Geoff Newton completes the Chester Half Marathon

Competing for England in a Masters Half Marathon race against Wales, Geoff Newton was going for the top M75 position

21 May 2023 Chester Half Marathon incorporating England v Wales Masters Half Marathon

Qualification for the England Vest involved finishing in the first 3 of your age group in one of 5 qualifying races located in different regions of England. There was also a rather generous qualifying time standard to be met. Arranging competitions between the various UK nations is not easy and at one stage this was promoted as an England Championships but once Wales came on board, the championship element appears to have been dropped. I duly qualified by finishing 2nd M75 in the Farnborough Half Marathon in January.


England team photo for Masters Half Marathon vs Wales

You can just about see Geoff in the England team photo, back row on the left

For me and many others, taking part meant investing in an overnight stay in order to make the 9.00am start. After parking close to the start on Chester Racecourse, runners in the Masters Match registered at the nearby Abode Hotel where we were given age group numbers to pin on the back of our vests and access to free tea and coffee. There was a rather shambolic group photo on the lawn outside the hotel, before we all trooped off back to the racecourse for the start.


It was soon obvious that many qualified runners had not turned up for the match, perhaps not surprising since there was a long time between some of the qualifying races and the Chester Half. People’s circumstances can change. I saw lots of runners with M70 and M65 on their backs but only one other M75. Maybe some older runners had been unable or unwilling to register on the day?

Geoff Newton starting the England vs Wales Masters Half Marathon

Geoff gets his Chester Half Marathon race underway

At the start, the Masters lined up in the 2nd pen, immediately behind the Elite Start. The course starts on the racecourse and immediately climbs up into the historic city centre before going out into the flat countryside to the north of the city, following a convoluted route along narrow country lanes though small villages and hamlets before returning to the historic city finishing up on the hill in front of the civic centre. There were timing pads at frequent intervals during the race to provide us with all sorts of stats on positions and speeds during the race. The morning of the race was rather warm and humid, not to my taste.

Geoff Newton gets his Chester Half Marathon race underway

Geoff looked very at home in his England vest

I passed the other registered M75 after a few km and saw no other registered M75’s in the race. The results service is very comprehensive. From this I learned that I finished in a time of 1.49.35 gun (and 1.49.28 chip). Overall position 1010 gun (1089 chip). There were 4041 finishers. My average speed was reasonably constant during the race, apart from the start and finish sections, where the hills slowed me down. My time was about 3 minutes faster than my qualifying time at the Farnborough Half Marathon and I feel there may possibly be a little more improvement to come, inching closer to where I might have been had I not lost 2 years running when I was 74 and 75. That’s the good news.

Geoff Newton in action at the England vs Wales Masters Half Marathon

After a few kilometres, Geoff passed the other registered M75 competitor

I learned that there were a disappointing 10 finishers in the M75-79 category and also that I was only 2nd M75 behind Goff Graham of Steel City Striders who ran 1.46.54 gun (1.45.29 chip). That was the sort of time I expected would win the age category. However, Goff had presumably not heard of the international match organised by EA. So, although he picked up the M75 prize for the Chester HM it was me who collected 1st M75 trophy for the England v Wales back at the hotel. Perhaps it’s as well that the Championship element of the match was dropped.

Geoff Newton heads down the road in the Chester Half Marathon

Geoff kept a solid consistent pace throughout most of the race

The 3rd M75 (2nd in the match) was Chunky!!?? Penhaul of Hayle Runners who was just over 3 minutes behind me, but Malcolm Maxted and Peter Sergeant were credited with 2nd and 3rd in the match. Although they qualified, they did not register with EA on the day as far as I can tell, and their times were slower.

Geoff Newton representing England in the M75 division

It was only the hilly sections at the start and then end that slowed Geoff down

Unsurprisingly England beat Wales in almost all the age groups and overall. However, there were plenty of individual successes for the Welsh.

Geoff Newton reaches the finish in the England vs Wales Masters Half Marathon

Geoff crosses the line in a chip time of 1:49:28

Geoff Newton after finishing the Chester Half Marathon

Geoff finished as 2nd MV75 in the race but 1st in the England vs Wales Masters contest

Travel to and from Chester was a nightmare due in part to closure of the M56 (bridge demolition) and also the A34 just north of Oxford, traffic of course being forced onto other roads. It took half an hour just to exit the car park on the racecourse. Things got worse after that. Chester was virtually gridlocked. We were sent off in the direction of the North Wales coast. Major diversions and long queues meant that when I eventually re-joined my intended diversion route it had taken me 2 hours to cover 4 miles as the crow flies. The A34 diversion lost another half hour and there were also other roadworks too numerous to mention. Perhaps the runners who did not show on the day knew something I did not.

The results also confirmed that I was the only finisher from Bournemouth AC. The overall winner was Andrew Heys of Hallamshire Harriers in 1.05.52 with Scott Overall (M40) of Blackheath & Bromley 2nd in 1.06.28. Tracy Barlow of Thames Valley Harriers was first woman in 1.15.17.

Geoff Newton