Aidan Reed is a freshmen at Southern Utah University and finished 2nd for Team USA and 42nd overall in the Jr. race at Kampala 2017 yesterday. He was the Montana AA XC State Champion in 2014 and used to play the violin. Aidan has kindly shared a reflection on the world’s toughest cross country race below. Give it a read and as always, if you’re interested in contributing please feel free to email us at [email protected]
As I bounced and fiddled nervously in the cramped and ill-air conditioned call room before the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, I glanced to my right, saw the Kenyan U-20 team and told myself a small lie.
“They’re just like you, Aidan. They’re human. They bleed red just like you do. You’re equals.”
Of course, I think I knew better. The Kenyans in that race, true juniors or not, are physiologically stronger than I am right now, but with fewer than thirty minutes before the most important race of my life, I wasn’t going to toe the line with doubt in my mind. I’m a firm believer in putting yourself in a positive mindset before a race will help yield positive results.
The Kenyan team went on to finish a hard fought second place behind Ethiopia. Our U.S. team battled to ninth place. We came away with feelings that it was a solid performance with all things considered, but it not the result we had hoped for.
Before the race, my fellow U-20 teammates and I weren’t under any illusions. We previewed the course everyday since our arrival in Kampala earlier in the week and were well-acquainted with its deceptively uneven profile and multiple energy-zapping obstacles. We were aware of and took seriously the quality and depth of the field and were especially cognizant of the effect the heat and humidity might have on us as the race progressed. Despite those factors and potential obstacles, my teammates and I toed the starting line trusting in our fitness and earnestly hoped that we could take on the teams around us and execute our respective race plans to the best of our ability.
Ultimately, I think my teammates and I did our best on the given day and while we all would have liked to have placed higher than where we finished, the opportunity to race with the world’s best on the largest and most competitive cross country stage was an invaluable privilege. To watch and cheer for athletes like Genzebe Dibaba, Asbel Kiprop, Ibrahim Jeilan, Geoffrey Kamworor, Muktar Edris and my own U.S. team members, all of whom I’ve watched race on YouTube innumerable times, felt surreal.
The nationalistic passion and energy of this event was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Imagine the fervor and excitement of the Super Bowl and the World Cup channeled into a cross country running format. That’s how electric the afternoon felt for me. The race organizers pulled out all the stops to make this year’s race the best it possibly could be. I closely watched the stands full of thousands of fans and supporters of every color and nationality roar with deafening ferocity as their athletes raced in the oppressive heat and humidity. I felt immense pride to be part of the athletics community and experience the atmosphere in person.
I am grateful to USATF, team USA’s coaching, medical, technical/security staff, race volunteers and my senior teammates for making sure my group and I had every opportunity to achieve our goals during our race. I think most athletes, no matter their respective sport, would agree that there is no greater honor or responsibility than to represent your country on a world stage. I can’t speak for my teammates, whom I now consider close friends, but my first international experience was eye-opening and I certainly hope it will not be my last.
(Thanks to Paul Merca for the photo of Aidan competing in Uganda.)