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Introduction to Veterans' Running

An effect of the continuing running boom is the rise and spread of Veterans running. An import from the U.S.A., where the exponents are more flatteringly called Masters. If you are over 35, you are allowed to compete in 5 year age groups. As a result runners in effect have 2 competitive careers. Many people who have enjoyed fun runs, or players reaching the end of playing other games such as football, have found they have an aptitude for running and take up the sport.

Veterans today form a substantial part of many road races and the membership in most harrier clubs. In South Shields Harriers it is over 50% and several members regularly win prizes- in both the male and female categories, and are currently North East Veterans Track & Field Champions.

Some of their successes are set out below; detailed results may be found on the NE Veterans website at:

While as club members, over (age) 35 runners are eligible for appropriate prizes in races, if they wish to qualify for North East Veterans championships and/or Veterans Track and Field competition, they must also be members of the North East Veterans Association.

Details of membership and competitions may be found on the above website.

2013 has started well with the club over 65 team, winning in their category at the Durham Cathedral /North East Veterans Championships Relays (Arthur Potter; Mac Stephenson; Ken McDonald) ; and the 0/45-55 team coming in 3rd in their category( George Arthur; Mick Jones; Kevin Emmett). Full results of the Shields Men & Women teams which entered the Relays may be found at:

Fixtures to note are the
English XC championships at Herrington Park, 23 February;
the British Master Championships, again at Herrington, 16 March (entry forms on the NE Vets website);
the club’s SandDancer 10k, which incorporates the NE Vets 6mile Multi Terrain championship, 14 April (entry forms at the club and on the official South Shields Harriers website).

Also it should be noted that the NE Veterans Track and Field League starts in May. Other NE Vets road race Championships may be found on their website.

Numerous medals have been won at NE Veterans Championships, on road, cross-country and track & Field.

Shields were: 1st team in the Northern Counties Marathon Championships, 1982 (D Whitmore, J Sibson, M Stephenson);

3rd 0/60 team in the UK Veterans XC Championships in 2004 (D Whitmore, F Strand, R Pinkney).

Heather Scott who holds the S Shields marathon record for ladies with 3-52-49 in the London Marathon, 1989, was 1st Lady 0/45 in the NE Vets XC Championships in 1994.

Peter Kelly, who had most of his success after transferring to Elswick Harriers in 1993 won 4 Northern Ireland XC vests from 1994 to 1999; was ranked by Athletics Weekly as No.1 0/50 runner in Great Britain in 1998; won 66 Vets categories from 1988 to 1999 (41 with South Shields) and was NE Vets champion at 10 mile (1995),20 mile (1992) and 5k (1993/94).

A 63 year old grandfather of three and self-described ‘sprinter’, Maurice Robertson spent yesterday struggling to accept his new status as British record-breaking long distance runner.

“I’ve never thought of myself as a long distance runner” confessed the retired chartered engineer, who unwittingly shattered 3 national age group records in a 12 hour race at the Longfields track in Darlington on Sunday.

‘Robertson, who started his athletic career as a 100 yard speed-merchant with the re-formed South Shields Harriers in 1945, remained in ignorance of his destined place in the record books until late on Tuesday night when he was contacted by ultra-distance running statistician Andy Milroy.

“I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even have an idea what the records were when I was running. I was just trying to achieve the Road Runners’ Club standard distance for my age.”

‘Robertson had not merely broken the records for runners over 60, he had, he was astonished to discover… “walloped them.” The distance he covered in the allotted half day, 71 miles 1086 yards, represented an improvement of more than 7 miles. En route he reduced the 50 mile record to 8 hours 4 minutes 11 seconds and the 100 kilometres record from 11 hours 26 minutes 43 seconds to 10 hours 14 minutes 22 seconds. “It doesn’t bother me that I didn’t know about it on Sunday” he said, “I’ve had to wait a long time to become a record holder. A good 63 years.”
(Report by Simon Turnbull, in ‘The Journal’)

Maurice later cycled from Lands’ End to John o’ Groats – after he had been fitted with a heart pacemaker! His two, younger, companions gave up. The apocryphal tale is that he visited a hospital on the way to see if the pacemaker could be speeded up as he was going too slow.

The club’s other outstanding vet, who had moved on to Morpeth and then to Wales with his job, was Ron Bell. In 1987, at the age of 40, he set record times of 1.53.5 for 880 metres and 3.53.8 for 1500metres.

South Shields veterans have been the back-bone of the cross country team in the Harrier league and of the club’s administration. They have a credible record at North Eastern and Northern championship level. They appeared in UK top ranking lists and have consistently won prizes in their age categories at local races.

Mick Jones, Chris Ridley, Keith Mackey, Peter Morgan, Nick Whallen-Griffiths, Lee Henry, Mick Haley and Phil McClusky featured prominently in the 40 to 50 age group, as did Ed Wilson and Peter Walker in the 50 to 60 age group. Bob Pinkney, Alan Bone, Bob Balmer, Frank Strand, Dave Whitmore, Bob Shaw, Mac Stephenson, Ken McDonald continued to defy their sell-by date in the 60 to 70 categories.

In the past three years the Ladies veterans team have begun to make their presence felt, as indicated above, while Michelle Ford continues to perform at a consistently high standard.

UK Veterans’ Cross Country Championships, Durham 2nd 0/60 Veterans’ team (R Pinkney, F Strand, D Whitmore) 2004/5: Keith Mackey 2nd Vet overall in Harrier Cross Country League 2005: NE Veterans’ Cross Country Relays, Durham Cathedral Relays: 1st 0/60 team (F Strand, M Stephenson, D Whitmore)

NE Veterans Cross Country Championships: 2nd team 0/40 (N Whallen-Griffiths, K Mackey, P Rooney, M Jones): 2nd 0/60 team (R Pinkney, F Strand, M Stephenson)

Lee Henry & Phil McClusky won their age categories in the NE Vets Track & Field sprints; and Mick Jones won the NE Vets Track and Field 10k Championship. Phil also won the Grand Prix in the North East Athletics League, the first of 3 titles over the next 3 years. In 2012 Shields were 1st Mens’ team in the NE Veterans Track & Field League, for the 3rd year in a row; while the Ladies team were 1st for the second time in 3 years.

The year has started well with the club 0/65 team winning their category at the Durham Cathedral /North East Veterans Championships Relays (Arthur Potter; Mac Stephenson; Ken McDonald); and the 0/45-55 team coming in 3rd in their category( George Arthur; Mick Jones; Kevin Emmett

The epitome of the veterans’ efforts is represented by Dave Whitmore,who did not take up running until his mid-thirties. By 2012 he had run 1422 races, including 33 Saltwell road races in a row and was regularly picking up first prizes in the 0/70 age category.

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