Women over 60 smashing Records

Women over 60 smashing Records (courtesy www.world-masters-athletics.org)www.world-masters-athletics.org

Aussies: Every national championship produces many exciting competitions and outstanding individual performances and the 2013 Australian Masters Athletics championships in Canberra, the national capital, was no different. There were a number of new Australian and Championship Records as well as a World Record to conclude the very successful championships.

The existing 4x800m relay World Record of 11 minutes 47.30 set by a Dutch team in 2011 was convincingly shattered by an Australia W60 team consisting of Kathy Sims, Kathryn Heagney, Jeanette Flynn and Paula Moorehouse who, together, covered the distance in 11 minutes 22.59. The four women only had the opportunity to come together as a team at the Championships as they live in four totally different areas in Australia.
For too long successful older women athletes have been largely ignored in mainstream newspapers but the trend is now changing.
On 25 May 2013, Beverley Hadgraft in The Sydney Telegraph featured these talented Australian women. As she reported, “These four Australian women may have a combined age of more than 240 years but that hasn’t held them back”.
The interviews of each of the four athletes in The Sydney Telegraph article highlight their approaches to training and keeping fit.
KATHY SIMS, 62, said “I don’t like to miss a day of training”. As she said “"I took up competitive running in my 30s, in a fortnightly competition. In my second year, I finished 12th out of about 700 women and thought, Oh! I can run. Running had to be curtailed when I fell pregnant with my third daughter, but after we moved from South Australia to Canberra, my husband - who was a sprinter - convinced me to try running on the track. I was nearly sick with nerves when I made that first attempt and saw all those people warming up in spikes.
I did track work and cross-country but when I was 48 I had cancer and needed surgery. It was when I came back from that, aged 52, that I started running really well. I broke ACT records for my age in the 800m, 1500m, 3000m and 5000m. Last year, I was second in the world in my age group for the 5000m.
During summer, I'll do two sessions of intervals, a competition night, a long run and a grass run a week. If I'm doing a session with the elite athletes, I'll adjust my training.
With all that training, there's not much time for other stuff but I don't like to miss a day. It's hard getting up at 6am in winter when it's minus four degrees but you do have that ‘halo effect' afterwards, which makes up for it.
Masters is an ignored sport. The media always want pictures of someone who's aged 100 throwing something and the rest of us aren't taken that seriously, but we train really hard."
Kathryn Heagney, 62, says “I’ll still be running when I’m 105.” As Kathy says "I've run all my life. At 18, I ran against Olympic sprinter Raelene Boyle a lot - I was always second. I gave it a break when I had children, but in 1995 I was encouraged to go back. I'd always stayed fit with tennis and aerobics, but I had the shock of my life when I ran at my first World Masters Games in 1997 and realised I had to go home and put in some really hard work.
I train five days a week now. It's easy to make excuses like oh, I'm getting older, but if you want results, you have to put in the effort. Sometimes, I've raced a 400m or 800m race and I'm so spent I haven't been able to get up off the ground at the end. I run on the track in summer and do cross-country in winter. I won three professional races in the open age group last year, including the Eaglehawk to Bendigo 6.5km race in Victoria.
I've also won a second and third in the Stawell Gift race in the past three years.
Occasionally, I do wonder what I'm doing. About two months ago, I lined up for a 200m, looked across the line and the next oldest person after me was 20. But I thought, I'll give it a go, and I came third. It's competing against and training with younger runners that give me the edge when I run in my own age group. In 2011, I went to the World Masters Athletics Championships in Sacramento and won the 400m final.
Kathy Sims and I were also in the Australian team that set a world record for the 4 x 400m relay.
I don't know if you can improve at my age, but my times haven't dropped in the past two years. At the nationals this year, I ran the 100m in 14.6 seconds and the 200m in 30.01 seconds: I'd hoped to go under 30 seconds, so that was annoying.
Five years ago, I broke my foot going over a barrier in a steeplechase race - I still came second, though. The following year, I tore my hamstring off the bone. My doctor told me I'd never run again but I thought, you don't know me very well. Because I like competition I trained for natural body building while I was recovering. After only five months, I'd won the Victorian championship.
