Paul Tergat, the legendary Kenyan distance runner who aims to win an historic fifth consecutive title on Sunday, described the course of the 27th IAAF World Cross Country Championships as "the toughest I have ever seen", at the official IAAF Press Conference earlier today.
Tergat, who attended the Conference with Morocco’s Zahra Ouaziz and British representatives Paula Radcliffe, Jon Brown and Dagne, echoed the remarks of the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee Brian Hanna who had earlier described the efforts of his team to provide competitors with an authentic cross country experience. "We made a conscious effort to provide a tough and challenging course – one that is perhaps more like a traditional European race than what we have seen in recent years."
The British representatives, especially Radcliffe who is determined to improve on the silver medals she has won in her last two outings, stressed that the conditions would help the stronger runners.
"My training has been geared to this competition and I will need to be stronger than ever," said Radcliffe. "I know that there is a pressure of expectation on me but, on the other hand, I will have the support of a "home crowd" , I have run the course before [it has been a venue for the Belfast IAAF Cross Challenge event] and I am familiar with heavy conditions. But I will be up against some great runners like Gete Wami and it is a question of who clicks on the day"
Tomorrow’s action includes the women’s long course race, the men’s short course and the women’s junior race. With rain expected, the going is likely to be very heavy and difficult underfoot.
This morning, the Mayor of Belfast David Alderdice joined IAAF President Primo Nebiolo and the President and Chief Executive of UK Athletics David Hemery and David Moorcroft at the Children’s Friendship Games - a cross-community and cross-border initiative organised with the support of the International Athletic Foundation.
The event, the culmination of a programme involving 4,500 children aged 9-10 from teams in Ulster and the Republic of Ireland over recent months, was a tremendous success.
The teams, made up of representatives of both communities, were praised by Dr Nebiolo: "The spirit of cross community – so suggestive in words – has been turned into reality by your presence here. Whatever your backgrounds, you are competing here as team mates and this spirit is helping to create a brighter future in Northern Ireland."
The Foundation has also donated the equipment used in the event to the children of the Province.