A BLOG BY JAKOB LARSEN, RACE DIRECTOR FOR THE IAAF/MIKKELLER WORLD CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS 2019

Photo: The president for the IAAF, Sebastian Coe, to the left, and to the right, the Race Director for the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships 2019, Jakob Larsen, in front of Moesgaard Museum, that will be the race venue at the WXC 2019 (Lars Møller).

10th March 2019

With 20 days to go it’s time to meet the team — or at least talk about how even a World XC race depends 100 % on grassroots.

A World Championships is by default a matter of some of the very best athletes in the World. The World Cross Country Championships 2019 is no exception. 

When the best runners on the planet congregate, the conversation tends to gravitate in their general direction. Kenya plan to start 4 reigning World champions and a World record holder. For most running afficionados this is rather hard to ignore.

But it’s not all about the stars. Organising a World Championships takes a lot of work. We started out less than a handful of people outlining the event, over time more and more people joined the preparations, and on race day hundreds of people will be working hard to deliver a show worthy of ‘the World’s Toughest Runners’.

BUT WHO IS BEHIND THE WXC?

But where do all these people come from? Who are they and what is their relation to the sport?

The following are examples of people working tirelessly on Aarhus’2019:

  • A former national team endurance coach (Volunteer Manager)
  • A parent entering the sport by proxy, only to become chair of the national Youth Commitee, and finally team leader of our World U20 Championships team (VIP-Coordinator)
  • A former president of the national federation, currently international official and president of the local athletics club (Chief National Technical Official)
  • A top-level international triathlete (School Cross Country Olympics Coordinator)
  • A race director from another part of Denmark (Head of Team Area & Mass Participation)
  • A Finnish former national team sprinter, currently coaching a youth group (Event Presentation Manager)
  • A high performance coach with an Olympic medal on his resume (Call Room Manager)
  • A former national marathon champion, currently national coordinator of ultra running (Cut-off Zone manager)
  • A IAAF Label race technical director, who joined the sport through his father-in-law (Finish Line Manager)
  • A former European U23 Champion (Master of Ceremony)
  • A former national champion in the 400 meter, currently athletics color analyst (Infield Announcer)
  • A passionate athlete studying journalism (Race-Week LOC Preview Show)

They all illustrate the diversity, which makes up the grassroots required to organise a World Cross Country Championships; International high performance, parents, passionate, but less talented, athletes, people who love “doing the show”. They come from all corners of the sport — and from other sports. Aarhus, and indeed other World Championships, may well be “Stars on parade” — but it is also very much “Grassroots on Parade”.

This, I believe, is the true secret behind the amazing day, that we hope and think awaits us all on March 30.

THE DAILY SCHEDULE…

With less than 3 weeks to go, things are falling into place. There’s still a lot to be done, because even though a competition in running may seem simple; “line them up, start the race, don’t forget the clock, keep track of the first to finish”, it is a bit more complicated..

On a random day last week my daily schedule addressed the following topics:

  • Payment and delivery of 700 hay bales
  • Input for LED animations
  • Interior design for the Mikkeller Tent (“Runner’s Valhalla”)
  • minute-by-minute plan for the opening of the cross country exhibit
  • A team leader’s request for tips and tricks relevant for the course
  • Discussion about acceptable type and length of weapons in the “Viking Gauntlet” cheering zone
  • Location of advertising boards based on camera positions
  • Approval of a very creative fanzone idea from a potential partner

This is no exception; in fact I am quite sure that several other team members are able to go one or two better than that..

CROSS COUNTRY EXHIBIT

As mentioned above, we had an opening of a Cross Country Exhibit in Aarhus. Cross Country history goes back 200 years, as the British Shrewsbury School has documents relate to cross country running on archive from 1819. And event though we as organisers want to present cross country in a contemporary setting, we have a soft spot for the history of our sport.

Thus it was a no-brainer when the IAAF approached us, asking if we would be interested in having an exhibit on display in Aarhus in the month leading into the race.

Photo: Abdi Ulad wins the Danish National Championship in Cross Country and “The King’s Trophy” for the 6th time at the National Championship in Roskilde on March 9th 2019. The 114-year old trophy awarded annually to the male winner of the Danish Cross Country Championships — is on display at the exhibit. (Danish Athletics).  

This poem is inscribed in the trophy which the Crown Prince of Denmark awarded the winner of the Danish XC title in 1905:
As the rock protects against River’s fall
And valleys be home to Man
Thus you heeded the Royal call
To safeguard Denmark’s land

The original plans grew as preparations proceeded (mad props to IAAF Director of Heritage, Chris Turner!!), and a visit to the exhibit at ‘Dokk1’ is highly recommended, if you’re in Aarhus anytime soon. 

Shrewsbury School features in the exhibit — as it will on race day.

ENTRIES

At the time of writing there are 8 days left to the deadline for entry into the championships. Based on the preliminary entries there’s a chance we may see a record-breaking 80+ nations in Aarhus.

 
With 8 days to go 28 countries have submitted their final entries, and the outline of a very competitive championships is starting to show — as illustrated by the very strong Kenyan team.

The mass race is also coming around. With the championships, the mass race, School Cross Country Olympics, and the national Youth XC relays we expect a total of more than 4,000 participants at the WXC’19.

We like to think (and hope) they will leave Aarhus with the experience of a lifetime.

2 km | Sprint
4 x 2 km | Relay
4/8/12 km | Cross & Trail
10 KM | WXC: The Search