The 40th IAAF World Cross Country Championships is upon us once again and the best long distance runners meet to decide who can conquer the hills, dales, mud and freezing conditions of Bydgoszcz, Poland with ease.
Cross country is often described as the backbone or heartbeat of athletics and the majority of the world’s top distance runners often served their apprenticeship in cross country before going on to excel in different events on the track and roads.
The World Cross Country Championships are often billed as the toughest footrace in the world pitting middle distance types against leading marathon runners. But despite this event offering great preparations and the subsequent springboard to further success on the track for athletes who participate in it, it has sadly lost its lustre.
Many European countries shy away from the event, hiding from the strong African competition and domination. This in turn has resulted in bleak media coverage globally and low popularity of the event forcing the IAAF to make it a biennial event. Some justification indeed!
That won’t matter to Kenya. This is our time to shine!
Kenya, as always, is a major factor at the championships having won 24 times in 39 years and is the most successful nation ever at these championships.
Coming from a year break from these global championships, the national team is relishing the chance to show that it is the premiere running nation in the world and will likely use this opportunity to prove that they have not lost much in the way of competitiveness.
The team has a nice blend of experience and youth featuring a slew of athletes who participated in Poland back in 2010 which includes two World Cross winners, Emily Chebet in the senior women’s race and defending junior champion Faith Chepngetich.
The Kenyan men will strive to reclaim the 12km title from Ethiopia and hopefully match their spectacular performance of 2010 where they won all titles on offer at the same venue in Bydgoszcz. With four debutants in the championships, it will be interesting to see if trials winner Philemon Rono can match Joseph Ebuya’s sterling performance of Bydgoszcz 2010 and rise to the occasion once again.
However, the biggest story today in Bydgoszcz will be the weather and course conditions. With the course covered in snow, mud and ice for days and sub zero temperatures expected, all eyes will be on who manages the treacherous conditions better than the others. History has proved that it isn’t always the athletes who have mastered wintry conditions that excel, rather the fittest athletes. If anything, it is the athletes who are lightest on the muddy course that will do well regardless of fitness.
Best of luck to the Kenyan team today as they seek to extend their streak of excellence in these championships.