The Course Is The Star At World XC Champs

Meet organizers made sure to keep the Mud Pit well lubricated during the racing. (MARK SHEARMAN)

AARHUS, DENMARK, March 30—More than the monumental duals waged on it, the most discussed aspect of the World Cross Country Championships was the epic course the world’s best runners battled over. Sited on the grounds of Moesgaard Museum just south of Denmark’s second largest city, the course made use of the hilly terrain surrounding the museum, then added some artificial obstacles and capped off the challenge with a run up the museum’s grass-covered roof.

The route’s roughly 2000m loop opened with a 400m uphill that climbed some 70 feet, before running through the middle of the Runner’s Valhalla—a huge beer tent featuring the meet’s title sponsor Mikkeller. After a brief downhill, the course climbed again to the Club Tent Zone before a long downhill into the first obstacle, the Water Pit: a 20m (c65ft) long water-filled trough.

Following the wet obstacle, the course climbed again, then ran through the Mud Pit—30m (c100ft) of muddy terrain the organizers kept adding water to over the course of the competition—then through the Sand Pit—20m of sand—before heading downhill into the Viking Gauntlet. Yes, there were actors dressed as Vikings thumping their shields each lap while the competitors ran past.

Finally the course’s pièce de résistance: The Roof! After passing through the gauntlet, the runners climbed 120m (c130y) up the museum’s grass-covered roof, which pitched up at a daunting 10% grade, before sprinting back down the same roof into The Berm—a sloped earthen embankment designed to allow the athletes to make a U-turn and either rejoin the loop or turn into the downhill finish.

How did this unusual course come to be? “It started with the roof, and we basically made 3 versions of potential courses: An easier one, a tougher one—and the final course layout,” explained Danish Federation Director Jakob Larsen. “The different bells and whistles added—the tent, the water, the mud, etc—were all added to provide a basis for storytelling for TV, opportunities for photographers and a reason to tour the course for spectators. There were quite a lot of ideas that were left behind, either because of regulations or simply because we ran out of steam.”

Team USA captain Stephanie Bruce said after previewing the setup, “It’s the hardest course I’ve ever seen. When people hear us say it’s a tough course, and that we’re complaining—on the contrary, we’re not. We’re just being factual. This course plays to people who are smart, patient and know how to run at the right effort through five 2K loops.”

The first group of competitors to test the course were the Mixed Relay—2 men and 2 women per nation each racing one loop. Ethiopia and Kenya battled through the first three legs, with the traditional East Arican rivals together through the third exchange before Ethiopia’s Fantu Worku pulled away decisively to win in 25:49. Morocco (26:22) passed Kenya (26.29) for the silver, while Team USA (Kirubel Erassa, Shannon Osika, Jordan Mann, Eleanor Fulton) finished 4th in 27:01.

Next up were the Junior (U20) women, with Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet narrowly awarded the win over Ethiopia’s Alemitu Takiru and Tsigie Gebreselama. All three were timed in 20:50. NC State frosh Savannah Shaw led the US contingent with her 23:29 for 53rd, with Team USA finishing 14th behind Ethiopia’s team gold.

Ethiopia’s Milkesa Mengesha (23:52) edged away from countryman Tadese Worku (23:52) in the Junior men’s race. Wisconsin frosh Shuaib Aljabaly (26:18) was the top American finisher in 29th, leading his team to 6th.

Senior Mens race news Senior Women’s race news

MIXED-SEX RELAY RESULTS

(Alternating sexes over 8240m—1 lap of 2100m, 2 laps of 2000m,1 lap of 2140m)

1. Ethiopia 25:49 (Kebede Endale 6:01, Bone Cheluke 6:47, Teddese Lemi 5:51, Pantu Worku 7:10);

2. Morocco 26:22 (Soufiane El Bakkali 6:10, Kaoutar Farkoussi 6:51, Abdelaati Iguider 6:02, Rababe Arafi 7:19);

3. Kenya 26:29 (Conseslus Kipruto 6:04, Jarinter Mwasya 6:47, Elijah Manangoi 5:50, Winfred Mbithe 7:48);

4. United States 27:01 (Kirubel Erassa 6:08, Shannon Osika 7:12, Jordan Mann 6:00, Eleanor Fulton 7:41);

5. Uganda 27:35; 6. Spain 27:47; 7. Canada 27:57; 8. Denmark 28:47; 9. Tanzania 28:48);… dq—China.

JUNIOR MEN’S RESULTS

(7728m—1 lap of 1972m, 2 laps of 1872m,1 lap of 2012m)

