Geoff Newton at the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships

Geoff Newton was running for Great Britain & Northern Ireland in the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships

It’s always great to see Bournemouth AC members competing on the world stage and representing their country and super vet Geoff Newton recently did just that. Making the trip to Toruń in Poland, Geoff ran for Great Britain & Northern Ireland in three separate events at the 2023 World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships. Here’s Geoff’s account of how it all panned out from his perspective…




“The three events I took part in at the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships were the 6km cross country, the 10km road race and the half marathon. Perhaps a word of explanation is required for those of you unfamiliar with Masters Athletics. The presence of these events at a nominally indoor championships is due in part to the way the sport is funded. The major athletic events such as the Olympics and World Championships are funded by television rights, stadium ticket sales and government grants and the participants have their travel, accommodation etc paid for. Masters Athletics events are usually only funded by the athletes themselves. Therefore, at the World Indoor Championships there will be qualifying times etc and selection to limit the number of athletes to keep costs down and to keep the programme to a manageable size. Whereas at the Masters Championships the goal is to maximise the number of athletes taking part, hence the non stadia events, including javelin, hammer and discus! Apparently, there were over 4000 athletes at Torun, with participants from 89 countries although there was a strong bias from Europe and the USA. On some days at Toruń the first events started at 8am and ran continuously until the last after 10pm! No selection processes, other than the depth of your pockets.

Toruń is a university city on the North bank of the Vistula, halfway between Warsaw and the sea. The old town is a Unesco World Heritage Site of brick built gothic architecture which has somehow survived intact despite two world wars. The medieval old town is separated from the rest of the city by a ring of parkland and in some places, town walls.  The indoor arena in the new part of the city is world class and is I am told, due to host the World Indoor Championships in the near future. There are also a large outdoor athletics stadium, a throwing hall and an ice rink, not to mention a tract of woodland next door suitable for cross country, all on the one site.

Spring is later in Poland than the UK. The races tend to start with the oldest age groups first. Most age groups had their own race, due in part to the constricted nature of the course. My cross country race (M75+ and W70+) on Monday 27th March started at 8am. The temperature was close to freezing. The 6km race was three tough but enjoyable very hilly laps of 2km pine forest. Under foot was a mixture of paths, some compacted gravel, some grass or earth, some sand and some created for the event out of virgin forest. The hard surfaces rendered it unsuitable for spikes and I ran in my road racing shoes. The organisers had removed the few muddy patches by dumping sand in them!

Runners in the age groups under 70 ran 4 laps to make their race distance 8km.

There were team medals up for grabs in the cross country. I was confident that GB would win the M75 team but wasn’t sure whether I would make the scoring three. John Exley and Alan Appleby were very good runners who had just moved up in the age group and Norman Baillie was one of the favourites for the M75 gold. The course became constricted soon after the start. I lined up behind three fast W70’s and they cleared a way for me through the crush and I found myself in an unaccustomed position close to the front, soon joined by Norman and a fast Spaniard. I tracked them for about 500m before sanity prevailed and I remained 3rd M75 for the remainder of the 1st lap. Early on the 2nd lap I was caught and passed by one of the Poles, but I was able to haul him back and I was still 3rd M75 at the end of the 2nd lap. Early on the last lap I heard the crunch of pursuing feet and was passed first by Alan Appleby and then Rich Mullins of Ireland. Finally, John Exley passed me but this was only temporary as shortly after this he suffered a recurrence of a recent injury and had to slow down. With the finish only 500m or so away I pulled out the stops and would have probably have caught Alan if the race had gone on a little longer.

M75 Cross Country (Top 7)

  1. Norman Baillie                           GB & NI               29:25
  2. Antonio Mohedano- Rodriguez  Spain                   29.57
  3. Richard Mullins                           Ireland                31.23
  4. Alan Appleby                              GB & NI               31.44
  5. Geoff Newton                             GB & NI               31.53
  6. Stefan Dobak                             Poland
  7. John Exley                                 GB & NI

As predicted GB won the team gold from the host nation Poland with Italy a distant 3rd. The team results are based on cumulative time rather than points for finishing places, but since we had all three scoring runners in front of the Poles, the result would have been the same regardless of the system used. Twenty-twenty hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I cannot help but wonder if I could have improved my position running a more even paced race with a less ambitious start. I did after all beat Rich Mullins in the International in Dublin, but that was on a flat grassy spikes course.

Early on Tuesday, the next day it snowed. I spent some time seeing the sights of Toruń but I soon retreated to the warmth of the indoor arena to watch the track racing.

On Wednesday 29th March I did the 10Km road race, all age groups, men and women in together. The air temperature was still close to zero, but the sun was out and there was no wind and the start time a reasonable 10am. The course was an uninspiring out and back affair heading straight out North on urban roads with our route coned off from passing traffic. As a result, the local road traffic was gridlocked for the duration of the race.

