Tasmanian distance runner and Beer Mile royalty Josh Harris shares an honest and detailed account of the race experience of his first international trip to the World University Cross Country Championships held in Lodz, Poland.
‘Hey guys, I’ve just returned from the 2012 World University Cross Country Championships in Poland, and would like to give you an in depth insight into my first big international competition. The team was selected based off performances over the season and current form, so I believe my 5km and 10km PB’s in February went a long way to ensuring my selection. The championships are the university equivalent of the schools championship in Malta won by Tasmania’s superstar Jake Birtwhistle recently, however athletes varied from 18-28 years of age, meaning a high standard of competition.’
‘RACE DAY- For breakfast race day, I didn’t change anything although I had slightly less volume of food, because I was going to have a meal 3 hours prior to our 1.45pm race. The next few hours went pretty slow, making sure we had everything, and really focussing on the task at hand. As a team we were an outside chance of a medal, as we had a consistent group of boys. This put the pressure on as all 4 of us had to run well to count in the teams points. The girls caught an earlier bus than us, and we met them over at the course at 11.30. We just chilled out, and watched Justyna and Monika carry the Australian flag in the opening ceremony. All the volunteers did a fantastic job.
It was quite a cold morning with everyone opting for a lot of gear to warm up in. I did a 15min warm up and a few minutes of stretching before heading to the call room area. We didn’t really get to see the womens race unfortunately but I took notice of the winning time of 15.45 and knew that I should be somewhere around the 31 minute region for twice the distance. I felt slightly slow in the run throughs but I think mainly due to the unevenness of the ground. It really sunk in that this was the biggest race of my life in the minutes leading up to the event. I wasn’t super nervous because I knew I wasn’t going to win, but I just focussed on executing the plan and not getting carried away at the start. The worst thing would have been to go all the way to Poland and to blow up after 2-3km. We all got to start on the same line, due to small nations in the boxes beside us which was good.
The gun went off and it was a mad rush as expected to the first corner. I settled in behind the other 3 Aussie boys. Went went up the side straight and the pack was so big that the sound of spikes on some of the few crossings was evident as carpet was only laid about 3 abreast. I found myself very near the rear of the main pack after the pace slowed. Before we got to the hill on the first lap I was averaging about 2:48/km and back in near 60th.
My plan was to relax on the hill, my reasoning being that it only took 15 seconds to climb with a maximum of 2 seconds lost, on the other hand attack it too hard and the legs may suffer for the whole race. I stayed out of trouble hitting the first lap in 58th place. I would have reached the 2km mark in around 5:48 which is moving for 10km cross country, so I thought the plan would go as expected that I would overtake 20-30 guys over the last 3 laps as they faded. I hit the 2 lap mark in 56th and knew I couldn’t hold the pace, but knew I wouldn’t blow up if I relaxed lap 3. I was still averaging 3:00/km after around 3.6km I think. I caught the New Zealander who ran 29:45 for 10km last week on lap 3 so was happy with my progress as I hit the half way mark in around 15:10 in 53rd spot.’
‘Lap 4 was where I planned to attack and I did, gaining 8 spots without doing too much work. Being a little guy I get knocked around by the wind, so It was hard doing a lot of work to chase, I think I would’ve ran better with a few guys around me using the same tactics. At the end of the 4th lap I rolled my ankle quite badly but the adrenaline made sure this wasn’t an issue until after the race. I moved up a further 2 spots lap 5 and was in 44th at the bell and in sight of Matt Johnsen. I knew it was only 5 more minutes of pain but I was hurting, and starting to doubt my finish after a poor effort at Run Devonport. I didn’t make a move until I was over the hill on the 6th lap where I started to put in the big ones. I caught Matty Johnsen with 200-300 to go and really worked hard running 60 sec 400m pace over the last section. Usually enough to gain places, but NO! I got overtaken by a Canadian and a Frenchman over the last 50m. I hoped this didn’t cost us a medal, but fortunately it didn’t as we finished 6th. I was 42nd in 30:51 for about 9.9km according to the garmin.’
‘I was quite satisfied with my run, and my effort in my first international race. I was only 1:36 off the top 2, with guys who run a 61min half marathon! My congrats go to Aussies Matt Bayley on a controlled run into 6th and Glen Yarham who kills it on the cross country for 15th. 10 seconds quicker and I would’ve been top 30, but not to be.’
This is an excert of a full trip report that is a great read and can be found here.