Pre-Race Buzz from the 2013 World Cross Country Championships

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Ben True: “It’s definitely the hardest course I’ve ever seen in my life…I think it will be surprising if at least half the field doesn’t fall at least one time during the race.”

March 23, 2013
Bydgoszcz, Poland

We went back to the course today to see how it looked the day before the race, attend the pre-event press conference and get some photos with the US team.

Here’s the buzz (7 random facts we learned since we last wrote).

1) The workers greatly improved the footing on the course.

Yesterday, when we visited the course, we absolutely loved it, but were a little worried it might be unsafe. We actually learned that one college coach saw the course tour online and told his assistant he was considering pulling his athlete from the meet. Thankfully that didn’t happen. The really sloppy spots were basically gone today as the snow was plowed and mulch/dirt was put on the really wet spots. The course no longer seems potentially dangerous.

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You can see for yourself how they greatly improved the footing as soon we’ll have up a new photo gallery of the way the course looked today.

Now don’t worry. The course is still very difficult.

“I think it’s going to be the hardest cross country course I’ve ever seen,” said US team member Ben True to us this afternoon. “We”ll see what it looks like tomorrow. It looks like they are putting a lot of wood chips out on the course, but running around on it today, it’s definitely the hardest course I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“There’s no straightaways (and) it’s all either mud or ice. And there are nice little mounds that are very interesting where it’s just a steep, short uphill/downhill and then there is basically a wall you have to run up six times. I think almost as scary as that uphill is going to be that the downhill on the backside where it’s all in the sun, it’s all muddy and it’s very steep with a sharp tun at the end.”

“I think it will be surprising if at least half the field doesn’t fall at least one time during the race.”

Speaking of True, we interviewed him at length today at the US hotel after getting back from the hotel about competing in cold conditions. We thought he was the perfect guy to interview as the New Hampshire Maine native is also a former cross country skier – who only chose during his last year of college to pursue running and not skiing. You can watch  the 6+ minute interview below. True was coached last year by former US 5000m Olympian Tim Broe and is now working with US marathon Olympian Mark Coogan who last year supervised True’s workouts as Broe coached him remotely.

Our seven minute interview with him is embedded below.

2) What do you do to when you ran a marathon last Sunday and are racing world xc this Sunday at age 40? Don’t run for 3 days.

Two-time world cross country silver medallist Deena Kastor told us she didn’t run after Sunday’s LA Marathon until she got here on Thursday. She said she recovered by going for a few dips in the ocean, getting a few massages and not running. When she did run here on Thursday, she said she felt much better than anticipated. As for why she is here? Kastor said she realized in looking at her training logs the best years she had were always years she ran cross country. Plus it’s clear that at age 40, she realizes she won’t have a whole lot more chances to represent the US of A.

Speaking of Deena, she was a featured guest at the press conference. We interviewed her one on one after the press conference (video on right), but loved the following quote from her during the press conference as well:

“(It’s) cross country weather, sloppy, muddy and a little cold. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

What a great attitude she and all of the Americans we’ve talked to seem to have about the course.

3) The coaching tree is very small/Dave Smith used to dominate Jerry Schumacher

How about this? Last night, at our favorite restaurant, we randomly bumped into Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith and former Wisconsin, now Nike coach, Jerry Schumacher a man who doesn’t like to have his photo taken or do interviews . The two are friends from way back which we didn’t realize. Dave and Jerry competed against each other regularly in college as they were the same year in school (1993) and in the same conference – the Big 10. Dave ran for Michigan State and Jerry ran for Wisconsin.

And while Schumacher’s PR is 3:39 and Smith’s is 3:43, Smith took great pride in recounting how he beat Jerry when it mattered most – senior year at conference as Dave was second in the 1,500 ahead of Schumacher (in a race won by Marko Koers who would go on to run 3:33 and get 7th at the Olympics in 1996). And Dave also won the 10,000 that year – that’s what we call a real man’s double.

We asked if we could get a picture of the two of them and the famously press shy Schumacher tried to hide but Smith used it as an opportunity to reassert his dominance over Schumacher as the 20th anniversary of his original domination approaches.

See for yourself.

Dave Smith exerting his dominance over a famously shy coach who hates to have his picture taken, some 20 years after first asserting it.

Dave Smith exerting his dominance over a famously shy coach who hates to have his picture taken, some 20 years after first asserting it.

Today, when telling this story to Keith and Kevin Hanson – the masterminds behind the Hanson’s-Brooks Distance Project who are here to watch their athlete Neely Spence Grace compete – we learned the coaching tree is even smaller. How about this?

When Dave Smith visited Michigan State as a recruit as a senior in HS, Keith Hanson, who was a senior at Michigan State at the time, is the one who showed him around.

Apparently, Smith showed up way overweight his freshman fall and the new alum Keith Hanson was disappointed as Smith was as big recruit as he ran 4:08 in HS.

4) Some college teams have a lot of money to burn.

We were surprised that a lot of college assistants are here to watch their freshmen run in the junior race – at least three. Plus Oklahoma State’s Dave Smith is here to watch post-collegiate Ryan Vail. It’s something prize recruits should think about, will my school let me go to World XC?

5) Eastern Europe is dominant 

The Berlin wall fell in 1989 and Eastern Europe has risen to new heights as Eastern Europe will host all of the major IAAF events in 2013. World Cross Country is here in Poland this week. The World Youth Championships are in July in the Ukraine and the World Track and Field Championships are in August in Moscow. It’s a shame that the Russians didn’t bother to send a cross country team here.

6) After seeing the course yesterday, the Kenyans are supposedly trying to get some longer spikes brought to them.

A Brit told us he’d heard that the Kenyans were trying to get really long spikes for the event but it was unclear if they’d get here in time. Yesterday, we were thinking if we were a coach we’d have our athletes where 5/8 inch spikes.

7) Are you a course junkie? Here is an aerial view of the entire course for you.

Yesterday, we gave you a still photo tour of the course (highly recommended if you haven’t seen it) as well as a course-level video tour.  Today, we decided to stand at the top of the hill in the middle of the course and give you a one minute aerial tour so you can try to put it in perspective as North American fans likely will be listening to a radio broadcast on Sunday morning.

The 1:59:40 GOAT shirts are here