EDINBURGH, GBR - The 27-member Team USA squad practiced Saturday at Holyrood Park, the venue for this Sunday's 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
The championships begin Sunday with the Junior Women's race at (all times local) 1 pm, with the Junior Men's 4 km race at 1:30 p.m. The Senior Women's 8 km race follows at 2:05 pm, and finishes with the Open Men's 12 km at 2:45 p.m.
Athletes practiced Saturday under partly cloudy skies with occasional sunshine over the Holyrood Park course and temperatures in the mid-40s.
Sunday's weather forecast calls for cloudy skies and occasional showers with temperatures in the mid 40s as well.
The Holyrood Park course consists of a series of small laps (approx 1,800 metres) and large laps (approx 2,100 metres) which will go round Haggis Knowe at least once. Haggis Knowe is the centre piece of the course - this large rocky outcrop will provide steep climbs and descents for the athletes as well as offering a superb spectating position with views of the entire course.
Following the course preview, Team USA captains Jorge Torres (Boulder, Colo.), Benjamin Johnson (Albuquerque, N.M.), Renee Metivier (Boulder, Colo.), and Alexandra Gits (Edina, Minn.) gave their impressions of the course along with a preview of what to expect for Sunday's races:
Jorge Torres–It seemed that the course was a little bit harder and firmer when I was here in January, but today it was a little softer. The footing's pretty good. I don't think that 1/2 inch spikes are going to be necessary. The course was challenging in January–I expect it to be more challenging Sunday, because there's more competition.
The main thing I learned from racing on this course before is that you have to be patient. It's going to go out aggressive, and you have to go out and get yourself in good position, as the course is narrow in some spots..
Benjamin Johnson–It looks like the organizers did a great job of putting this together. The hill (at the end of the loops) looks awesome. It's pretty narrow towards the top, then you run down a steep downhill.
A lot of the older guys have said that it's going to go out fast and that there will be people around you, and don't panic.
Renee Metivier–The course is surprisingly more difficult, with a very big hill in the race. It's not as muddy as I was expecting. The first half of the race is going to be pretty quick, with the hill coming in the second half. A smart race plan is going to come into play.
The course gets narrow pretty quickly after you run about 450 meters, so a lot of people are going to be jockeying for position, and going out hard to make sure they solidify their spot. I think it's going to be a race of attrition.
I've told some of the other team members to run smart, and not go out slow, because people don't die in this race.
Alexandra Gits–It's going to be really cool to see athletes from other nations running Sunday. Overall, the terrain is going to be good, and it's supposed to be windy Sunday, but I think that having a lot of spectators on the course is going to help block the wind.
Because of the narrowness of the hill and the bumpy terrain, the hill won't be a place to do a lot of passing, but it can be a point where you can make up ground.
From talking to other team members, I've heard that this race will be like the NCAA Championships–every runner will have to be in their own moment. In this race, you don't know who is going to be on or not. It's going to be a bit of a free-for-all.
Tem USA meets local youth harriers
Before the team left for Holyrood Park, Gits and Johnson, along with junior team members Bobby Moldovan (Fort Wayne, Ind.), Emil Heineking (Hartsgrove, Ohio), and senior mens runner Max King (Eugene, Ore.) met with a group of young local runners at Edinburgh University as part of the local organizing committee's "Adopt A Nation" program.
The athletes signed autographs, gave away official USA Track & Field pins, and offered training and racing advice to the young athletes.
Afterwards, Johnson said of the experience, "It was awesome. The kids are so supportive of everyone. They really appreciate you and we appreciate what they did in making the effort to meet us today."
Coverage of the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships will be provided by WCSN. Please check www.wcsn.com for more details.
A record 78 IAAF Member Federations are expected for Sunday's event. The championships, which have a history dating back to 1903, and which first came under the banner of the World Cross Country Championships as an official IAAF event in 1973, have an existing participation record of 76 nations which was set at the 2000 edition in Vilamoura, Portugal.
The venue for the 2008 championships is Holyrood Park, site of the European Cross Country Championships in 2003, and has been the venue for many editions of the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country Race, which is an IAAF XC Permit meeting.
For more information on the 2008 World Cross Country Championships, visit www.usatf.org.