The inside story: “Italica or bust”

Laura Tuite reports from inside the camp:  On 17th January a group of 30 athletes and 10 coaches headed to Seville to compete in the XXXVIII Cross Internacional de Itálica, IAAF recognised race.

As the plane touched down in the warm south of Spain everyone was bursting with excitement and anticipation of the 16+ degree heat we had awaiting us! Once we all checked in, we headed to the restaurant for the buffet dinner, which was mediocre at best. Things picked up though when we realised who was sitting at the table beside us eating the same food; Hellen Obriri (5000m world champion) and Paul Chelimo (Olympic 5000m silver medalist)!!

Our hotel was situated 20 minutes from the center of Seville but as Daniel Lacey liked to describe it, “we were in the ghetto”. There was not much around except a small bowling alley, Lidl and a few small local bars, which the coaches put to good use.

Saturday we woke to a dull grey sky, we were not one bit impressed. A bus was organised to bring us out to the course. Upon arrival, the rain began to fall but that did not stop us. We ran around the course and to our surprise it contained no grass or muck, which is what we have been used to all season! It was a hard red clay trail with some parts of the 3k loop containing concrete. There was two gradual inclines followed by two nice downhills and many sharp corners. The consensus was good but the burning question everyone had “Spikes or flats?”
Saturday evening was spent relaxing in the hotel and resting our legs for the main event.

Bright and early Sunday morning the junior women were first awake as they were first to race at 9:30am. As they arrived to the course the sun began to rise. It was a beautiful day! Weather was perfect for running. The rain on Saturday had no effect on the course so most athletes chose to run in flats rather than spikes. It was around 16 degrees with a slight breeze. The Spanish were wrapped up in their hats and scarfs but us Irish rocked up in shorts and t-shirts.  Hourly shuttle buses from the hotel brought the athletes to the course.
The atmosphere was electric! The crowds were amazing shouting “VAMOS” (GO)  throughout the entire race.
Junior women and men all had a great run, everyone was smiling ear to ear which encouraged us older ones to relax and just go out and run.
Stephen Cashen showed us how it’s done by leading out the men’s popular race; containing 1000 participants. As soon as we saw him come around the first corner, the Clonliffe tent erupted!
The men and women’s international races were filled with top class athletes who set an unbelievably fast pace from the start. It was inspiring to watch Efrem stick in and tough it out against the best of the best.

After a hugely successful day at the office, everyone headed back to the hotel on a high. Showered and famished we went and got a well-deserved Mc Donald’s.
Sunday evening was spent in the local pub playing pool and watching the football.  Which progressed into dancing, and singing to ABBA and Bruce Springsteen. The night ended by a solo performance of Amhran na bhFiann from Gerry Cullen.

Monday morning 8:15 wakeup call was tough for some but tougher for others. Fed and packed we all made it onto the bus only 15minutes behind schedule.  The weekend was a huge success; everyone had a great time and already looking forward to our next trip!