Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
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Clare Elms A Revelation of Age Athletics


by Alastair Aitken

Clare Elms, who was 45 on Boxing Day is the revelation of Veterans/Masters athletics in the last couple of years, if you consider she only started training over half way through 2006. In 2008 she did over 80 races, won 50 of them and was first W40 in 72 of them. Elms, also did the 4 fastest legs in relays (That included the BMAF road/country Championships). and she also ran a  lap in about another eight 4x400 relays.
   There is no doubt Clare Elms fluent style is suited to track and road racing but she had never done cross-country racing till 2007 and her biggest race was the London Championships at Parliament Hill Fields in November 2008 when, she came sixth, just ahead of Esther Evans, the 2008 Middlesex Champion. That showed she was starting to improve as a cross-country runner even though she has found it difficult in the mud.
   "It's character forming when freezing and cold and it mentally makes you tough' she smiled.
Her coach Steve Smythe, an accomplished runner over many years, points out "Clare is very inexperienced as a runner and has never run a Southern or National or Inter-Counties cross-country, just one Kent Senior. In terms of distance she has run one half marathon, which she ended up walking and she struggled very badly in her other long distance race, the Benfleet 15 in 2007. Both races though before she had trained properly and  long term, she seems capable of a good distance race, once the endurance has improved."
However, looking at this year 2009 he pointed out, her targets include the World Masters W45 indoor 1500m record of 4:40.3 (she ran 4:36.46 in February 2008 and other British records she is capable of doing, which are listed on the books 800 -2:19.7 (She ran 2.17 in January last year), 4:44.0 for 1500 and 10.00.05 for 3000m (She ran 9:54.86 in France) British Indoor W45 records at 1500 of 4:40.97 and 5000 of 17:09.3 are slower than times she ran outdoors in 2008.  
   Clare Elms mentioned the indoor races last year in January/February as successful for her ' I think I was running really well indoors then. I had never run indoors before. It was an amazing feeling. No wind and on the carpet.'
   In 2007 Clare Elms won the W40' 800/1500/5000 in the British Masters Championships at Alexander Stadium, Birmingham after she first raced on the track in May and in August won the Southern Inter-Counties senior 3000m at Crystal Palace in sub 10 minutes but it was in 2008 she topped the W40 ranking at 1500, mile (British W40 record) 3000, 5000 and 5k on the road. Going back to 2007 again, she ran 35:18 in the Telford 10k road race, taking 90 seconds off her best time and topping the UK rankings and she broke the hour for 10 miles on the 19th of November doing 59.15 in the Cabbage Patch 10 miles.
   Her coach and Clare Elms feel they will cut down on the races and prepare more for the important one's in 2009.
However, she did not appear to regret competing a great deal in 2007/2008
   'Last year it was rainy or windy every time I raced on the track virtually so, I always did another race with the hopes that conditions would be better each time' She also added another reason to why she had been such a prolific racer in such a  short time.
One must say her first claim club is Dulwich, which she  joined because her coach is there to be on hand as she also wanted to improve but having lived in Beckenham all her life she likes to run for Beckenham running club also when she can so, she has kept her second claim status with them. Dulwich and Beckenham do not compete in the track leagues in the Summer so she runs for Cambridge Harriers on the track.
   ' I love Cambridge Harriers and the vets team, such lovely people. In a way, they kind of relied on me. I think what happens to me is they ask me 'Can I do this or that' and I race a lot of events and do several in the Southern league as well. Although it helps  with endurance, using the races as training runs, I probably should not be doing them.'
   Clare Elms was born in Beckenham on 26.12.63, went to Colona Grammar School, Croydon. They had a 100m grass track marked out and she won on Sports day and in fact won a couple of 200's against other schools. ' My Mother was not into it particularly. Not a thing I should be doing. My Father did like to see me swim at Beckenham. She gave up running till she was 27 and although she did not train for it, she went into the London 10k in 1990, won by Rosa Mota and was 48th in 41.20.
I wondered was that a good indicator for her that she had some talent?
'I did not know what 41/42 minutes for 10k meant. I remember I started fast and ended up in agony.'
   In 2006 she returned to give it a go for charity and see, whether she could improve on what she did at 27 and she managed a time of 39.03.
      'One of the Mums at school  who was a physio saw me out running and said ' Clare you look like quite a good runner; Why don't you belong to a running club.' I said 'I'll see' and went down to Beckenham running club. Straight away I  was the fastest there' I did my first Assembly league and I was 3rd lady. That was the beginning.'
She was one of three who went down to Dulwich. One of the others being Andrea Pickup and that was when she met her coach Steve Smythe who  was coaching at the club..
   What did her husband Clive, who is a Private Clients Broker, think of her being so much into athletics.
   ' I have three eight year olds' to look after James, Alex and Lucy but, as long as it fits in, we know what we are doing, it does not effect them and, as long as they are looked after. I bring them along to fun runs so they can join in as well. They all, already, seem to like running. James was first of some 500 in the Bromley Sports meeting at Crystal Palace and Lucy was fifth. James came straight out and off he went! Clive has been amazed that the talent has come out in me and therefore he says keep going. It is exciting as my times are getting quicker. Just to see what I can do if I train. properly'
   Clare Elms worked for the Union Discount Company for 121/2 years and 2/3 years at Barclays.
She summed up her athletics
              " It's lovely, I love it! I really do. I can't believe how much I do. All my life I have never really had a passion for anything.'
She concluded ' It's not running against people. I don't look at it like that. It's your time or what you can improve  on. You can't argue with a stop watch. You can't say that can't be right.'
            'It's that  feeling on a good day when you are running well. I love  training on the track."

Alastair Aitken

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