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World Mountain Running Championships 2014

Stephen Day last weekend raced in the Masters World Mountain Running Champs, and this weekend he races the World Mountain Running Champs, in Casette di Massa in the Italian region of Tuscany. Stephen gives us a run down of the New Zealand Mountain Running teams results at last weekends race and looks ahead to this weekends World Mountain Running Champs.

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Mountain running Euro style. Photo: Stephen Day.

Yesterday most of the New Zealand team arrived in Ziano, Italy, where Jonathon Wyatt is based. We’re here for three days of training before we head to the World Mountain Running Championships race village in Casette di Massa. We’ve got a good-sized team of eleven athletes, a team manager and assistant manager and about eight supporters.

Earlier last week we congregated at the World Masters Mountain Running Championships in the Stubai Valley in Austria. Most of the team entered the open/citizens race as a warm-up race while the older ones among us entered the various masters races.

For the men the race started at a small village called Telfes at a height of about 900 metres and climbed firstly through forest trails and then gentler trails above the tree line to about 2100 metres over the space of about 11.5kms. The women started higher up the mountain and raced about 7.5kms.

The team had some great results in the both the open race and the masters championship races. Jono Jackson, Tane Cambridge and Peter Meffan were 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the open men, Tim Robertson and Thomas Anderson were 1st and 2nd in the junior men, Laura Robertson was 1st in the open women, and Sami Jordan was 1st in the junior women. Meanwhile, in the masters’ races, Sally Gibbs was 2nd in W55, Paula Canning was 3rd in W40, I was sixth in M35, and Patrick Meffan was 10th in M55.

The Masters Championships are a huge event, with over 900 athletes from around the world competing (mostly European countries, unsurprisingly). Many of those athletes are very high quality runners. For instance former world mountain running champion Antonio Molinari was there and came third in his M45 race, in a time that I think would have got him second place in the open race.

But at the same time there was incredible camaraderie amount the competitors and celebration in the success and achievements of others. It was the kind of event where I was happy to sing the Australian national anthem for one of the Aussie competitors who won her event.

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The New Zealand Trio of Jono Jackson, Tane and Peter, on their way to sweeping the podium in Stubia. Photo” Stephen Day. 

It was great to see most of the rest of the NZ team run so well. And it was pretty cool to see a 79-year-old woman from Croatia win her W75 race. At the prizegiving she was jumping around and springing on and off the podium like a kid. And she had this huge smile and tears, and was waving to everyone from the top of her podium. Somewhat disappointingly she can’t compete next year because the rules don’t allow people 80 years and over to run. Apparently it’s not a good look to have some one dying on the course. However I suspect that would be just the way some of these old codgers would like to go.

But now with that behind us we prepare, try not to over do the training, and wait for the big race, the World Champs, this weekend. That course will start at sea level, which hopefully will make things easier, but will be run in much hotter Italian temperatures and, despite being an uphill only course, contains a couple if significant downhills. It finishes climbing into a gleaming white marble quarry.

Amongst the senior men’s race which I am part of, the tradional European strongholds like Italy will all be present, as will the USA. The Ugandans, who last year took out the top four places, are returning with a full team of six, and Kenya has sent two athletes. It should be a very high quality race.

Personally my goal is to make up for what felt like a below-par race last weekend, and in doing so support the other guys to a strong team result. What that translates to on a course I’ve never seen and against opposition I’ve never met is hard to guess, but hopefully it is creditable. I’ll be nervously excited for the next few days.


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