While running for BYU, Josh Rohatinsky won the 2006 NCAA Cross-Country Championship, on one of the muddier days in the recent history of the meet. I was in the race on that muddy day in Indiana. I remember going from aspirations of a top 40 finish, to just hoping to be able to get my feet out of the mud with every step. There were runners getting their shoes ripped off in the mud, and finishing barefoot, but Josh didn’t let the conditions slow him down much. Instead he remained focused, ran his race, and ended up just the second Cougar to ever win the NCAA XC title.
With the amount of rain that Utah, Colorado, and the entire region has had lately, many local runners have had a taste of racing in the mud. That is why this week we asked Josh for his tips on racing in the mud.
How do you change your race strategy when the conditions are muddy?
Your strategy does change, because the race will be slower because of what you’re running through. It will likely not be a race where it break out in the open from the get go, and if guys try to break away they will die off, so as far as strategy goes you want to try to run in the pack. Also, just making sure you have the right spikes. That is something that got me my sophomore year. That year it might have been even been muddier than the year I won, and I wore short spikes. I made a bad shoe decision and I was slipping and sliding everywhere and spent so much energy just trying not to fall.
Plan on running with the pack. I wouldn’t make any moves early, because if you try to make moves early, it might come back and bite you in the butt, or there is also a chance you might fall if you’re pushing it in the mud.
Do you worry about finding the driest route through the mud or the shortest distance?
Just like any race, try your best to find the shortest distance, but you need to be looking ahead all the time. If you see a big ole pool it’s probably best to go around it, but you don’t want to be going 10-15 feet out of your way for every puddle. You just need to be more aware in the mud, aware of what’s coming up. That’s also something to consider while running in a pack, you need to give yourself more room to see, and room to react to things. So If you see anything big don’t risk going through it. Find the shortest route unless it’s something too big.
How do you adjust shoe selection for mud?
If you suspect it’s going to be muddy, or might be, just come prepared. Get some longer spikes you can put in for the mud, but just be ready for anything.
How does racing in the mud change your mental preparation?
The mud can only be to your disadvantage if you think it is. The one thing I always told myself whether it was hot, muddy, rainy, or windy , you can only mess yourself up by thinking that it will hurt you. I never thought of any conditions as a disadvantage and that allowed me to run well no matter the conditions.
Any other advice for High School XC runners?
Don’t let yourself believe the conditions will be a disadvantage. You can tell yourself that some kids are going to think it’s a disadvantage, and you can use that to beat them, in any condition, hot, windy, mud or rain. Let yourself feel like it’s not a disadvantage. So whatever the condition is let it work to your advantage. If some people get in their heads and think that the conditions will hurt them that opens the door for having a chance to beat them if you do not believe the conditions can hurt you.