Updated January 3, 2010 (but still being revised)
Who are masters?
In track and field, also known as athletics, masters are athletes age 35 and over. (The former age for men was 40, but rule was changed in July 2003 and took effect in August 2005.) Some nations refer to masters as veterans — a term that has nothing to do with the military.
Can athletes under 35 compete in masters meets?
Yes. In many USATF-sanctioned meets, including nationals indoor and outdoor championships, submasters are allowed to run, jump and throw. Submasters are ages 30-34. Senior meets (including Senior Olympics, Senior Sports Classics and other events in the Senior Games family) generally are limited to age 50 and over.
How many people call themselves masters?
Worldwide, perhaps 50,000 is one expert’s estimate. In 1996, USATF found 8,189 masters members in America listing themselves as running “track” with 3,138 putting down “field.” Many of these athletes do both, no doubt, so the total number may surpass 10,000. Perhaps half of USATF’s income from membership fees is masters-derived.
How can I find a masters meet in my area?
First check our own meet calendar. If you can’t find a suitable local meet here, try USATF, the national umbrella group for track in the United States. National Masters News publishes a list of meets every month by U.S. region.
What is WMA?
WMA stands for World Masters Athletics, the new name for WAVA (World Association of Veteran Athletes), subsidized by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) but with a much smaller budget — about $80,000 a year. (At Brisbane, Australia, in July 2001, delegates voted to change WAVA to WMA to boost prospects of marketability — gaining corporate and other sponsors). WMA — with 125 affiliate countries — sponsors regional and world masters track championships. World outdoor meets are held every two years. The most recent were in Lahti, Finland (2009) and Riccione, Italy (2007). The next one is set for July 2011 in Sacramento, California. In October 2009, a quadrennial event called the World Masters Games was held in Sydney, Australia.
What are WMA meets like?
They’re big. About 9,000 athletes took part at 2007 Italian worlds, but the economic crisis limited turnout at Finnish worlds to about 5,000. More than 5,900 athletes from 74 nations took part in Gateshead in 1999 and nearly 5,800 from 76 countries competed in Durban in 1997. (But just over 2,000 competed at 2003 Puerto Rico.) The Japanese WAVA meet in 1993 had 12,000 competitors (mostly in the marathon) and a $15 million budget. (But this was a rarity.) International WMA regional meets also attract many. No qualifying standards, no qualifying meets. Just sign up through your national organization (USATF in America, for example).
What about world indoor masters meets?
We’ve had three so far — the inaugural World Masters Indoor Championships in Sindelfingen, Germany, in March 2004. The second WMA world indoor meet was in Linz, Austria, in March 2006. The third was in March 2008 in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The next is March 2011 in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Who runs WMA?
In August 2009, Stan Perkins of Australia defeated Rex Harvey of Ohio by a single vote in the General Assembly meeting at Lahti, Finland, to win a four-year term as president of WMA. For the first time in many years, no American serves in the highest levels of WMA, although Sandy Pashkin of Oregon is records coordinator for WMA.
Who runs USATF Masters?
Gary Snyder of Boston, an M60 sprinter, is serving his second four-year term as chairman of the USATF Masters Track and Field Committee. His final term runs through December 2012. Bylaws of USATF Masters Committee tell how elections are run, etc. See USATF directory for national officers.
How can I learn more about masters track?
Besides this site, you can check out several popular blogs, including the Women Running Together site by masters runner Carmel Papworth-Barnum, and the resource-rich Younger Legs for Older Runners blog by masters distance champion Pete Magill. National Masters News, a monthly publication published by distance runner Randy Sturgeon, has a small but loyal readership. The history of masters track is well-covered by our online museum and results archive, called mastershistory.org.
How can I get in touch with other masters?
Post a comment on our blog. Register for our Forums. You can send PMs (private messages) to other members of our Forums, a popular message board. Folks with a special interest in the pole vault congregate at Becca Gillespy Peter’smessage boards at polevaultpower.com.
How much does it cost to compete in masters meets?
Entry fees range from a few dollars to $50, depending on how many events you enter. You also pay the annual USATF membership fee, which is $20. You get a USATF card and a number, which many entry forms ask for. Entry fees at World Masters Games and WMA world championships usually top $200, however.
How can I find a local USATF office?
USATF has a list of addresses and phone numbers. Most associations have Web sites. Also check your local white pages. Many offices are staffed part-time, however. You may get a recording.
My area doesn’t have many masters meets. Where else can I compete?
Check out Andy Hecker’s North American all-comers meet directory. Also, many meet directors of college invitationals will gladly accept your money. Call the campus track office in January or February and ask for a meet schedule. Often you’ll find other masters competing. Specify your age, and say you want to run with others in your ability range. I’ve high-jumped twice in the women’s invitational section because the men’s open HJ height was over my head.
Any other meet ideas?
Check with local sporting goods and running shoe stores about all-comer meets, which are generally low-key, unsophisticated affairs that charge nominal entry fees. They rarely offer automatic timing, however.