Running is my passion, so I'll keep going as long as my body lets me. I'll probably still do it when I'm 105 and there's no one left in my age group."
Jeanette Flynn, 61, says “Running helped cure my Depression. When I was 46, I began suffering from depression. The doctor said, ‘Do you want to go on tablets?" I replied, ‘I'd rather not,' and went running instead. I found that helped enormously. It took my mind off my problems and by the time I was 47, I was doing well.
I broke the 800m Australian record and I've kept cracking them since. I hold world records for the 800m in the W50 and W55 divisions. I also hold the world record for the mile for W55, as well as several Australian records.
I was the first Australian to ever win the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Masters award and I was flown to Monaco to meet all the top athletes. I met Sir Roger Bannister [in 1954, Bannister famously became the first man in history to run the mile in less than four minutes], which was great as I always think about what his advisor Franz Stampfl used to say to him: ‘Don't worry, Roger, it's only pain.'
I tell myself the same thing when I'm racing. I do struggle with injury. I find it's no good going to a normal athletics coach. You need someone who knows how a 60-year-old body operates and that usually means longer recovery time and more time spent on rehab, working on your hips, back tendons and knees.I've cut down to one track session a week now and if I feel niggles I have to walk away, otherwise they'll develop into a full-blown injury. I also do sessions in the pool. It gives my legs a rest but I can still get my heart rate up to 130 or 140bpm.
I knew we'd get that relay record. It was hard, though, as the other teams against us had dropped off by the end so we were running cold, with no one to push us. I was so pleased with my time and someone said, ‘You should run with a baton in your hand all the time.' It's the team thing. You don't want to let people down and it's lovely to share your happiness with others."
Paula Moorhouse, 64 says “I want to keep that fit, athletic look.”
"Once my four children were off my hands, I decided to do something for myself. I'd weight-trained in the gym for 20 years but had never done competitive sport, so I started running half marathons. I posted respectable times but found running 70km a week tough on the body. So I decided to diversify and do track work. I ended up hooked.
At the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships, I did a personal best for the 1500m which became a NSW record along with my 800m time. I have to get my pacing better though - I go out fast and tend to tire in the last lap. There's an art to running, as there is to everything.
At 61, I did two body sculpting comps. Now I just do maintenance. I want to keep that fit, athletic look. At the moment my training includes track work, hills, long runs of about 10km and three gym sessions a week. I've never been injured, which I think is because of my background in resistance training and also because I started running later in life.
I'm vain. I don't leave the house without make-up. I go to the gym and the track with a full face. The other girls rib me about it but it makes me feel good. I do it for me, not for anyone else. My two daughters are very proud of me but one of my sons gets mad if his mates say, ‘Your mum's hot.'
"He says to me, ‘Do you always have to wear shorts? Go away and put some pants on!'"

And, as the Sydney Telegraph reported, the secrets of being a super-fit Sexagenarian are:
Good nutrition: All four women are "fanatical" about nutrition - they eat plenty of vegetables and protein and steer clear of sugars and carbs. Moorhouse eats five meals a day, and includes protein in each one, and Flynn also recommends supplements. She takes vitamin B, selenium, fish oil and glucosamine.
Strength training: Upper body strength helps them run fast and regular strength work also improves core stability and keeps them lean. "I think it's something everyone over 50 should do," Sims says.
Recovery: Putting aside extra time for stretching and recovery is increasingly important as you get older. Heagney and Flynn both use pilates.
Besides these four amazing women, Australian Masters Athletics has many other talented female athletes in the older age groups, all of whom strive to achieve their best performances, and to break state, national or world records in their age groups. Watch out for them at the WMA Stadia Championships in Porto Alegre, Brazil in October.


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