Martin Blackburn in action at the British Masters Athletic Federation Road Relay Championships.Picture: TIM SMITH.

ATHLETICS: Young Rhys Howard, not yet old enough to be a member of Ryston Runners, was nevertheless featured in the results of the first Athletics Norfolk Virtual Long Jump competition when they were published last week.

Designated “Ryston to Be” and allocated his own U7B category, Howard recorded 1.30 metres. His older brother Aidan, an u11B, was 12th overall in the chart, and first in his age group with 1.93m 93, while more seasoned competitor Liam Clare was fourth overall in the county and second u17M with 2.40m.

Both the age grading systems and virtual competition initiatives are proving invaluable in terms of maintaining motivation for club members in these times of restricted movement and meeting opportunities.

Members will be actively seeking out an event at which they can reunite and celebrate coming together once more, when regulations allow. 

The top memory appearing on the Facebook pages of several members of Ryston Runners AC last week was of the club’s sortie to the British Masters Athletic Federation Road Relay Championships at Sutton Park, near Birmingham, five years ago.

Triggered by the enthusiasm of recently qualified (had her 35th birthday) Master athlete Mel Watts, who organised the women’s teams, and Malcolm Tuff, who brought together the men, a bus load set out on the adventure, with no idea of the quality of the field. 

As it turned out, all the Ryston teams were pretty much overwhelmed by the cream of the country’s Masters, but that was not the point. 

It has gone down in the annals of club history of one of the best days ever, epitomising the club’s philosophy of inclusiveness and team spirit.

The world of Masters Athletics can be bewildering to newcomers to the sport.

To affiliate to the BMAF, athletes have to join a second claim club, preferably in their own region, so interested Ryston members also belong to EMAC (Eastern Masters Athletic Club). Ryston has a long association with EMAC – Peter Duhig was its chairman for many years, and he was one of the instigators of the EMAC Track and Field League, in which the club still competes with considerable success, under Helen Reed.

Several Ryston members have enjoyed success at national and international Masters level, including Peter and Cath Duhig, Gaye Clarke, Martin and Marlene Simmonds, Malcolm Tuff, Paul Harrison, and, when he was a member, Matt Pyatt. These, and others, including Jeff Reed, Mick Ennis, and Elizabeth Blakie, as well as past member Jo Isbill, have also represented the East in the annual Inter-Area Masters matches.

Ryston runs its own Age Graded Standards Awards, in which members can submit times and receive certificates across a range of road distances, with five categories from copper to diamond to aim for.