What a difference a year makes.

As I write this, I’m not long back from the European Masters Championships, held in Nyiregyhaza, in eastern Hungary. I enjoyed myself, but from a racing point of view, I can’t claim it was very good. I went in as 5th placed athlete in last year’s World M55 100m championships, and 4th in the Worlds at 200m, but where you’ve been and who you were counts for nothing a year down the road.

I had a dire time in the 100m. I wasn’t well before the heats. As we left the Call Room to walk out on to the track, we were told that the heats were, in fact, semi-finals, making the qualification for the final rather more “sudden death” than I expected. I ran really badly, and troubled the competition no further.

Things were better in the 200m. I got a good second place in my heat, and 4th in my semi-final. I was optimistic that I might have scraped through to the final. Sadly not; with eight to qualify from two semis, I was ninth overall. However, later that day another athlete who had qualified was kicked out. By the rules, I should have been promoted to the final. However, first I knew of all of this was when photographing the race. I saw there was an empty lane and an athlete missing. When I heard about the circumstances, I was annoyed and not a little upset, I’ll admit.

Worse was the relay. I was a reserve for the 4x400m squad for the age group below my own. Out of my comfort zone, admittedly, but I was in the mood to do something hard. However, the Call Room officials claimed I was not on their list of eligible athletes (what?) and neither I nor my three team partners got to race. I feel more sorry for them than for myself. They included two gold medal winners from last year’s World Masters Championships 4×400 relay.

Hungary was HOT! Regularly well over 30 degrees C, and with humidity at about 96%, the air was more suited to drinking than breathing. The Nyiregyhaza stadium had little or no daytime shade, and it was a blessing to be in accommodation little more than three minutes walk away, allowing a lunch-time shower and lay down. I was also blessed with a room with a refrigerator, although not one with air-con!

My mixed fortunes as an athlete allowed me to concentrate on being one of the accredited track photographers. As I write, I am whittling something like 10,000 photos down to manageable proportions. These will be on my web site soon. I am proud of some of the work.

The Championships were great for one thing in particular, however – friends. It was simply wonderful every day to mix with athletes from all over Europe, friends I have come to know well over the last few years. I am fortunate to have more than a smattering of three European languages, and have really good buddies in the German, French and Italian squads, as well as our own group of (often) all-conquering Brits.

I am now looking forward to just a couple more competitions between now and the beginning of September, and then that’s it for 2010. An early start to 2011 training will be the incentive I need.

You can stay in touch with my ramblings on Twitter: @Tomsprints

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