Within a field of 258 runners its difficult to tell where you are in the race. Alan passed me in the first 500m and very slowly edged further away confirming that the cross country was no fluke. Norman Baillie and the Spaniard were soon lost to sight. Frustratingly I was passed by a Pole in the finishing straight of  300m or so but I was gasping like a fish out of water and could do little to respond. As an 800m runner he had been tracking me for a while, knowing he could out kick me at the end.

Alas no team medals were awarded for the 10Km. The same three as in the XC would have won gold if there had been, given that we finished 1st, 3rd and 5th.

10 Km Road Race M75 Results (Top 5)                                                 Overall

  1. Norman Baillie                           GB & NI             46.02                 170
  2. Antonio Mohedano -Rodriguez  Spain                 48.19                 184
  3. Alan Appleby                              GB & NI             49.37                 196
  4. Jerzy Kopta                                Poland               49.56                 197
  5. Geoff Newton                             GB & NI             50.06                 200

Unlike the cross country I feel that there was little better I could have done on the day. At least it was a season’s best, following a 52.52 at Winchester and 51.32 at Weymouth Bay.

There then followed two days rest for me, to enjoy Toruń and to watch more of the action in the Arena. The weather meanwhile became a little milder but also cloudy and damp.

My final race was the Half Marathon on Saturday 1st April. Again, the race included all categories both men and women in a field of 341 starters. The course was also out and back. The start and finish were the same as the 10Km but continuing straight North out of the city into the country climbing steadily through pine woods. At the top of the hill it entered a flat agricultural landscape, turned left for a short while before turning back towards the city on a gradually descending cycle path through the woods, eventually re-joining the 10km finish route at the edge of the city. The air temperature was slightly warmer than we had in the 10km but on the way out we ran almost the entire distance into a cold wind coming from the North. On the way back we were sheltered by pine forest surrounding the cycle track so there was no benefit from the tail wind which had eased by the time that we emerged back on the road through the built-up area.

During the way out I had sight of the same Spaniard who finished 2nd in both the cross country and the 10km, initially about 100m ahead but gradually stretching his lead over me to about 200m before he disappeared from my view into the trees surrounding the cycle path. By this time the race was something of a procession. By the time that we re-joined the road for the last 5km I was beginning to stiffen up. Half marathon is a bit far for me these days. With about 800m to go an Italian came past at a high speed and there was nothing I could do about it and bang went my chance of an individual medal. The race was won by an Estonian who I never saw at all. My time was 1.51.38. In 2019 I recorded 1.40.00 over the same course, but that was before 2 years off running with the torn knee cartilage. My most recent Half marathon was 1.52.35 at Farnborough.

Geoff Newton competed at the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships

Geoff managed a quicker half marathon time than he posted in the Farnborough Half Marathon in January

There were team medals awarded for the half marathon. This time I had the honour of leading the GB & NI M75’s to Gold with Poland again 2nd. Norman and Alan did not take part having flown home. The rest of our M75 team was Ken Black and Phil Brennan who was drafted down for team purposes from the M80’s where he was 3rd in that age group. When you enter the events, you are supposed to provide your best time in the last two years. On the basis of those times, we would have been 3rd team. However, the best German runner did not start, so they could not field a team of 3. On the day Ken Black knocked nearly 15 minutes off of his recent best and both Phil and I shaved a little off of our recent bests whereas the Pole were all slower. Scores are based on cumulative times rather than positions. The optimistic team manager said before the race that we would get a medal provided Ken finished within the 3 hour time limit. So, you can imagine that Ken was pleased to get a rare for him, gold team medal in which he made a major contribution.

Half Marathon M75 Results (Top 9)

  1. Lev Lubenskiy                            Estonia       1.46.27
  2. Antonio Mohedano Rodriguez    Spain         1.49.53
  3. Fernando Gatti                            Italy           1.50.58
  4. Geoff Newton                              GB & NI     1.51.38
  5. Stefan Dobak                              Poland       1.55.25
  6. Marian Leśniak                           Poland        1.59.30
  7. V. Frὅde                                      Germany     2.06.25
  8. Ken Black                                   GB & NI       2.10.52
  9. Rajmund Czechowski                 Poland         2.34.08

Also 3rd M80 – Phil Brennan                 GB & NI       2.01.00.

I was a bit worried that the 10km would take something out of my legs, but I don’t think it made a significant difference in the end. To put it all into perspective, success at the upper end of the age groups is more about longevity than talent. But as you get really old, meaningful competition against much younger runners is not possible and there are few your own age to compete against at a local level, so national and international masters championships are great fun.

As far as I know I was the only Bournemouth AC runner there, although I did see Andrew Ridley who may be known to some of you. He qualified easily for the final of the M55 1500m. In the final he finished 8th. I did not see that race as it took place at the same time as the Half Marathon.”

Geoff Newton