What about Senior Olympics?
Mostly unregulated by WMA or USATF, these events are spreading like wildfire across the USA and Canada. But since you asked — these state and local events usually include a track meet, which serve as qualifying meets (age 50 and over) for a National Senior Olympics (aka National Senior Games). The 2009 meet was in Palo Alto, California, and the 2011 meet will be in Houston.
What is automatic timing good for?
This timing system, which links a starter pistol and a finish-line camera, allows you to get a time that’s accurate to the hundredth of a second — the only kind eligible for record consideration in most events. AT (redundantly called FAT sometimes, for fully automatic timing) helps when comparing yourself with other masters. It also means the meet management is probably sharp enough to send results into National Masters News or this Web site. Hand-timing is generally two-tenths of a second faster.
What is age-grading?
WMA has established a set of standards and formulas for comparing performances of people in different age groups. Through age-grading, you can see how your marks fare against older or younger athletes. Typically, you want to know what your mark is equivalent to in open competition — folks in the 20-29 age range. A Czech site apparently reproduces the 1994 Age Graded Tables booklet — with columns of tiny numbers that are hard to read unless you set your browser preferences to largest type size. (But best thing to do is use the View Source function of your browser) Since January 1999, a universal age-graded converter has been online. Although a wondrous addition, its accuracy is not guaranteed. Later in 1999, Howard Grubb of the Department of Applied Statistics at the University of Reading in UK came up with his own WAVA Age-Grading Calculator. Professor Grubb offers a technical explanation of the WAVA tables as well. Also check out The Distances Converter at an Oklahoma runners site.
Aren’t the Age Graded Tables being revised?
Yup. WMA was to release the new tables in 2002. They’ve been promised for sometime in the fall of 2005. National Masters News will publish the tables. But they will find their way online. (Wink, wink.)
How do I determine my age-graded marks?
You use the age-graded converters online or buy the yellow-covered booklet for under $7 from National Masters News. Then you look up your age factor and multiply your mark by the given figure. You also can determine your age-graded percentage. Or you can e-mail Coach Ross Dunton of Sevier County, Tennessee, who has offered to age-grade anyone’s marks with his handy-dandy computer program. He writes on the MTF Message Board: “If you would like a time or distance age-graded, send me your e-mail address, your birthdate, your sex, your time (hand or electronic?) or distance.” Dunton also offers a modestly priced but information-packed newsletter on masters training.
What’s an age-graded percentage?
It’s a measure of how high you rank in your own age group — a formula often used in major meets. If you’re classified over 90% — you are world class in your age group. Marks over 80% are national class. Over 70% is regional class. Over 60% is local class. Marks below 60% are for the sainted masters who just love to compete.(But marks over 100% pop up — such as Debbie Brill’s 1.76 (5-9 1/4) high jump at the 1999 Gateshead WAVA meet at age 46 — supposedly equivalent to an open jump of 2.18 (7-1 3/4)!
What’s a good mark for my age?
Short answer: Don’t worry about it. Long answer: Don’t worry about it, since so much of age-group athletics is relative. And just being able to run track at our age means we’re in the 95th percentile of the human species as far as fitness goes. But if you REALLY want to know, check out the All-American Standards published in National Masters News every month. They’re an artificial estimation of “good marks” — but they’re something to shoot for.
Who keeps masters records?
On the world level, WMA maintains a set of official records for each 5-year age group. World-class track statistician Peter Matthews of Great Britain has his own list of over-40 men’s and over-35 and over-40 women’s records. An interesting but highly flawed list of world bests for each individual age is maintained by Pete Mundle of California, and he produces a booklet called Masters Age Records every year. However, state-by-state or country-by-country masters records are hit-and-miss. National Masters News carries American indoor and American outdoor records online.
I think I set a record! How do I go about getting it ratified?
If you set a record in a masters nationals or a world championship, you don’t have to lift a finger. WMA or your national governing body will handle the details. Same for setting a record in a major IAAF-sanctioned meet, such as the Olympics or a major meet like the Commonwealth Games. But if you set a record in most any other meet, you need to get the forms filled out just so and shoot off the application lickety-split. National Masters News takes you through the process.
So what are the weights of masters implements?
See the WMA’s complete chart.
So where do I buy these implements?
What? Wal-Mart doesn’t sell 4-kilo hammers? Masterstrack.com highly recommends Gill Athletics — and not just because they advertise on our site. Jeff Watry, an executive at Gill, is a longtime masters athlete (mainly in decathlon and such). And he has sensitized Gill to the needs of masters. You also can check some of the company links listed on the Track & Field News site. These retailers maintain Web sites and ship stuff like your usual mail-order catalogs. No need to insure shots, however.
I’ve heard about a masters pentathlon. What’s this about?
See the pentathlon rundown by world-class masters pentathlete Rick Lapp of New York. The events are: long jump, javelin, 200, discus and 1500.
I’ve never run track before. How do I start?
