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It was in October of 2010 that I realized I should never make assumptions when dining in a foreign country!

World Half Marathon Championships, Nanning, 2010

In less than 4 days, the starting gun would fire on the streets of Nanning in South Eastern China to see which female would become the World Half Marathon Champion. Meanwhile, six nervous but excited Australians decided to eat a dinner meal outside of the hotel for a change of scenery and a new cultural experience… ‘Little Bo Peep’ was the place of choice. As I sunk my teeth into a surprisingly doughy pork dumpling, it suddenly occurred to us all that the chilly/garlicky complimentary ‘soup’ in the middle of the table was in fact a boiling broth to cook our food in. Fortunately the raw pork didn’t do any harm this time but a lesson in Chinese dining culture was certainly learnt.

Invaluable lessons about the honour of representing one’s country, navigating unfamiliar streets on training runs (Anne Lord), team camaraderie, dealing with nerves and spontaneous drug tests before competition and preparing for an international race were also absorbed. A fourth overall team placing, a 24th individual finishing position and the exposure to this level of competition fuelled my motivation to pursue my running dreams and one day run a marathon.

Sitting on my bed, 3.5 years later, I feel very honoured to have been named in my second and Australian World Cross-country team after finishing second to Victoria Mitchell in the trials at Stromlo Forest a few weeks ago. The biggest team possible has been selected, which is exciting for the sport as a whole and a credit to the athletes. I am excited to test my strength and speed over the 8km distance in China on March 28th along with a full contingent of strong Australian runners.

In 2011, I was selected on the World Cross-country team at the last minute when one of the team members sustained an injury. I hung off every word of team coach, Chris Wardlaw and soaked up as much information as possible from the athletes around me, many of whom I’d idolized for years. I finished 71st in the race and came away from the experience buzzing (despite later seeing in a replay that my green backside had led the pack from behind)… I couldn’t believe how fast the girls went out!

Having run ‘that marathon’ on the list of goals and four more since, I have a greater knowledge base to draw on this time around and a better understanding of what to expect at this level of competition. Whilst the exposure to what it takes to be competitive at International level may be intimidating, the challenge it poses can be very inspiring and invigorating.

I look forward to supporting the other Australians and in particular, Sophie Eckel, a junior athlete who I have trained with at Team Tempo under Adam Didyk’s guidance as coach for many years. There was a great sense of pride to see her come through the field in the last lap of the trial and finish second!

In summary, here are my tips for first-time Australian representatives (I am sure Liam Adams who has just been selected on his 7th World XC Team could add to this!):

- Learn as much as you can from the people around you but adopt the preparation routine that you know works for you.

- Enjoy the honour of representing the green and gold & the opportunity to improve on your best.

- Draw energy from the people around you and the support on course – it will be loud and potentially a little rough.

- On your return, reflect on the experience with your coach and support team to ensure you gain as much as possible to help you on your running journey

… and of course, for all the rookies, make sure you dunk your meat & dumplings if dining out in China!

Best wishes to everyone competing over the coming months and if you would like more information on the 2015 World XC Championships visit visit: . I will also be providing live updates from China from my Facebook page so jump on during race week to keep up to date .

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