Best placed SA woman ... Conrad takes confidence from Chinese run | TeamSA - TeamSA

Best placed SA woman … Conrad takes confidence from Chinese run

By Mark Etheridge

Despite not achieving her goal of being in the top 30 finishers at the weekend’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Nolene Conrad, South Africa’s best placed women’s finisher, is already planning for the next championships.
Conrad ended 36th in the senior women’s event in Guiyang, China.
The South African team only arrived in China at midnight on Thursday, with the championships scheduled for Saturday so there was certainly not sufficient time for the team to acclimatise entirely.
‘The travel arrangements did upset me at first as I wanted to get to China a few days prior to racing so that I could be well rested and free of jet lag. So when we only got to our hotel at midnight on Thursday, I went for a jog with Stephen [Mokoka] so that we could try and get rid of the jetlag as best we could.
‘We jogged early the next morning and I jogged the course in the afternoon just to prepare myself.’
And the little Central Gautenger said she was glad that she had the opportunity to go over the course. ‘The course wasn’t an easy one, there were many twists and turn making it hard to keep your rhythm. Also, the mud was challenging on these turns as you have to slow down or else you will fall.
‘Those hills were also quite deceiving, because while they don’t look so steep but once you are  running them, you feel it. So I was really focused and I was determined to do well’
On the morning of the race, I was not nervous, because I knew I was in good shape and all I could do was give it my best. We then came together as a team and asked all the girls to do their best so that we could finish top 10 in the group competition.
‘I knew that to have a good race I needed to start fast and avoid making the mistake I made at the last World Championships in Poland by starting too slow, I ran hard from the start. So i was happy when I saw 400-metres into the race I was just behind the first group – now the challenge was maintaining the pace, which was hard because one pays for that fast start early in the race.
‘So I worked the hills hard and I can’t even say that I relaxed on the downhills because I worked all the way and at no point in that race was I ever relaxed. If I felt I was slacking down I talked to myself and pushed harder. Lebo Phalula (first SA athlete then) was a few places in front of me and I tried to get to her so that we could run together but it was tough to catch up, so I just ran until I caught up with her which was at the start of the last lap.’
And Conrad said she was thankful for her marathon training. ‘I started to feel strong again on the last lap – guess that’s the marathon training kicking in, and I just went for it trying to move up a few places. I knew I could work the hills as I did this in training and I was strong. When I crossed that finishing line I was exhausted, very relieved that it was over, but also very happy because I finished in 36th place.
‘For me is a great achievement because anyone who has ever run cross country knows how hard and challenging it is. Although my initial goal was top 30, 36th isn’t too far off that target which I think is great. Whats important is that I have made progress from 79th to 36th, so for the next championships i will work on improving on that 36th position and aim for top 20
‘I ran my heart out and I gave it my all and I know the team did their best as well. In the end our team finished in 12th position which is not what we wanted, but seeing as half of our senior woman team were first timers it was an experience for them and the ladies will go home and build on this experience and work on improving for the next championships.’
Next up for Conrad is a switch to the road running scene where she’ll run the Old Mutual Two Oceans half-marathon on Saturday.