The breathless brilliance of the World Cross Country Champs
A Kenya versus Ethiopia slugfest, with the Ugandans sticking their oar in. Racing at its purest and most dramatic
I almost didn’t bother, but I was having a quiet Sunday afternoon, so I decided to sit down and watch the World Cross Country Championships on catch-up. Oh man, what an incredible series of races.
Over the years I’ve loved the World Cross Country Champs. It’s fierce, frantic, inspiring, insane, with over 100 elite runners in each race, pummelling away taking turns at the front, pushing, making gaps, getting caught. And all of it in their national vests, so you can really see the team element, the epic slugfest between Kenya and Ethiopia, with the Ugandans trying to muscle in, a few brave Americans and Australians attempting to hang on for the ride. As a fan of running, it’s pretty much the most exciting racing you can get.
The women’s race was particularly dramatic, as Letesenbet Gidey, the world record holder in the 5,000m, 10,000m and half marathon, took a commanding lead over the last mile. But with 400m to go, she started labouring. Beatrice Chebet, who later said that for a while she had accepted that she was running for second place, noticed that Gidey was slowing and she started sprinting. Down the final straight, she came hurtling at Gidey so fast that as she went past her, with about 20 metres of the race remaining, Gidey fell over. Pow.