There is a short report about the event on the SHR site which alludes to the chaotic post race scenes, but more of that later as that is no place to start a report. For myself and Christine, getting to Korbielow was the first challenge. Despite a confirmed transfer arrangement at Kracow airport, a car turned up (eventually) with room for 3, there were 5 of us waiting. So we volunteered to overnight in Kracow instead, which was in full festival mode and return to the airport next day for another try! This we did, and this time a coach with a dodgy gearbox turned up, plus a lot more competitors from down south. This took us very slowly down to Korbielow, which is on the border with Slovakia, a pleasant enough small winter ski resort surrounded by forested hills.
Having settled in to the Pilsko hotel, typical of the post war communist utilitarian era, most of us reccied the route the next day, which consisted mainly of forest tracks and rough ski pistes, so very steep in places. The final kilometre rises steeply above the finish lodge, at the first summit of Mount Pilsko, with the true summit some 5 minutes further and into Slovakia. Competitors must then make their own way down to the lodge, and this highlights the curiosity of European 'hill running.' It is usually uphill only, and most participants outside the UK don't know how to run down hill!
Race day arrived, the weather had turned to wet and windy, but no short course was on offer, everyone from 35-80+ was expected to complete the same 960m of ascent and 8k, there were no marshalls (other than a few water stations) and no-one was required to carry kit. My group started in a tropical downpour and the course was soon running with water. Despite that the sharp end competitors set off at an alarming pace and I soon lost touch, content to try and run what I could and fast walk the rest. The noticeable difference in the 'Worlds' is that when a hill is reached they just keep going at the same pace and nearly all of the category winners finished either well under the hour or just over. Very Impressive! I had estimated 65 minutes and got 64.38, so no surprises. However I was fully mentally prepared for the descent too, as the summit was shrouded in mist, it was about +5-6 degrees and blowing a hooly. No place to hang about then, completely drookit and with just a vest and shorts. I had trail shoes and I hammered down as fast as I could, passing those who were athletes on the uphill but could only pick their way down again. No wonder so many ended up very cold, some shaking with near hypothermia, but there was absolutely no back up or contingency for this poor weather.
Back at the lodge, the kit bags were strewn across the floor in no numbered order and it was an utter shambles as cold wet runners tried to find their dry clothes. At least it was reasonably warm inside but many of us gave up on the fruitless search as more and more numbered plastic bags containing individual runners kit were thrown in to the pile. At least their was a bowl of soup on offer and those lucky to have money could buy a hot drink too, this was not included unbelievably. It says something about the human spirit as frustrated finishers went through a range of emotions, concern, anger, acceptance and finally a kind of order develops as we tried to sort the kit by number, and others shouting out individual numbers for everyone. There were whoops of sarcastic delight when people got their clothes back, and it all worked out eventually. It took me well over an hour to find mine!
When we were warm again we had to jog back down the hill, as the promised ski lift wasn't working. In the end there was no major mishap (other than an 80 year old woman being stretchered off the summit slopes with hypothermia and exhaustion) but there was no inventory of runners, and I can only conclude that this years organizers were completely out of their depth as to what constitutes a safe staging of such an event. The lessons of two years ago, when 2 runners died in the snow on the Zugspitze in Germany, and a major evacuation of hypothermic runners was necessary, obviously haven't been learnt. There should have been a short course contingency for the more elderly runners at least, a strict inventory of finishers, marshalls carrying full first aid kit, space blankets etc, and different rooms for each category kit bags at the finish. The WMRA will be getting a lot of feedback!
All was forgotten in the village post race celebrations, pints of Polish beer consumed, and huge cheers for category winners when the prize giving eventually started, none so more as when Angela Mudge received her gold for Scotland as a V40, an astonishing 4 minutes ahead of her nearest rival. The Scottish contingent relaxed in the nearby retaurant with more beer and food, and bekilted John Stevenson (Ochil) struck up with 'Flower of Scotland'..........
Next year is in Italy, same time of year but hopefully better organized. We had hoped to stay on and do some walking in the high Tatras, but the poor weather persisted, so reluctantly we opted for an earlier flight home.