Slowly. With doctor’s permission, yadda yadda yadda. Check out a masters meet, and you’ll be saying: ‘I can beat these guys!’ But try your event in practice before extending yourself in a meet. Also check out Courtland Gray’s advice for beginners.
I last ran track 30 years ago. How do I start again?
Even slower. Your head and heart tell you a 30-second 200m should be a breeze. Your aching limbs and strained muscles will tell you otherwise. Work up to full speed carefully. Stretching and easy striding are key.
I’m a sprinter. Where do I train?
Many high schools and colleges leave their gates open to the track. But many masters spend lots of time in health clubs, on home treadmills and just charging up the 50m hill at the local park. Be opportunistic, and you’ll find your venue.
I do field events. Where do I train?
This is stickier. Sometimes you have to buy some PVC pipes to make your own hurdles or high-jump standards. But the pit is still the one at the high school. They don’t use sawdust anymore.
Where can I get coaching help?
Check out our e-mail directory. National Masters News has begun listing names of coaches online who are offer their services. Also try the The T-and-F Mailing List.
Should I join a local track club?
Most track clubs are misnomers, unfortunately. Many cater almost exclusively to distance runners and road runners. Fact of life. But a group calling itself a masters track club generally is.
Where can I find a masters track club?
Many areas, sadly, have none. And the regular track clubs are dominated by roadies. National Masters News periodically lists masters track clubs around the United States. But a caution: Many of these clubs have a negligible masters track component. Again, they’re mainly for long-distance runners. Also, check out MT&F Links for Web sites of track clubs that include masters. They keep popping up.
I’ve heard of masters rankings? What are these?
Every year around mid-March, National Masters News publishes its lists of every performance it has been sent in the United States by masters meets and athletes. Wind-aided and legal marks are not differentiated. Automatic-timed and hand-timed performances are mixed together. And it leaves out marks that it never hears about. But it’s fascinating to see how you stand against those in your age group (40-44, 65-69, 80-74, etc.). See some recent sprint rankings for an example.
Do seasonal lists exist online?
Yes. Masterstrack.com co-webmaster Dave Clingan of Oregon keeps timely official U.S. seasonal rankings . But an official, authoritative and comprehensive world seasonal list doesn’t exist. The best we have is a list of national championships marks produced by Coach Ross Dunton of Tennessee.
How do I qualify to compete in the nationals?
If you have proof of age and a semi-deep wallet, you’re in. The USATF indoor and outdoor masters nationals are open to all men and women 30 and over, with no qualifying mark required. You simply pay your fee, air fare, motel costs and compete. Medals generally go to top 3, with ribbons for 4th, 5th and 6th. The next USATF Masters Nationals Outdoor Championships will be in August 2004 in Decatur, Illinois, and in 2005 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
What about national teams?
The USA has no national masters team, but European countries do. They compete in dual and triangular meets, with members chosen by their national organizing group. The USA should have one, too.
Do standards exist for elite performances?
Yes. All-American certificates and patches are awarded those who can document they met one of the U.S. Standards of Excellence. These standards are stiff. National Masters News lists them by five-year age group for men and women and publishes the names of those recently exceeding them. The standards are being revised, however. A new set should be ready in 2002.
Do masters athletes get drug-tested?
Yes, but on a microscopic scale. USATF has never drug-tested athletes at its national masters meets (and never will, citing the expense), but WMA has random drug-testing at its world meets. Even so, the cost of testing for substances on the IAAF bannned list is expensive. So only 40 or 50 drug tests are done every two years at the WMA world meet. Over the years, a couple dozen masters athletes have tested positive for illegal performance-enhancing substances. Kathy Jager is the most prominent of the cases so far.
How did masters track begin?
According to the late Don Farquharson’s account in the WMA handbook, early veterans athletes were mainly road runners. In 1968, a first masters marathon championship was held in Holland. In 1965, however, Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman discovered New Zealand athletes competing over age 40. He sparked formation of a U.S. masters track & field team, with crucial help from David Pain, a San Diego lawyer. Linda Wallace provides further details in her history of masters track, a section of a master’s thesis. The first international masters meet was held in 1972 in London. Toronto, Canada, hosted a major masters meet in 1975. The first WMA officers were elected in 1977. In the United States, national masters championships have been held every year since 1968. The first six meets were in San Diego. Recent outdoor nationals have been in Eugene, Oregon (2000), Baton Rouge (2001), Orono, Maine (2002), Eugene (2003), Decatur, Illinois (2004) and Honolulu (2005). In 2006, the meet goes to Charlotte, North Carolina, and in 2007 it returns to Orono. Most recent indoor masters nationals have been in Boston in late March.
What’s the future of masters track?
That’s in your hands (and feet). We are a worldwide movement, a force for peaceful competition, an excuse to stay in shape. We have the means to form clubs, Web sites, organizations. We can demand prize money for the best of us, and respect for the rest of us. We can compete in the Olympics. As Mexico City Games decathlon champion Bill Toomey once said in Track & Field News: “Competition’s too much fun to be left to the kids.”