Former footballer and Sunderland Stroller Steve McMahon is one of Sunderland Harriers most improved runners since joining the club in January 2015.
He has improved over all distances, is a member of the Harriers’ successful over-35 veteran relay team and has recently discovered he is a useful track runner at the age of 37.
After a fleeting couple of months on the track, he has found that he has a turn of speed by clocking 2:01.74 for 800m.
He also shattered his personal best for 5km on the road by recording 15.29 – a 38 second improvement on his previous fastest. And last winter, he won the International Masters reserves cross country race in Dublin to signify he was heading in the right direction.
The management accountant joined Sunderland Strollers in 2009 to keep fit after playing football and spending most of his time in the gym.
He said: “The Strollers were a great club for introducing me into running. I loved the spirit around the place and instantly made friends – they even cheer me on now, wearing the royal blue vest of the Harriers!
“I was training two-three times a week then and had this crazy idea, back in 2010, that if I wanted to win the Strollers divisional championship, I needed to do a marathon.
“I signed up for the Town Moor Marathon in November on the back of my longest run, being the Great North Run in September.
“It was not the brightest idea or the best training programme, but I basically crawled over the line after cramp kicked in with three miles to go with a time of 3hrs 42mins and 31 seconds!
“Then in 2012, I put a bit of focus into the first Sunderland marathon and found that increasing my mileage provided rewards and I dropped my 10km time from 39.43 to 37.03 in the space of 6 months, something that I really wasn’t expecting.”
It was back in November 2014 that McMahon was one of four Strollers that switched to the Harriers. McMahon realised that if he teamed up with Ian Dixon and Kevin Jeffress, they would form a good veterans’ team.
This proved to be the case, as in the January 2015, when he wore the vest of the club for his first competition, they won the Durham Cathedral relays and they have remained undefeated ever since.
“I’ve been injury free now for 20 months so have been able to train consistently and reaping the rewards. The fact I got a good winter base in also helped.
“I made sure I ran each of the Harrier League cross country events hard and on tired legs, not concerned about my times or positions, as it was part of the long term plan to be successful this summer.
“I only moved to the track to give myself the confidence that I could run fast and out sprint people at the end of the race.
“I still continued my long runs though and just raced on heavy legs. I remember one Sunday going out and doing 16 miles after having done three sessions during the week, and then the very next day at the British Milers’ Club 1500m at Chester-le-Street I ran 4:10.5. Again it was how fast could I run being tired.
“I’ve always targeted getting my 5km times down, however, having had the success at both 800m and 1500m this year, I’m wondering if this is where my focus should lie next year.
“Having spoken to coach Simon Taylor at the club, he feels these are the areas I should focus on.
“I need to get this sub 2min for the 800m which, if I’m honest, I would have achieved this year if I’d done specific training, so the aim would be 1.58 next year with that assisting me in an attempt to go sub 15min at the Sunderland 5km.
“I’ll definitely do more 1500m and one mile races as I certainly believe they have driven me to quicker times this year in what I consider a break-through year.”
His immediate aims for the rest of the year are to help the club qualify for the National Six-Man Road Relays in Sutton Coldfield, run sub 32:30 at the Leeds Abbey Dash and help the club achieve a medal at the North Eastern Cross Country championships.