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No hygge here: World XC course to feature Vikings, mud and nasty climbs

The course will feature some gnarly innovations, and public participation is encouraged

The course for the World Cross Country Championships, which take place on March 30 in Aarhus, Denmark, will feature 22m of elevation gain in the first 400m, a mud pit, a sand pit, a water pit and a covered Viking village staffed by actors. (In other words, if you’re looking for the cosy Danish lifestyle known as hygge, you won’t find it here).

RELATED: Canadians dominate at NACAC cross-country champs

According to LetsRun.com, the course was originally conceived without the Viking element (Danes understandably get tired of this stereotype), but the organizers eventually caved to the pressure to include it.

“I think the course looks amazing,” says Canadian national cross-country champion Gen Lalonde, who will lead the Canadian team. “Not only does the course have the hills and mud but also the technical elements including water, sand and a berm. It seems the Danes have set up a course to represent them, including a Viking gauntlet to get the fans celebrating… while also showcasing their culture to the world.”

RELATED: Europe knows track meets

Photo: LetsRun.com

The course is on the site of the stunningly bunker-like Moesgaard Museum, whose sloping green roof (at a 10 per cent incline) is also part of the course. 

The idea is to create not only a memorable course for the athletes, but also a spectacle for the 5,000 or so spectators who are likely to show up. That means mud, water, beer, and the chance to get close to the athletes, which is exactly what the course designers have in mind. It’s very much in keeping with the approach taken at summer track meets in Europe, which are a popular form of entertainment as well as providing opportunities for athletes from around the world to race.

World Cross-Country Championships
Brogan MacDougall at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: Michael Scott

The event, which is sponsored by the Danish brewery Mikkeller, will consist of five 10K races, with each race capped at 400 runners: junior men (8K), junior women (6K), senior men (10K), senior women (10K), and the 8K mixed relay.

Moesgaard Museum, near Aarhus, Denmark

Another innovation, according to LetsRun, is that anyone who has run under 33:00 (men) or 37:00 (women) within the last year can pay the equivalent of about CDN $200 and run alongside the championship entrants (though their results won’t count in the scoring). There will also be shorter races for fans, after the championship races. LetsRun even quotes course designer Jakob Larsen speculating that Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik will show up to run. 

World Cross-Country Championships
Team Canada 2017. Photo: provided

“I think the course will be incredible, hard, complex but definitely one of a kind,” says Lalonde. “For anyone that is a fan of long distance running… or mountain running, this will be a championships that you don’t want to miss. To add to all of that we are sending some of our strongest teams in Canadian history.” 

Twenty-three athletes will travel to Denmark to represent Canada. (Three-time national cross country champion Luc Bruchet is injured and will not race.) They are:

Junior women

Brogan MacDougall (team captain)
Makenna Fitzgerald
Anne Forsyth
Taryn O’Neill
Maggie Smith
Charlotte Wood


Junior men

Evan Burke (team captain)
Andrew Davies
Joshua Desouza
Ibrahim Kedir
Nicolas Mota
Maximus Thiessen

Senior women

Gen Lalonde (team captain)
Katelyn Ayers
Jessica O’Connell
Natalia Hawthorn
Claire Sumner
Natasha Wodak


Senior men

Ehab El-Sandali
Evan Esselink
Rory Linkletter
Benjamin Preisner
Mike Tate

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