FAQ

Updated February 3, 2015

Who are masters?

Aren’t we too old for this?

Can athletes under 35 compete in masters meets?

How many people call themselves masters?

How can I find a masters meet in my area?

What is WMA?

What are WMA meets like?

What about world indoor masters meets?

Who runs WMA?

Who runs USATF Masters?

How can I learn more about masters track?

How can I get in touch with other masters?

How much does it cost to compete in masters meets?

How can I find a local USATF office?

My area doesn’t have many masters meets. Where else can I compete?

Any other meet ideas?

What about Senior Olympics?

What is automatic timing good for?

What is age-grading?

How do I determine my age-graded marks?

What’s an age-graded percentage?

What’s a good mark for my age?

Who keeps masters records?

I think I set a record! How do I go about getting it ratified?

So what are the weights of masters implements?

So where do I buy these implements?

What about hurdle heights and distances?

I’ve heard about a masters pentathlon. What’s this about?

I’ve never run track before. How do I start?

I last ran track 30 years ago, How do I start again?

I’m a sprinter. Where do I train?

I do field events. Where do I train?

Where can I get coaching help?

Should I join a local track club?

I’ve heard of masters rankings. What are these?

How do I qualify to compete in the nationals?

What about the WMA regional and world championship meets?

What about national teams?

Do standards exist for elite performances?

Do masters athletes get drug-tested?

How did masters track begin?

What’s the future of masters track?

Why do they call us masters?

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.

Aren’t we too old for this?
No.

Can athletes under 35 compete in masters meets?
Yes. In many USATF-sanctioned meets, including national 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 as of Dec. 31 of the year of competition.

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 your USATF association page. If you can’t find a suitable local meet here, try the event calendar at 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. Your local college may offer “open” meets — which means anyone paying the entry fee can compete.

What is WMA?
WMA stands for World Masters Athletics, formerly WAVA (World Association of Veteran Athletes), subsidized by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) but with a much smaller budget. WMA — with at least 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), Sacramento (2011) and Porto Alegre, Brazil (2013). The next one is in Lyon, France (2015). But starting in 2016, outdoor world meets will be every even-numbered year. Indoor world meets will be every odd-numbered year. The change in outdoor schedule was made to avoid overlap with the quadrennial World Masters Games, held in odd-numbered years. The next one is 2017 — in New Zealand.

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 2009 Finland 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.) 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?
The inaugural World Masters Indoor Championships were 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 2017 in Daegu City, South Korea.

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 — amid charges of vote fraud. Perkins was re-elected in 2013, again defeating Harvey. 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 M70 sprinter, has been national chairman of the USATF Masters Track and Field Committee since 2006. He leads an Executive Committee that meets several times a year in person but also by conference call. Bylaws of USATF Masters Committee tell how elections are run, etc. See USATF directory for other masters 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. National Masters News, a monthly publication published by sprinter Amanda Scotti and Tish Ceccarelli has a small but loyal readership. The history of masters track is well-covered on mastershistory.org, which also archives many early issues of NMN. Several Facebook pages cater to masters.

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 $30. 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? 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, or search for their website. 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 may lack automatic timing, however.

What about Senior Olympics?
Mostly unregulated by WMA or USATF, these events are common. State and local events usually include a track meet, which serves as qualifying meet (age 50 and over) for the National Senior Olympics (aka National Senior Games). The 2015 meet will be in Minneapolis.

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 a hundredth of a second — the only kind eligible for record consideration in most events. AT (redundantly called FAT, 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. (Originally, this was done to help score multi-events like the decathlon and heptathlon.) 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 20-30 age range. In 1999, Howard Grubb of the Department of Applied Statistics at the UK’s University of Reading posted his first Age-Grading Calculator, now updated for 2015.

How do I determine my age-graded marks?
Use the age-graded converters online or multiply your time or metric mark by factors posted on the WMA site.

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. 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, up to 100-plus, but dozens of superior marks aren’t listed. A better reference is Wikipedia. World-class track statistician Peter Matthews of Great Britain once kept a list of over-35 and over-40 men’s and women’s records. An interesting but highly flawed list of world bests for each individual age used to be kept by Pete Mundle of California, but his booklet called Masters Age Records hasn’t been updated since 2006. U.S. masters records are overseen by Jeff Brower.

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, meet organizers will take care of paperwork. 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. USATFmasters.org details the steps. In the United States, records are formally accepted at the USATF annual meeting in early December.

So what are the weights of masters implements?
See the WMA’s complete chart, giving info for each age group.

So where do I buy these implements?
What? Walmart doesn’t sell 4-kilo hammers? Check some of the company links listed on the Track & Field News site. These retailers maintain websites and ship stuff like your usual mail-order catalogs. No need to insure shots, however.

What about hurdle heights and distances?
See complete chart. And see a comprehensive discussion on where to put the barriers on the track.

I’ve heard about a masters pentathlon. What’s this about? A one-day event, men do the long jump, javelin, 200, discus and 1500 outdoors and the 60 hurdles, long jump, shot put, high jump and 1000 indoors. Women do the 100 hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800 outdoors and the 60 hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800 indoors. Other so-called combined events are detailed here.

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.

I last ran track 30 years ago. How do I start again?
Even slower. Your head and heart tell you a 30-second 200 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?
Contact your local USATF association or check the USATF coaches registry to start.

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. But masters clubs offer support at home and nationals. Search this list.

I’ve heard of masters rankings? What are these?
John Seto oversees American and world seasonal lists in all age groups and events at mastersrankings.com. He offers a self-serve function (honor system) but also imports results from around the world when submitted in the proper format. National Masters News prints seasonal lists periodically.

How do I qualify to compete in the nationals?
If you have proof of age and the money, 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.

What about the WMA regional and world championship meets?
Same deal. All men and women 35 and over may enter after paying entry fee (and housing, air fare, etc.).

What about national teams?
The USA has no traveling 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.

Do masters athletes get drug-tested?
Yes, but on a microscopic scale. USATF began drug-testing at national masters meets in 2011. Some smaller U.S. meets also drug-test. WMA has random drug-testing at world meets and regional 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. Some, like Kathy Jager in 1999 and Kristi Anderson in 2014, were suspended for using medicines prescribed by physicians.

How did masters track begin?
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. The first international masters meet was held in 1972 in London. Toronto, Canada, hosted a major masters meet in 1975. (See a short history here.) 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.

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, websites, 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.”

Why do they call us masters?
Because we’re not slaves anymore!

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