The chance to secure a place in the England Masters Championships race at Chester beckoned for Bournemouth AC super-vet Geoff Newton when he took to the road for the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon.

The task for Geoff was simple. Finish in the top three in his age category, which was the 75+ division. That would then be enough the guarantee him a spot in the ‘representative’ race where he would get the opportunity to don the much coveted England vest.

So how did he get on? Here’s a full rundown of how events unfolded from the man himself…

This was my longest race since I tore a knee cartilage in 2019, but the build -up to it was not ideal as a bout of acute bronchitis at the end of November and a period of plantar fasciitis (policeman’s foot) at the end of December significantly restricted my training. The race was a qualifying race for an England vest in the so-called representative half marathon at Chester in May incorporating the England Masters Championships. First three in each category qualify for the “representative race” and the Championships. There are five other qualifying races in different parts of England, and this would in theory make a maximum total of 18 runners in each 5 year category in the championships.

Geoff Newton giving his all in the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon

Geoff Newton was hoping to secure an England vest for the Masters Championships race in Chester

The weather on the day was interesting. About -5 degrees C at the start and +5 degrees C at the finish, but fine and sunny and fortunately not affected by strong winds. I was comfortable for the first half of the race but a little over-dressed for the second half. The course is pleasant, traffic free and gently undulating. Some of the race is on Farnborough Airfield (see the planes taking off) and nearby industrial estates, and some on pleasant rural public roads which were partially coned off to provide lanes for the runners.

Geoff Newton progresses along the road in the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon

The sub zero temperatures made it tricky to find the right attire

First the good news. The torn knee cartilage and the policeman’s foot did not cause any problems. The official race results only categorise runners in 10 year age bands and I finished 9th M70. EA manage their Masters competitions through an organisation called Roster Athletics. Trawling their website revealed that there were seven possible M75 + runners registered with Roster for the Farnborough race including me, based on their year of birth. I finished 2nd of those, over two minutes behind Roy Thornley of Wimborne AC. If I am not mistaken, this should qualify me for Chester and an England vest, but it may be a couple of weeks or so before I hear officially. Touch wood.

Geoff Newton making his mark in the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon

Geoff was aiming for a top three finish in the over 75 classification

The bad news. I had hoped for a time of under 1:50:00 which I estimated would be required to stand any chance of a medal at the representative race. I think that under 1:45:00 will be necessary to win the category at Chester. The 1:50:00 race pacer with his flag came past me at about 12km at about the same time as I was feeling my lack of training and feeling a little too warm for comfort as the ambient temperature rose. I finished in 1:52.35 (chip time). Hopefully I can have uninterrupted training between now and Chester and maybe shave a little off my time. Just 4 years ago I did 1:40.00 and 6 years ago 1:35:00. Now I find myself running in races in the company of runners wearing rucksacks or carrying water bottles (they can’t be serious), such are the delights of running in your late 70’s.

Geoff Newton going strong in the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon

Geoff was 2nd out of the over 75s which should book his place in the England Master Championships

Incidentally, most Masters races are organised under the umbrella of the BMAF (British Masters Athletics Federation). However, although the nations of the Celtic fringe each have their own championships, English runners had to make do with the British Championships where they are in theory up against the Celts as well. There were no English Championships until EA filled the gap. However EA have had less success in arranging matches against the other nations.

The overall race win was picked up by Robbie Simpson who got round in 1:05:23. That put him just ahead of Daniel Mulryan of Thames Valley Harriers who registered a time of 1:05:39.

Alex Pointon is Aldershot Farnham & District finished 3rd in 1:07:04 with James Turner of Brighton & Hove AC taking 4th in 1:07:57. Winchester and District star Chris Powner finished 5th in 1:08:53.

Richard Lovejoy of Aldershot Farnham & District, who finished 44 seconds behind Rob McTaggart in the Stubbington 10k, came 10th in a time of 1:10:17.

It was a breakthrough race for Ryan Pegoraro, who had been training with Bournemouth AC over the backend of 2022. He recorded a sensational time of 1:13:12 which sealed him a place in the top 20.

Hannah Pullen of Aldershot Farnham & District was fastest female, completing the course in 1:18:35. That put her in 60th place overall, with Leamington’s Kelly Edwards coming in as 2nd lady in 1:18:59. She was 71st overall. That was just enough to edge her ahead of Lauren Cooper of Shrewsbury AC who got over the line in 73rd place in 1:19:02.