Feature25 Sep 2014

True confessions – Ben reveals plans for IAAF World Cross Country Championships


USA's Ben True in the senior men's race at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships (© Getty Images)

At the moment, Ben True is taking it easy, but that won't last for long.

After finishing off an outstanding season on the track with 5000m outings at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Stockholm and Zurich, the US distance runner will soon begin looking ahead and preparing for the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China, which will be held on 28 March.

A lot of people will be watching to see whether True can emulate his performance from the last edition of the championships, in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz last year, when he finished sixth and was the first non-African across the line, also leading the US men to a surprise team silver medal.

This year, he has shown the prowess on the track which suggests that he potentially can acquit himself well in China.

Earlier in the year ran a 5000m personal best of 13:02.74 in May, which briefly led the world, and he finished the summer as the eighth-fastest man over the distance in 2014.

He couldn’t sustain that level of performance through to the end of the summer. “(Travel) caught up with me. It's something I'll have to change (for next season),” he reflected.

Nevertheless, his only real regret is that he could not fit a race over 10,000m into his schedule at the right time.

“I really enjoy running the 5000m,” said True. “I think I'm still open to running the 1500m and the 10,000m,  the high level 10,000m (races) are few and far between these days.”

After his post-season break ends, True will resume running approximately 100 miles a week, a regimen that includes two hard workouts and a run of 18-20 miles.

Ahead of the championships next year, True said his main goal this winter is to remain injury-free, which means striking a balance between training and health.

Mindful of the fact that Guiyang sits at a height of 1275 metres, True will also train at altitude for the first time in his career, with one eye also on the US Championships, which will be held this year in the mile-high city of Boulder, Colorado, on 15 February.

“It (altitude training) is something I've been contemplating for a while,” said True. “It's not something I've been into before. Hopefully it will make (racing) easier.”

Hardened by New Hampshire hills

Beyond the sheer distance True covers on a regular basis, he believes the terrain of his native New Hampshire provides him with an extra edge.

“There are a lot of hills here,” True said. “I get a lot of strength from those hills. It's great training here.”

The US men generally appear to have a solid foundation to build upon as they target further success in Guiyang.

In Bydgoszcz, True was joined in the top 10 by Chris Derrick (10th) while Ryan Vail (17th) and Bobby Mack (19th) made it into the top 20 to complete the scoring quartet and give the USA senior men’s team their best result in almost three decades, since they also got a silver medal on home soil in 1984.

“The state of US distance running is continuing to rise. There are more Americans running sub-13:10 than ever before, and runners in college are constantly running sub-13:30,” said True.

“I think there is a new belief that we Americans can run with the world's best. There is no longer the idea that we are running to be ‘the best non-Africans'. We are simply running to be the best. This change in ideology has helped foster a rise in American distance performances at all ages and levels and will help cultivate a continued American success on the world stage.”

However, True believes that every championships is a discrete event; so far he doesn’t feel any pressure to repeat that level of success, either individually or as a team member.  

“World Cross is such a different event,” said True. “The course (in Poland) played to my benefit. Cross is a lot of fun, it's fun to have that camaraderie of running as a team.”

Nevertheless, despite his past success at the US and IAAF World Cross Country Championships, these races are definitely second in importance on True's list of upcoming events because he will marry Olympic triathlon fourth-place finisher Sarah Groff next month in New London, New Hampshire, not far from his home base.

He found himself sitting in the stands for the World Triathlon Series event in Stockholm the same week the IAAF Diamond League meeting was in the city, where Groff recorded her first ever series win.

True joked that he's definitely more nervous during Groff's races than his own. “My fate's in my own hands, but I can't do anything to help her.”

It remains to be seen whether the new Mrs True will return the favour and be in Guiyang to cheer him on.

However, it may be worth making the trip as True could be bidding to become the first US senior man to get an IAAF World Cross Country Championships individual medal for more than 30 years, since Alberto Salazar won silver back in 1982.

Will Seymour for the IAAF

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