Corry Collins was 55 when she took up running — 29 years on she’s still setting Australian and world athletics records.
The now 84-year-old holds the 400m Australian record for women in her age group, but was recently talked into running an 800m relay by her friends to set a new world record.
“I took a bit of convincing; I was thinking that 800 metres was a bit long,” she said.
“I trained two to three times a week just going on short runs and hoping I was doing enough.”
The training paid off, with Corry, alongside Jo Klemke, 83, Consie Larmour, 85, and Anne Young, 85, clocking 26:03.52 for their W80 4x800m relay.
“It was very thrilling,” Jo said.
The four women already hold the Australian titles for the W80 4x100m and 4x400m and encourage each other in the sport.
Jo started running when she was 68 after Consie introduced her to athletics.
She says she found that she loved the “freedom” running allowed.
“It’s all up to you. You can go as fast and as slow as you want to,” Jo said.
The 83-year-old also enjoys participating in pentathlons and received a javelin for her birthday last year.
“I just love [athletics] and I love to be with the people that I’m doing it with,” Jo said.
Another of the squad, Anne, recently completed her 250th Parkrun event — seven years after turning up to the casual 5-kilometre events.
Club offers fitness and friendship
But it is not just the fitness and thrill of setting records that keeps these women racing around the track.
Being part of the ACT Masters Athletics Club has seen them build new friendships and travel around Australia and the world.
“People are very friendly,” Consie said.
“We’ve made a lot of good friends, not only in our particular age group, but right throughout.
“People have been encouraging and wonderful.”
That encouragement and support saw 38-year-old Lucy Kobier take up pole vaulting, after not having done athletics since school.
She turned up to a club meet two years ago to find a group of people practicing pole vault and, after being shown some basic techniques, she gave it a go.
“I’ve been addicted ever since.
“I really like the comradery and everyone is really encouraging and supportive. It’s a really nice place to hang out.”
‘Never too late to have a go’
The ACT Masters Athletics Club caters for anyone over the age of 30 and has about 260 members — some who are still competing into their 90s.
“It’s never too late to come and have a go,” club committee member Suzie Gaynor said.
“So many people join our club and say, ‘I haven’t done this since school’.
“Many people come back in their 40s, 50s and 60s and give it a go for the first time and then stay with it for life.”
The 53-year-old joined the club as a runner to improve her fitness but took up shot put with the support of her fellow club members.
“You’re not there alone, even though it’s a sport that you do alone because you’re not in a team.
“The team is more about the camaraderie and support in seeing you do better with your personal best.”
It is reaching her personal best that has Corry setting her sights on breaking more records at next year’s Australian Masters Athletics National Championships in Brisbane.
“I just enjoy running; it’s the sense of being out in the fresh air and the sense of achievement that is really nice,” she said.
“I wish I’d started earlier!”