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Over a Rooftop and Through the Mud, a Tough Day for World Cross-Country Runners

On a difficult course in Denmark, Team USA placed eighth on Saturday at the 2019 world cross-country championships.

Rumor had it that race officials for the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships had something special in store when it came to the course design in Aarhus, Denmark. They didn’t disappoint, according to the athletes who took the challenge on Saturday, at the notoriously competitive race.

The 10.24 kilometers were broken up into five 2,000-meter loops. Each loop took the runners through a water splash, a mud pit, a sand pit, through a beer tent, up a 10-percent incline over the roof of the Moesgaard Museum, and around a 180-degree turn.

While the field is always full of many of the best distance runners around the globe, the terrain was a challenge unto itself. The American women were led by Stephanie Bruce, who took 33rd in 39:09, followed by Sarah Pagano (50th), Anne-Marie Blaney (51st), Karissa Schweizer (56th), Marielle Hall (58th), and Courtney Frerichs (78th).

“I’m proud of Team USA’s effort even if it wasn’t the result we were looking for,” Bruce wrote on an Instagram post. “We found each other, worked together when we could. We all managed fatigue out there.”

Frerichs, who is the American record holder in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (9:00.85) and world silver medalist in the same event, said she was disappointed with her performance, but hoping it builds strength for the upcoming outdoor track season.

“Well, not really sure what to say about that one except, ouch,” she wrote on Instagram. “Definitely one of the hardest days of racing I’ve ever had and without a doubt the toughest race I’ve ever experienced.”

Kenya’s Hellen Obiri, who is the reigning 5,000-meter world champion, won in 36:14, making her the first woman in history to claim world champion titles in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track. After the race, she said she won’t return to the grass.

“It is really special,” Obiri said. “It was my debut IAAF World Cross Country Championships and my only chance to do it. I now don’t need to do any more cross country.”

Ethiopia won the women’s team gold, followed by Kenya (silver), and Uganda (bronze).