Last May in Sweden, the first important gathering of the season for orientation runners grouped together 9,000 participants and 20,000 spectators. The men ran over 110 km by night, in teams of 10 relay runners.
The 3 favorite teams were almost always in front, and the 3 last relays played an essential role in the final classification. Step by step, beacon after beacon, Kalevan Rasti headed the race, notably thanks to Fabian Hertner’s momentum (9th relay) who offered Thierry Gueorgiou an ideal position for his own relay.
Thierry talks about his experience and his first victory at the 10Mila.
Testimony of Thierry Gueorgiou, leader of the winning team
“I started my race (the 10th and last relay for Kalevan Rasti) with an advance of 3 minutes over the other teams. This margin enabled me to limit the risks and ensure most of my itineraries. My team mates had offered me the best conditions. Minute after minute, I realized that a dream was at last going to become true with a first victory in this famous event. At 8.52, my team mates were waiting for me in the finishing lane to run the last meters together. The emotion I felt once the finishing line was passed was particularly strong. It will have taken me 11 years (I entered the club in 2000) to reach this objective, which makes it even more precious and delightful.”
- A particularity
“This competition has become an essential event for orientation runners all over the world. The first edition took place 65 years ago and its charm still lasts. What makes it so successful is that 10 runners specialized in orientation relay at night run at an average speed of 15 km/hour. The dance of headlamps in the finishing lane is an unforgettable site. Each runner has to run along an itinerary materialized by several beacons, with the help of a very precise map specially prepared for the competition. Between these passage points that are compulsory, the runner can go wherever he wants”.
- A strategy at the same time physical and mental
“In fact, what is difficult in orientation racing is to find the best solutions to the problems created by the course setter (who prepares the itinerary and installs the beacons). Therefore, you have to be very flexible as you only discover the place and the itinerary when the previous relay runner gives you the team’s map. I usually start my race very cautiously, focusing on the simplest itineraries at the beginning to get to know the map well. Then, when I feel confident, I try to choose more direct trajectories and to be more physical. But again, it’s the field that decides the speed. If the density of the elements to be addressed is too high, you have to slow down to be more precise.
Collective strategy is also vital in this kind of race, as each itinerary is different in terms of length. Moreover, the first relay is run together with the other 400 teams, which slightly modifies the features of the race (‘contact running’ with many awkward elements).
In my Finnish club, our strategy was to keep our best runners for the last relays, hoping that we would manage to keep up with the best teams during the previous relays. The Norwegian club of Halden had another strategy, placing one of their best runners as soon as the third relay, to be first during the other relays. But they didn’t manage to create enough difference in time at that moment, and we caught them up at the end of the race”.
- A difficult and demanding field
“This year, the organizers provided us with an incredible playground, with several different areas where you had to change your orientation strategy, which gave an advantage to the teams who had experience. For example at night, the flat areas with only few elements to orientate yourself made the itineraries very complex”.
- The spirit of this event
“This race is really very popular in Sweden. Taking part in the Swedish 10Mila is a little bit like running the Paris marathon. You can say: “I have done it” with only one wish: to finish. There are a lot of corporate teams very proud to tell their colleagues on Monday, around the coffee machine, that they have just run the 10Mila. Very often too, you will find members of the same family in a same team, which creates a very specific atmosphere with professional orientation runners and beginners. That is also part of the charm of this competition”.
- Thank you Thierry for this report and explanations. To conclude, could you tell us about your future projects?
“The World Championships in France next year will be the opportunity of beautifully finishing my career at the age of 32. Every single day I think of these races that will take place in Savoie. That is also why I continue training seriously. It is obvious that without this motivation to be excellent ‘at home’, the end of my career would be more of a problem, as the danger for a high-level sportsman at the end of his career is to feel fed-up. The 2010 World Cup in Annecy will be THE big rehearsal and opportunity to build confidence for 2011. These are all good reasons to remain focused!”.
- Petzl will also be present at the 2010 World Cup and is contemplating taking part in the 2011 World Championships.
- Read Thierry's pre-race commentary
- View a video interview of Thierry recorded by SVT during the 10Mila::