An event not to be missed!
By Maureen Farmer
We read the advertisement – The World Masters Games (WMG) 2017 to be held in Auckland!
Wow that’s going to be some event we thought! Perhaps I should explain here that it is not Masters of the Universe, or the like, that are involved here but sportspeople over the age of 35.
Well, having qualified twice over age-wise I, or should I say we (‘my husband and I’ the Queen might say) decided that having given athletics a go in our (comparative) youth (starting at age 39!) we would see what the other criteria were. Put simply there weren’t any!
So no get-out clauses there.
Persuaded and committed!
So I let myself be persuaded that if we could get cheap flights, we could stay 20 minutes away from the Athletics Stadium in Henderson with our daughter and family in Titirangi, turn up, run round an athletics track a few times and have fun meeting people from all around the world and maybe a few friends from our days back in the U.K.
So we paid our money and entered. Wanting to get my money’s worth (entry wasn’t cheap) I entered 3 events, the 400, the 800 and the 1500 metres and sat back and waited for the Opening Ceremony. But then reality hit – when looking at an entry list I recognised a few names of very good Masters Athletes from the UK and
then heard from one of these names that David Eades from the BBC would be there making a documentary.
Now the thought of anyone seeing me in a video lumbering around the track was a wake-up call.
Also I slowly realised, no-one however friendly, is travelling hundreds of miles to New Zealand just to admire the scenery, beautiful as that may be.
What to do? Parkrun once a week, much as I enjoy it, wasn’t going to be enough, so step forward a hard taskmaster by the name of John Turner. I tried the “I can only train if the wind is in the right direction, it’s not raining and you must have pity on a poor old lady like me” excuses but he would have none of it, so for a few weeks I put some effort in.
A genuine New Zealand athlete!
Those weeks are a blur, only coming into focus when I found myself contemplating the previous few years since arriving in New Zealand from England to join family over here.
Then, as I watched, realising with a jolt that although we were sitting within the section for Athletes from around the world I was now an ‘athlete’ from New Zealand and could feel extra proud of the beautiful, exhilarating show, showcasing ‘my’ culture that was being played out in front of me.
The singing of the beautiful New Zealand National Anthem had special meaning for me that night.
The organisers of the WMG must have been having sleepless nights prior to the Games as everyone in New Zealand knows the weather had been atrocious, but luckily for the Games (and the Tourist Industry) the weather behaved itself and most events took place in bright sunshine.
Following the procedures
My personal events did not get of to a good start. Nerves kept me awake before the night of the 400 but the morning was bright and sunny so we were able to sit in the sunshine watching events unfold and learning the procures whoops!, procedures! Never had to do them before.
Thank goodness for the simplicity of Parkrun – Andy shouts Go and you take of!
However, these procedures include being directed into your own bay inside a very hot marquee where you are instructed on the correct placement to pin a number either side of your shorts (which meant my lovely loose running vest had to be tucked in so revealing the lumps and bumps I had been trying to hide, so not a good start).
Then you are led out as a group onto the track, feeling very conspicuous. In fact no-one, even in the stands, has the least interest in you as they are concentrating on their own event, or eating their lunch.
Anyway, back to me standing in a very hot tent with 3 (3?) other competitors prior to the 400. We were one New Zealander (me), one American, and one Russian. I knew something was wrong as I had seen a start list of at least 8 competitors and sure enough one minute before being led out to the Arena gladiator-style a harassed official arrives to apologise for the mistake.
Somehow all the other competitors had been informed that there would be no heats but there was to be a straight final in two days time. This produced a mixture of emotions, relief that the moment had been postponed, followed by irritation as I really wanted to run the heat, be eliminated and get it over with, irritation that we had spent a lot of nervous energy for nothing.
But then everything got a bit surreal as the official had smartly disappeared leaving us to explain to the (by now very puzzled and cross) Russian lady competitor who spoke as much English as I speak Russian (ie None), that she would need to come back for the final as heats had been cancelled.
Luckily by pointing at a bit of paper with the time and date of the Final on it we made ourselves understood. We became quite friendly in a smile and nod way after that.
The days after that were of mixed fortunes after that but I think we can claim to have the loudest support group in the whole of New Zealand – especially when our son-in-law (the loudest Kiwi you have ever heard) was around.
Even if I/we didn’t come first (and we didn’t) the chants of Come on Grandma/GrandPa from Millie (6) and Conrad (4) were worth as much to us even if, as someone pointed out most people in the events were most likely to be Grandmas or Grandpas).
Having said that, and having said winning medals wasn’t important, one of us (i.e. Me!) did win a bronze medal in the 800 metres, ran faster than I thought I could in the 400 and OK in the 1500 and Tony ran a solid race in his 5000 – but then managed to run 2 faster 5’s in the 10,000 – not sure how that happened – he must have been shirking in the 5!
A great week
We finished off the week by running a Cross Country in the beautiful grounds of the Domain in Auckland – maybe a race too many for me!
So what a wonderful week, from the brilliant Opening Ceremony in Eden Park stadium, the moving and humbling Anzac Day parade in Titirangi, admiration and gratitude for the superb organisation not only for the Games but the Transport people as well. Then there was amazing work from hundreds of volunteers, all done in a friendly, helpful, welcoming spirit.
It was also great watching these incredible athletes from all around the world and, in my case, running against an amazing 80 year old woman from the USA, as well as seeing our friends Theresa, Pat and Fiona wining golds and silvers galore.
Then me standing on the podium being announced as “Winner of the bronze medal for the 800 metres – from New Zealand – Maureen Farmer!”
(The next World Masters Games will be based in Kansai, Japan in May 2021.)
KIN extends its heartiest congratulations to Maureen!