myself either. I have club-mates in the over 45, over 50, over 60 classes pushing themselves to their ever slowing limits. What else other than endurance sports are the older competitors not just so well recognised, but celebrated?

There is genuine kudos at my running club for anyone who picks up a veterans’ prize. Or better still for anyone who breaks one of the club age group records.

As my running legs begin to age, I am reluctantly beginning to accept that some of the PBs I set 12-13 years ago will now remain untouched, no matter how hard I train. But being a 40-something runner isn’t all bad. In fact, for me and many others, it’s where a new running life begins.