When I decided to race in the Belgian Masters Indoor Championships, in Ghent, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect. After all, Belgium’s not exactly renowned as the centre of European Masters athletics, and Ghent’s hardly the centre of Belgium, is it? I’m delighted to say that the trip, the racing, the facilities, and Ghent itself, were really good. The weather travelling out was typically Belgian, but at barely 150 miles from home (discounting the Tunnel), Ghent’s nearer for me than, say, Birmingham, Cardiff or Sheffield.
The Indoor arena was excellent. Our own Lee Valley is officially regarded as a “training facility”. Ghent was unashamedly a competition venue. It will host the European Masters Indoor Championships in March 2011, and one reason for our trip was to suss out the track and local hotels. I’m now really looking forward to those championships in this stadium. Fast surface, brilliant and unobstructed views from every seat in the place, lashings of warm up space, room for physios to set up, etc. Good memories for me, as well. I won the 60m race, and got second in the 200m behind my GB team-mate Ian. I’d have liked to spend a bit more time in Ghent, but with my father-in law’s funeral looming, I needed to come straight home.
I was also glad of the chance to go to a reasonably big event and not have to double up as track photographer. I did lug my camera along, and shot a few bits and pieces from the stands, including, fortunately, shots of a world age group record in the 800m, which have already appeared on web sites all around the world. I wasn’t feeling creative though, and only really engaged with the event as a participant. Including a leg in the relay, I raced three times during the day – twice in little over an hour. In a championship environment, that means it was a hard day. Good build up for the British Championships a couple of weeks later, with the prospect there of four races and two very full days as a photographer over the weekend.
Leastways, that was the plan. It promptly went pear-shaped on my return home, because I became quickly aware that I was unwell. Not just tired, but suffering from the start of something. Whether it was ‘flu (swine or man variety), a bad cold, or whooping cough, which I discovered I had been exposed to at work matters not, and the usual “3 days coming, 3 days with it, 3 days going” rule didn’t seem to apply. As I write, the cough has subsided, my nose can run faster than I can, and all plans to race at the British Masters Indoor Championships have been abandoned. My winter season ends not with the bang of a starter’s gun but the whimper of an un-well athlete! Plans are still to attend, as a photographer. At least I won’t have to keep apologising to people whose races I usually miss shooting while warming up for, or competing in, my own events. Still a big disappointment, though. I need to delve around for the bright side.
Priority now is to get shot of this, and reassess my readiness for the summer track season outdoors, which kicks off in a month from now, as I write.