Friday, March 29, 2019

News You Can Use from Aarhus

World Cross Country Championships
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Aarhus, Denmark
Moesgaard Museum

See below for race analyses

In the US, Olympic Channel starting at:
2:30am Pacific
5:30am Eastern

Schedule in Aarhus time:
11:00 - 4x2k Mixed Relay
11:35 - U20 women 6k
12:10 - U20 men 8k
1:00 - senior women - 10k
2:00 - senior men - 10k
Photo credit: IAAF/Jan Kejser
Want to "run" the course? 
Here's a Vimeo from Jakob Larsen and IAAF. It's in two parts: the first shows the distinctive characteristics of the course; the second follows a runner running the 2k loop. Crank up the great soundtrack and be ready to be inspired:
(just under 5 minutes, well worth every second)

I have already published my course description with a slideshow of key features:'s Jonathan Gault published a more discursive piece and features comments from course designer and meet manager, Jakob Larsen:

Australian team member Mat Baxter published a highly entertaining sequence on Twitter regarding the course and its effects on one's legs and one's psyche: Congrats to Mat on having his course descriptions cited by IAAF President Seb Coe at today's news conference.

Feast your eyes:

There is a favorable forecast for Saturday's championship races. Highs will be in the mid to upper 50sF/13-14C. The wind is predicted to be 25mph/40km from the SW.

While it was cloudy and quite chilly with intermittent rain earlier in the week, Saturday's forecast is in many ways a best-case scenario for runners and spectators alike.

Race Previews
The women's side seems to be dominated by Hellen Obiri, and at today's press conference she was cautiously confident. Beatrice Chepkoech (Ken) flew to a steeplechase world record 8:44.32 in Monaco last summer; when she gets rolling, she doesn't stop. She won one of the IAAF XC races earlier this year by an astonishing 34 seconds - but Hellen Obiri (Ken) was not in the race.

Obiri looks unbeatable as she defeated Chepkoech by 37 seconds in Spain in February. She won the 2017 London World 5,000m title going away, and last summer won the classic Rabat Diamond League 5,000 in 14:21.75 with 4 more behind her under 14:25!

Ethiopia sends its usual deep squad, though perhaps it's not as well-known as some squads of the past. Dera Dida won the Ethiopian Trials, while Letesenbet Gidey is one of the very few to have ever won the World Juniors XC twice.

Rhonex Kipruto (Ken) and Selemon Barega (Eth) are two of the brightest young stars of cross country and track. Berega ran his phenomenal 12:43.02 5,000m as an 18-year-old last August in Brussels, but Kipruto defeated him in a January IAAF XC meet in Spain by applying the pressure and drawing away from Berega 2/3 of the way through the race.

Many are picking Uganda's Joshua Cheptegai, but he lost to teammate Jacob Kiplimo by 16 seconds, also in January, when Kiplimo ran a 26:41 road race 10k (fully certified but slightly downhill) in Madrid. Cheptegai ran 26:57 and finished 2nd! But here it's not even the time as much as it is Kiplimo's margin of victory that counts. He also won the World Junior title in 2017.

Geoffrey Kamworor is the defending champion and Kamworor will achieve legend status with a third straight win. He wins everywhere he goes, and three of his five World titles are at the half-marathon distance. With that kind of strength - remember, this championship is contested over 10km for both men and women - Kamworor also looks unbeatable on the relentless terrain of Moesgaard.

But looks can be deceiving. Anyone who is able to make a break here on Saturday will have a huge psychological edge as this is a front runner's course. I don't see anyone who has been dropped by the lead pack finding his or her way back. So, while it may seem crazy to say that a 12:43 5,000m runner is not the favorite, Barega's strength is running 7 laps in a row at 4:00.1 per mile pace on a flat track at the end of a 5,000m race, not over hill and dale and hill - and over 10k. He's not there - yet.

I'll go with Kamworor and Obiri. Obiri feels like the stronger choice, with Kiplimo and Kipruto not unexpected champions should Kamworor falter.

- I like steeplers on a course like this, and look for Courtney Frerichs (US) to snag a top-ten finish.
- Kenya's women did the impossible two years ago and swept places 1-6 in an event that allows only 6 entrants per team. Unlikely we'll see that again.
- Just a hunch: watch out for Uganda's Albert Chemutai who is a reasonably solid steeplechaser.
- Uganda has a stealth men's team. Looking forward to seeing them on the podium.

Three-Time World Cross Country Champion
Lynn Jennings
IAAF Heritage Exhibit
Aarhus, Denmark
Five-Time World Cross Country Champion
Paul Tergat
at World XC Championships course
with local students he had coached the day before

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