European Masters Track & Field Championships in Torun, Poland 2024

Report by Jed Turner

 On the 15th March I set off for my ninth masters international championships, which this year was based in Torun, Poland. This was in fact the third time that I have been to Torun, who are always willing to host this event. It is a beautiful city, centred around the old town, traffic free, cobbled streets, shops, restaurants, museums, and much more. The indoor athletics stadium is a magnificent stadium worthy of holding these championships.



The allure and attraction of these events is the great sense of camaraderie and unity, as athletes from across 34 nations come together in a spirit of friendship but at the same time competitive rivalry. Below is the final medal table showing the range of countries, and the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland coming 4th in the medal table.

Of course, the main purpose was to compete and to do as well as my abilities and training allowed. My events for this championship were the 400m and 800m.

The 400m was not my main event, but an opportunity to get a feel of the track and get my legs accustomed to championship racing. There were five heats of which only the first two and next two fastest qualified for the semi-finals. In my heat I was 3rd fastest on paper, so it was going to be tough, but I gave it all and in home straight I passed the Irish lad and qualified in second place, in a time of 62.34.

I was therefore through to the semi-final. The plan was to compete well but given I was up against the 400m specialists there was no chance of getting through to the final and anyhow I needed a day’s rest before my main event the 800m. As it happened, I needed not to worry as I somehow went into 800m autopilot and broke lane early, and was not able to finish. In many ways this was a blessing in disguise as this allowed more rest prior to the 800m.

The 800m involved 4 heats of which only the winner and five fasters after that qualified for the final. This event is blessed with amazing depth of ability, many of which are from the UK. I was drawn in a tough heat, up against the hugely talented and multiple medal holder Dave Clarke and Jonathan Burrell silver medallist at this year’s British Championships. I was not sure how I would perform as my form and times have deteriorated this year. Only last year I won the British Championships in 2.19 and the year before that I was running 2.17. Also, at the outdoor and indoor world championship I finished 5th in both finals. But this year my fastest time was 2.21. Effectively it looks like I am deteriorating at a rate of 2 seconds a year, which is huge in 800m running. I do need to remind myself that I am nearly 64, and many of my competitors have just turned 60 or 61. So, it was aways going to be a tough ask to get through to another final. My mindset was just to try my best and see how it goes, as you never know the outcome until all heats have been run.

It was a great semi, with Jonathan Burrell taking it out at the break point and Dave Clarke on his shoulder and myself in third. I knew to have any chance of getting to the final it had to be a fast heat and I had to finish no lower than third. I went through the first 200m in 34 seconds, and 400m at 70 seconds, but on the back straight the Swede overtook me, and I just had to hang on. Turning into the home straight, lactic acid throbbing in my legs, I closed the gap on the Swede, his legs buckling, I swept passed, and fought to the line, with fast finishing Phil Grabsky just behind. I was third, in a time of 2.22.83

The anxious wait to see all the results of all the other heats began. Lots of speculation and calculations ensued. Then the results came up on the screen. I was through to the final as the fifth fastest after the automatic qualifications. I was ninth fastest overall and I was in another final. I was relieved and happy to be there again. The final was set for 16.48 the next day.

The final felt like the British Championships with six Brits qualifying. However, with Xavier Lefay the world champion from France and the dangerous Garcia Gaudioso from Spain and Robert Gajda from Poland running it was not going to be necessarily a UK dominated event. Dave Clarke was our best runner, but with Jonathan Burrell, Chris Upson, Rob Andrew, and Sean Price all the medals were up for grabs. It was about who could best recover from the heats and other races done so far, and who could execute their race plan the best

It was a fast first lap and I settled into 7th place, and went through 400m at about 70 seconds. A lead group of 4 broke away, Lefay, Clarke, Andrew and Burrell and the rest of us following. At 600m, Upson and Gajda went past me, and my legs were not able to respond. At the front of the race, Lefay and Clarke fought it out, and at the bend as Clarke was trying to overtake, Lafay elbowed his way ahead and kicked with an impressive burst of speed and took the gold medal, Clarke silver, and Rob Andrew an impressive bronze.

Overall, it was a great championship. Photos below of the 800m final. And after getting back in the early hours of Saturday morning, what joy it was to do the Yorkshire Vets XC Championships, and pick up team silver.

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