Until I lived in Brussels, my experience with racing cross-country in Europe consisted of exciting (and terrifying) trips to the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships as part of the Canadian team. In fact, my very first international competition was the 1978 World Cross-Country Championships held in Glasgow, Scotland.
Cross-country running was my entry into the sport of running. You can find out more about how I started running and why being part of a cross-country team cemented my commitment to running: Listen to a recent interview I did with running friend bcjohnny (a.k.a. John Atkinson) for his insightful series of running podcasts Inside the Runner’s Mind.
By January 1988, I had already competed in six World Cross-Country Championships between 1978 and 1987. Injury had kept me from trying out for the team during some of the other years. In 1988 the meet would be held in Auckland, New Zealand. Would I be able to run or would my injured heel hamper my training too much?
This week’s Training Log includes a Belgian cross-country race. I didn’t do a lot of races in Europe, but I wanted to do a couple in preparation for the Canadian team trials, which would be held in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park early in February.
Cross-country racing was a much bigger spectator sport in Europe than it was in Canada. Often, the races were televised and highlights were even shown on the nightly news! Many races finished in horse-racing stadiums packed with thousands of spectators. Some of the larger meets gave out prize money and merchandise prizes to an astonishing number of competitors, even to age-group participants including children. However, I found that often prize money was not publicized, as had become common in the U.S. and Canada. Because I was an “outsider” and didn’t have an agent working for me, I sometimes had no idea how much money (if any) I might make for placing well in a race. I just gratefully accepted whatever wad of cash was discreetly slipped into my hand.
January 23, 1988
Rest day—just did some easy biking and strides at track.
January 24, 1988
PM: Raced Francophone Belgian Championships. 1st, 4K 14:12. Very muddy course—all mud—couldn’t go fast. Won by almost 1 min, but no competition. 6½ miles counting my warmup and warmup with Paul. Foot very sore after from spikes.
[Belgium is a bilingual country like Canada, but its two official languages are French and Flemish. The animosity these two cultural groups express for each other is worse than Canada’s English/French divide. I’m not up on the current situation, but when we were there, there were separate government departments for each language, and, as mentioned in this post, separate national championships in cross-country for the francophones and the Flemish-speaking people. Brussels, at the centre of the country, is bilingual; to the north most people speak Flemish (The Netherlands is north of Belgium), and to the south (towards France) most people speak French. We found that many of the Flemish people spoke fairly good English, and hated speaking French even with Paul, who is fluent in the language.]
January 25, 1988
AM: Weights—”pull-strength-endurance.” Worked very hard 67 min. Also did squats, cleans, leg curl & extension, abdominals on Universal. Foot not too bad.
January 26, 1988
AM: Ran 10-mile course at Von Karman with Paul—he gave me 30-sec head start, caught me at 10 min, I pulled away at 35, ran 64:26 in horrendous conditions, rained the whole time, very muddy, I was freezing and very stiff last 10 min. Felt sluggish before run (fighting off cold) but felt good once I started—legs fresh. Foot sore at start but warmed up.
PM: Rode bike hard for over an hour including 9 circuits around lake. Very tired and catching a cold.
January 27, 1988
AM: Did easy bike ride through forest, about 1 hr.
AM-2: Weights—”push–strength-endurance” plus side leg-raises, leg extension, back leg push on Universal, hyperextensions, situps. Didn’t push hard—feel very tired because of cold. Strength improving though. 67 min. Foot very bad today—hurts a lot walking—don’t know why.
January 28, 1988
AM: Worked out by myself at Von Karman—Paul’s knee injured. Did 40-min run (slow on 10-mile course.) Followed by 7 x 1 km. Times 3:35, 3:25, 3:34, 3:24, 3:34, 3:25, 3:34. Exhausted by end. Foot warmed up in continuous run, felt a few twinges in speedwork. 11½ miles.
PM: Ran 44 min on paths and forest near house. Pretty tired and paths very muddy in parts—ran fast last mile. Foot not bad. Throat still sore. About 6 miles.
January 29, 1988
AM: Weights—”pull-strength” plus leg curl and extension, abdominals on Universal and situps, squats, snatch. 70 min. Worked quite hard but fatigued from yesterday and from cold, not very strong.
This week: 34 miles running, 2 bike workouts, 3 weight workouts.