(USA Men's Team after winning the Silver Medal)
The World Championship has come to a close and I leave Slovenia feeling very accomplished. The Men's team made history in the 2010 edition of the World Mountain Running Championships. This may have been the most competitive year EVER. More Africans, more teams, more individuals capable of a top 20 finish! I said before the race Team USA could medal and it turns out I was right. In all honesty I did not think Silver was possible with the likes of Uganda, Eritrea, Italy, and Turkey. I thought if we had a perfect day we could get Bronze. We pulled it off despite my doubts! So I must thank my teammates for pulling their weight and making history. Most of all, I must thank Tommy Manning, I think I speak for the rest of the team when I say Tommy was the biggest piece of the puzzle in helping the USA team win the Silver. Tommy was our 5th man, but at the World Championships he put it all on the line and ended up being our 3rd guy!
Race day: After breakfast, the team and I sat there in the hotel, all of us thinking about the day ahead and how tough it would be to medal this year. At the start line you could see the 40+ countries striding, getting ready for battle. I glanced over at the peak one last time noticing the clouds covered the skies and more than likely, there would be some mushy sections. God answered my prayers! Wet conditions would only make USA's chances better being that everyone on the team had experience running in less than perfect conditions. Minutes later, the fight began. Max and I lead the team through the opening kilometers of the race. Max and I got out in the front pack and pretty much fought to stay there the entire way. As the course started to get steep we went by a few Ugandans as well as a few other top runners from different countries. Around 5k I looked up a bit and realized I had reeled in the Champion from last year Mr. Kusuro, I thought this guy must be hurting. I later found out he was just biding time as he made a surge to take home the Bronze. Around 8k I was in no mans land and slowly catching up to multi World Trophy champion Jono W. He too made a good surge in the latter stages of the race to place 8th. Also noticed that I was ahead of all the Italians and only a few Ugandans were in front of me. At this point I "Ran Like Hell".
I figured if I held on to my position (10th) we definitely had a shot at the Bronze. Placing 10th would also be the highest finish of an American at the World Mountain Running Championship so far. Mr. Benford from last year's team currently held the highest finish at the World Championship with 13th in 2009. Looking over my shoulder near the 10k mark I noticed Tommy had passed Max and they were pushing each other toward the finish. This only gave me more drive to finish strong and hold on for my team.
Inov-8 President Wayne Edy made an appearance at the Championship this year. Around 11k I passed the Inov-8 booth and seeing that and knowing Wayne had to be watching I knew I couldn't let the two guys closing in on me pass me with only a K to go, and with so much on the line, giving up a position was unacceptable. Uttered up the last bit of strength I had and accelerated up the last climb feeling pretty strong as I reached the brutally steep peak. I waited at the finish, excited, anxious to see what the results would be from my team. I kept my eyes open for teams I knew would challege us so as I watched the line I was trying to do the math in my head, Italian, Swiss, Max (USA), Italian... I had no idea who was ahead of me, then a friend of mine tells me I was the 3rd Non-African so I knew for sure, Team USA was en route to a medal. After the 4 scoring members of the team had made their way in, the tallies were in and I estimated that we had beat Italy (This had to be a first)! However, I thought Uganda and Eritrea destroyed us by a huge margin.
Turns out, I mis-calculated the score for Uganda. Their 4th man pretty much lost it for them and Italy also ended up beating them. Team USA won the Silver by a very close margin! This was the first ever Silver medal by the Men's Team.
Italy was only 6 points back while Uganda only 8! Talk about a sigh of relief!
I was at the finish line in pain, I knew I ran hard and I left it all out on the mountain. It was said that breaking an hour would be tough and that only a few would accomplish this task. They were right as only 12 managed to do so. I became part of that small number running 59:27 on this very steep technical course, sprinkled with a few flat sections near the top and a pretty technical downhill near the 8k mark. During the Awards ceremony it was great to see two other teammates on the podium with me who made history with me when Team USA won its first ever medal for the Men's team back in 2008 (Rickey and Eric). We joked how we now needed a Gold medal so that we could have a nice assortment of medals at home!