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I am thinking of entering the Southern California Association USATF Masters Championships. However, I am just an average runner, and maybe even below average. (20:55 5K is my best time this year.)
I contacted the SCA USATF Masters meet coordinator, and he said there is no minimum standard to enter the competition. However, in looking at some of the times that many USATF members are running (17:00s and 16:00s are pretty common, with the top runners in the 15:00s), I am thinking I don't belong on the same track with these guys.
I am thinking of running in the race just for the heck of it, even if it means being lapped three or four times.
Anyone with any experience in running in USATF sanctioned meets, and care to share about it? Was there a wide range of levels of ability in the competition?
Interesting topic - I've not actually done any, but have looked at race results just to see what I would be up against. It seems that the rep was steering you proper, in that while there were very finely tuned old folks in this competition circuit, there were some real outlyers as well. I think I decided they were just as interested in collecting your money as much as they were your personal ability, if not more. Having decided I was gonna get skunked, well, I could do that in any local race for a whole lot cheaper, as I recall, so didn't pursue it further. At this age, though, my recollection could be failing me, you understand.
I decided to enter the 5K race, maybe out of foolish pride so that I could convince myself that I wasn't chickening out.
There were only 10 entrants in the race. Winning time was in the low 16:00s, followed by another 16:00-ish runner, a couple of 17:00s, 18:00s, 19:00s. A lady ran a 20:03, to be the first female finisher. The amazing thing was she ran a 10K, which immediately preceded the 5K, in 39:50! She lapped me.
I finished in 3rd to last, but improved my time from a couple of weeks ago on the same track by 9 seconds. So, I was happy. I actually was feeling good and strong for most of the race. However during laps 9-11, I kind of lost focus and my lap times were pretty slow. All told, the race was a blast and I was glad that I ran in the race. The runners were obviously at a much higher level than I am, but they were down-to-earth and I was able to chat with a few of them. One runner invited me to warm-down with him and we chatted a little. Amazingly, he knew my teammates from college (Stanford '85), and ran in youth competition against my high school teammates, over 30 years ago.
Runners live in a very small world. What is really cool about the running community is that we can identify with one another on a meaningful level, no matter what our abilities are. Place and times are trivial in comparison with our common experience in overcoming struggles and fears, and enduring the pain when we push ourselves beyond our physical limits in competition. The SCA USATF Masters Championships were a great experience, as it reminded me what our sport is really about, and why I love this sport so much.