Road to Malaga Part III World Masters Athletics Championships 2018

It had been a rocky road to the championships but I finally made it. I arrived in the morning, the day before the race. My coach had advised me to rest and allow my achilles inflammation to settle. I spent the day catching up with my Glaswegian friend Robert McCulloch who I had been roommates with during my year on an athletics scholarship in America back in 1994/95. Robert had already ran the 10k road race and was due to run the M50 5000m the following evening. Unfortunately Rob, he had injured his upper back prior to the championships, which was making breathing on exertion very painful.

chillin' with my good friend Robert McCulloch who competed in the M50 Road 10k and 5000m

On the morning of the race my achilles felt the best it had done in recent weeks. I made my way to the stadium, a short 3 mile taxi ride away. For the next hour I walked for 15 mins to loosen up then sat in a quiet place to relax, close my eyes and gather my thoughts. When the time finally came to to warm up, stiffness in my achilles was obvious but not too concerning. After 10-12 mins of jogging I performed some strides on the astroturfed football pitch  adjacent to the track. The first stride felt ok so I decided to perform some stretching. The next stride was quite uncomfortable and limited my ability to generate speed. I quickly became concerned whether I was going to be able to be competitive or race at all.

30 mins prior to the race I made my way to the check in area, sat down head in hands contemplating what was to come and feeling rather dejected. As other athletes arrived I could hear various conversations of injury woes; I guess I wasn't alone. I began to realise that with masters athletics it is probably the norm for most to compete with niggles and injury concerns. It's all about who can hold their body together the most that ultimately prevails. One of my main rivals Swedish athlete Fredrik Uhrbom, was one such person who confessed openly that he wasn't sure whether he was even going to start the race. Another, Santiago De La Fuente Martin from Spain had his right shoulder heavily strapped up following an injury he had recently sustained and for which he had had recent surgery for. Meanwhile, the Kenyan athletes looked relaxed, slender and ready to slaughter.

The M40 5000m championships were split in to 3 races. 50 athletes had confirmed there participation. I was in the A race which was going to decide the medals. There were 18 in the race, 6 were from Kenya, 5 from Spain, Phil Burden and Mark Worringham also from GB, plus others from Europe and South American. Start time was 11am, it was now 10:50am and we were ushered to the starting area. On the back straight I was determined to get my confidence up and convince myself that all would be ok. I performed a really good stride which didn't hurt when I initially pushed off and landed. So I quickly accelerated to near top speed and felt no restriction. It was only when I decelerated that I felt anything. So I was somewhat reassured. I had taken the decision long ago to race in flats, the On Cloudflash. Spikes were completely out of the question. Another sign that I morphing into a proper Masters athlete!

The weather now was warming up to an uncomfortable level. It must have been close to 27 degrees with significant humidity. It was important now to try and reduce my body temperature. So I walked over to the water table which was situated near the start line. There were several bottles of chilled water in a bucket. I helped myself to one, removed my running vest and laid it on the track. I saturated my vest with water then struggled to put it back on. Once on, I got an instant cooling effect. I spent the remainder of the time pacing up and down, sipping water and pouring the remainder over my head and vest.

When you stand on the start line you often forget all the pre-race strategy you recited the days beforehand. I had had several ideas of how I was going to approach this race but these were clouded with injury concerns. So in an effort to clear my mind I just repeated to myself "commit on the first lap, stay in touch and the rest will follow".

and they're off...

We were called to the line, the gun fired and I started swiftly and got myself into a good position. I was jostling a bit with a few of the Kenyan runners but quickly settled into my stride and focussed on my plan. The first lap was completed in a little over 71 seconds, I was flowing nicely without any concern for my achilles. This was the fastest I had ran for many weeks and it felt much faster than 71 seconds. Nonetheless, I stuck with a group of five Kenyans, Samuel Ndereba, Silas Sang, Eliud Kirui, Francis Komu and David Langat plus Spaniard Victor Ramon Pena Martinez.

early stages

After 2k, I was still amongst the leading group. Spaniard Pena Martinez had already fallen off at this point.  During the next few laps the group began to disperse. I was at the rear with 5 Kenyans in front me. Ndereba, Sang, Kirui and Komu began to break away whilst Langat was 10 metres off closely followed by myself a further 5 metres down. In an effort not to loose contact I swiftly went passed Langat but soon realised that I had missed the break and that I possibly couldn't maintain the pace I had accelerated too so I just tried to maintain my position in fifth.

chasing the Team Kenya

in 5th position

The leaders pulled away and at one stage they had a lead in excess of 100m. With about four laps to go I noticed Komu was falling off the back of the group of four. I didn’t believe that I had a chance of catching him but I just continued working as hard as I could. The temperature and humidity was really starting to bite, but I just kept focus. I thought to myself lap after lap that I must maintain my lead above the Kenyan behind me, which I felt I could do comfortably. With two laps to go I could hear lots of cheers and shouts of encouragement that I was gaining on fourth position.

Race Video; credit Robert McCulloch & Andy Collins 

With one lap to go I realised I was in with a good chance for catching Komu. I decided to increase my pace without accelerating significantly. At 200m remaining, with 20 metres to make up I picked the pace up once more. I made one final kick with 100m to go as I entered the home straight. I hit turbo boost as if I was in a "one on one" street race in the movie fast and furious. I was now in full flow and narrowing the gap which was now 15-20metres. The noise of the crowd increased as it came apparent was I was attempting to do. This alerted Komu of the impending danger. I was running now almost in lane 3 to avoid the lapped runners. With 30m remaining I drew level with Komu, he moved out slightly and we clashed arms almost getting entangled. I had enough momentum to carry on past and steal fourth position.

I crossed the line in 15mins 05secs, and felt that the effort I’d put in was worth much faster. But in light of the weather conditions, imperfect preparation and the manner of which I took 4th place I deemed this a good result. I never imagined feeling very happy with 4th place. It would have been great to get a medal of course. The Kenyans brought a lot of credibility to the event and to finish forth in the World Masters behind athletes like this is a great achievement.

Since returning from Malaga, I've spent 4 days limping. I received shockwave therapy earlier this week which appears to be helping. Hopefully in the near future I'll be able to train and race pain free.

Special thanks to my wife and children for there exceptional patience and support. To On Running for backing me this year. To Mary Crowley for the Remedial Sports Massage Therapy and Matthew Clifton-Hadley for the Chiropractic work. Last and not least to my 6am club runners for great camaraderie this year.

Hope you've enjoyed this recent series of blogs. Thank you for reading.


  1. Another great blog Kojo, it was a pleasure to watch and film you run such a great race. Brought back memories of our time at High Point University, North Carolina. Look forward to your next race.

    1. Thanks Rob. Great to see you too. Can't believe it had been so long. Until next time.


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