Valentines 10k Race – incorporating England Athletics Age Group Qualifying
13th February 2022
Report – Matt Burdus-Cook
Held in Chessington, the Valentines 10k hosted by the 26.2 Running Club is a well-attended early season road race. The race was also selected by England Athletics as one of 4 age group qualifier events, where athletes over the age of 35 could try and meet selection criteria to earn an England vest.
Runners must meet an age graded race time and place in the top 3 of their age category to qualify.
England Athletics state the following about the programme.
“England Athletics recognises that a significant amount of the membership of road running clubs is made up of runners aged over thirty-five years. The Age Group Masters competition programme recognises and rewards the significant contribution that these runners make to our sport.
Through an annual rolling programme of qualifying events and representative opportunities we provide Masters runners with a friendly competition format and the chance to earn themselves an England Age Group Masters vest.”
Club members Ben Kruze and Matt Burdus-Cook both set sights on this qualification standard as an early running goal for 2022, and set off to Surrey the early hours of Sunday Morning to compete in the event.
The outlook of the course profile as well as the weather was challenging. Race tactics were therefore geared to running under the selection time, but based on current form, age group placing was the bigger consideration for both Ben and Matt.
Ben found himself toward the front of the race throughout and finished in 3rd Place, and 2nd in the MV35 age category in 31:25, a very respectable 17 seconds behind his recent personal best and new club record. Matt finished in 24th place in a personal best time of 33:45 and was also 2nd in his MV45 age category.
Both runners are awaiting confirmation from England Athletics on their England Masters age group selection but are both delighted to have met the required standards at a qualification event.
Matt Burdus-Cook said: “The race was well organised, and Ben and I benefitted from an early arrival on a number of fronts: 1. We could use the seemingly open plan toilet facilities within the race HQ with minimal embarrassment, 2. I lost my timing chip so we retraced our steps until we found it, and 3. We parked 15 meters from the start line so could stay warm until starters orders whilst getting a reasonably good starting position.
There was a noticeably more competitive and serious feeling gathering at the start line than is usual at 10k races, and Ben and I were a few rows of runners back. The initial post hooter scramble was slightly fraught, with the strangest chip timing covers we’ve ever seen (old carpets perhaps?) and a narrow pavement start requiring navigation past lampposts and more elbows and heel kicking than is usual. Within half a mile things settled, and the course, whilst not traffic free, was well marshalled, and without issue.
I found myself running well, but further back in the field than I am used too, and as such, my initial plan of actively managing my placing vs similarly aged athletes in race wasn’t tenable. I decided I had to focus on running to my absolute limits and settled into the early section of the course, ahead of running as hard as possible in the middle two miles. I then clung on desperately over the undulating final third of the race as my strength, speed, form and clarity of thought left me. I’m over the moon with my PB as breaking 34 minutes wasn’t something I was sure I could do. I’ll be delighted if both Ben and I make England selection.”
Ben Kruze said: “A very early morning trip to run in the Valentines 10k near Chessington, would not be high on the list of important races to run for most living outside of the M25, however this was the first of two target races during February. The aim of the day, as it was for many runners, was to finish top 3 in the age group rankings to qualify for the England Masters team, running in the Bristol 10k in September. After a fast and tight start (hurdling a starting mat that resembled a couple of old duvets), the field started to spread out and it quickly became obvious there would be some good battles to achieve the overall goal.
A fairly undulating start was followed by a very fast middle 3k of the race. I was fortunate enough to be sitting in 3rd overall, so staying in that position, I knew would see the main aim of the day become a reality. Turning back into a strong wind for then last 2k certainly made us all work a lot harder than we would have liked, however slowly closing on the lead pair helped to keep up the pace. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to reach the front two runners, but a qualifying spot was secured with a time of 31:25.
It was great to then see Matt not only also secure his top 3 age group qualifying place, but also record a comfortable personal best, which capped off a great day for both. Thankfully some hard work over the winter paid off!”