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A Track Junkie in Scotland, Part 2

John Nepolitan's World XC Champs Blog w/Photos - Day 2 - Thu., March 27, 2008

The races are still a few days away and things are starting to heat up here. Teams are slowly making it into town. Australia and New Zealand were the first two to arrive earlier in the week with Team USA flying in yesterday. Besides the teams showing up, the town is slowly transforming to a host of a major championships. Stories are showing up in the press, and posters and banners hang from light poles around town(more on this later). Local people that you talk with - who are not really running fans – know what is going on and say they may go out Sunday to “check it out.” There is no doubt that there will be a large crowd out at Hollyrood Park on Sunday for the event. The largest crowd I’ve ever seen at a World Cross Country meet was in France

Above, the only way to attack the castle is up the Royal mile ... below, coming from the castle and looking down the Royal Mile. Notice the banner signs along the street promoting the meet (also pictured far left).
After breakfast I wandered out on the Royal Mile – what I guess was the original main street here in old Edinburgh. At the bottom of the road, really called High Street, is Hollyrood Park – site of this weekend’s races. At the top (it is uphill) is the famous Edinburgh Castle. While out on this short walk I ran into the Jr Girls team from Team USA, with their team leader Gwyn Coogan and Jr Boys team member Ryan Sheridan. All seemed in great spirits, looking around, taking it all in, and getting used to the time change. Sheridan mentioned that the team had gotten in past midday yesterday and have been adjusting to the change, seeming to have lost two days with the travel. Later in the day I also ran into the Jr Boys team leader, Thom Hunt, who reported that the team had been out to the course a few times to run and all are well.

One of the banners promoting the meet on the streets of Edinburgh (above).

After a fast lunch, it was off to collect my accreditation for the weekend, which was a short walk from my hotel. One of the great perks of covering a championship meet of the IAAF is the nice gift you receive. It is always some form of a nice carry or travel bag. I have a few great backpacks from previous world cross country champs and a great computer bag from the world track championships. This year another nice pair of computer bags was the gift and a great souvenir of the event as well.

My main tourist excursion for the day was a walk up to the Edinburgh Castle. First, a small explanation of how Edinburgh is set up is in order. The city is really split into two sections – Old Town and New Town. Old Town is the original city centered around the castle. When Old Town got too crowded and dirty, the rich simply moved and formed New Town to the north.

Edinburgh Castle is in the perfect military location. Up on a high hill you can see for miles, and anybody approaching would be seen long before they got close. There is only one way to attack the castle, and that would be straight up the Royal Mile. The other three sides of the castle are sheer rock face. In the middle ages, the average people worked the land and if there was an aggressor coming to attack the town, they could run to the castle for safety. If troops were able to get past the 1st gate, they still had another to get through or more walls to climb.

This year's gift to the working press
from the IAAF: Computer bags.

In return for the safety of the walls, the people had to grow food and provide other services for the royal family who lived in the castle.

On the way back to my hotel, I noticed just how many light pole banners there are publicizing the championships – 17 in the ½ mile walk. These are not just on the Royal Mile, but every major street in town. USA meet directors maybe should take a lesson from the Europeans, who seem to have a handle on how to market an event – let people know it is going on. Most of our major meets in the USA are not very well attended and one reason is simply a lack of publicity for the events. How can people show up if they know nothing about it?

Just watch – I will bet 20,000 people will be out at the races this weekend, while in the USA – outside of the Pre meet – few USA meets will come close to this. Publicity is not the only key to getting people to attend, but it sure does help.

One more day of tourist stuff, then down to work Saturday with the local home country’s races (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Island) for under 17 and seniors, and trying to meet up with Team USA at the official course tour. After the hard-driving rain that is expected tomorrow, this should chew up the course nicely for Sunday.

Above photo: If you get past the first gate, you still have another to get through ...

Lower photo: Once past the second gate, it is not flat and there is still a climb to the living quarters of the royals.

One of the sheer cliffs of the castle.

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