Teams: 1. Ethiopia 18; 2. Uganda 32; 3. Kenya 34; 4. Morocco 144; 5. South Africa 150; 6. United States 154; 7. Japan 154; 8. Great Britain 174; 9. Australia 187; 10. France 190.

Individuals:1. Milkesa Mengesha (Eth) 23:52; 2. Tadese Worku (Eth) 23:54; 3. Oscar Chelimo (Uga) 23:55; 4. Leonard Bett (Ken) 24:02; 5. Tsegaye Kidanu (Eth) 24:07; 6. Hosea Kiplangat (Uga) 24:08; 7. Edwin Bett (Ken) 24:18; 8. Samuel Masai (Ken) 24:19; 9. Samuel Kibet (Ken) 24:29; 10. Gebregewergs Teklay (Eth) 24:34; 11. Dinkalem Ayele (Eth) 24:36; 12. Jakob Ingebrigtsen (Nor) 24:39; 13. Yohans Kifle (Eri) 25:06; 14. Mathew Chekurui (Uga) 25:07; 15. Charles Katul Lokir (Ken) 25:09; 16. Filmon Kibrom (Eri) 25:16; 17. Robel Abebe (Eri) 25:20; 18. Cleophas Kandie (Ken) 25:26; 19. Dan Chebet (Uga) 25:49; 20. Issei Sato (Jpn) 25:51;

… 29. Shuaib Aljabaly (US) 26:18;… 39. Meikael Beaudoin Rousseau (US) 26:35;… 55. Charlie Perry (US) 27:07;… 72. Gabriel Mudel (US) 27:40;… 75. Ibrahim Kedir (US) 27:44;… 86. Khalid Hussein (US) 28:15.

JUNIOR WOMEN’S RESULTS

(5856m—1 lap of 1972m, 1 lap of 1872m, 1 lap of 2012m)

Teams: 1. Ethiopia 17; 2. Kenya 26; 3. Japan 72; 4. Uganda 73; 5. South Africa 132; 6. Canada 138; 7. Great Britain 153; 8. Australia 168; 9. Morocco 195; 10. France 210;… 14. United States 257.

Individuals: 1. Beatrice Chebet (Ken) 20:50; 2. Alemitu Tariku (Eth) 20:50; 3. Tsige Gebreselama (Eth) 20:50; 4. Sarah Chelangat (Uga) 20:51; 5. Girmawit Gebrzihair (Eth) 20:53; 6. Betty Kibet (Ken) 21:03; 7. Mizan Alem_Adane (Eth) 21:09; 8. Wede Kefale (Eth) 21:14; 9. Jackline Chepwogen (Ken) 21:17; 10. Lydia Cheruto (Ken) 21:44; 11. Meselu Kahsay (Eth) 21:46; 12. Mercy Chepkorir (Ken) 21:49; 13. Mercy Jerop (Ken) 21:54; 14. Ayuka Kazama (Jpn) 21:58; 15. Ririka Hironaka (Jpn) 22:00; 16. Lauren Carey (Aus) 22:02; 17. Kirstie Rae (NZ) 22:02; 18. Yanli Zhao (Chn) 22:05; 19. Esther Chekwemoi (Uga) 22:11; 20. Prudence Sekgodisa (SA) 22:15;

… 31. Makenna Fitzgerald (US) 22:46;… 53. Savannah Shaw (US) 23:29;… 60. Grace Ping (US) 23:45;… 70. Nicole Clermont (US) 24:07;… 74. Heidi Nielson (US) 24:13; 75. Kayla Smith (US) 24:15;… 84. Rilee Rigdon (US) 24:49. □