Those who follow on twitter or facebook will have noticed a barrage of updates in the last week or two updating you on goings on at the World Masters Championships taking place in Malaga, Spain. Champion followed champion, and it should be no surprise therefore that the combined might of Walton AC would have held our own in a medals table ultimately topped by Great Britain, winning four gold, two silvers and a bronze. (35th, in fact, two places behind Ireland).
The action started on 5th September, with Susie McLoughlin going in the W40 100m. Making light work of the heats (12.77, 1st) and semifinal (12.67, 2nd), she pulled off a stunning bronze medal in the tightest of finishes, with just 0.16s separating the top six athletes.
It was swiftly onto the 200m from the 7th September, with the action moving from Malaga main stadium to the University, where Susie and Jo Flowers battled strong headwinds in both their qualifying rounds and semifinals.
Jo ran a superb 28.30 to finish 6th in her semifinal. Susie stormed into the final in an incredibly competitive field. She was chasing down the silver medalist from the 100m in the home straight but just ran out of room, taking the silver in a superb time of 25.87 into a 1.7m/s headwind.
Earlier that morning, at the main stadium, Jamie McLoughlin and Chris de Mauny were tackling the 10km road race in stifling humidity. Hardly ideal conditions for road running, but the pair both ran very well in the circumstances, Jamie recording 37:41 for 38th place M40, and Chris running 37:54 for 40th in the M35s.
A couple of days’ breather for our sprinters, but it was over to second-claimers Virginia Mitchell and Fiona de Mauny in the 800s at Carranque Stadium. Both qualified comfortably at the front of their heats and with less than 18hrs recovery each were back on the morning of 11th September to race for the titles. Virginia was up first, running a smart race to sit with the pack and accelerate at the bell. Finding the pace a little slower than she would like, she surged away in the home straight towards the end of the first lap, destroying her opposition with an ultimate victory margin of more than 4s with 2:26.
Fiona employed a rather different tactic; without the luxury of being ranked fastest in the field, she ran the finish out of her opposition, going hard from the gun and taking the lead at 200m. Her even-paced 2:10 was ultimately 3s ahead of her closest rival. Two World Champions in the space of an hour!!
There was no time to rest for our Champions though, as both were competing in the 400 with preliminary rounds taking place later the same day. They were joined by Susie and Jo, with all comfortably qualifying to the semifinals in automatic positions. Susie and Virginia both won their semis to advance to the finals, with Fiona (58.46) and Jo (62.04) both recording PBs to join them on finals day.
Virginia was again up first, and she stormed round the blue mondo well in front of her competitors to record the second fastest all-time 400m in this age category in Europe (62.16), which was also her fastest time for four years.
There must have been something special in the air, as Jo followed her up with another PB of 62.01 for 6th in her final. Susie also recorded her fastest time since 2014, the strength of her final straight proving too much for the others as she won in 57.79, 0.5s ahead of the silver medalist. Fiona followed this with yet another PB (58.22), her 800m strength shining through as her home straight charge took her from 8th place with 100m to go to only 0.2s off the bronze medal.
With just the 1500m and relays remaining for our athletes, there was a slight lull in proceedings before Fiona was up again late on Saturday night, taking 2nd place and an automatic spot in a tactical 4:42 1500m.
Following another quick turnaround, she was back out the next morning in searingly hot conditions as the famous Mediterranean sun finally made an appearance. Sitting on the shoulder of the leader for 1000m, she found herself boxed in approaching the bell but remained calm and waited for a gap to open. With 150m to go the gap finally appeared and, although two athletes had already gained a substantial lead, a little bit of that 400m speed was on display as she moved herself from 5th position up the field to take the silver medal with a SB time of 4:37.44 behind multiple Paralympic Champion Soumaya Bousaid from Tunisia.
Just the relays remained, with Jo, Susie and Fiona running the 4x 100 to bring GB home 6th, 4th and 5th. Virginia and Jo then ran in the 4x 400 teams, Virginia anchoring the team home for a convincing win, while the W45s were 5th. We would have loved to see what these four could have done together…
An incredible championships from our athletes, who will no doubt now enjoy a well earned break before the training starts again in earnest for the World Indoors (Torun) and European Athletics (Venezia) next year.