New Zealand’s Ruth Croft may be competing in her first Trail World Championships, but she’s still one of the women’s favorites. In this interview, Ruth talks about representing her country for the first time as an adult, how her Southern Hemisphere summer of training and racing has gone, and what she thinks of this race course and distance.
Ruth Croft Pre-2019 Trail World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Ruth Croft. It’s the day before the 2019 Trail World Championships. Hi, Ruth!
Ruth Croft: Hi Meghan.
iRunFar: I see you all over the world. Here we are in Portugal.
Croft: Yeah, it’s good to be here.
iRunFar: This is a little different circumstance for you. You’re representing New Zealand at a federation-supported event.
Croft: Yeah, this is the first time as a senior–from seniors onward.
iRunFar: So does that mean you were a junior for a mountain-running championships at one time?
Croft: Yeah, I was a junior for athletics and cross country and mountain running. But never as a senior.
iRunFar: Okay. Oh, of course a train is going to go by.
Croft: You called it.
iRunFar: Yeah, this is the only green space nearby and it’s by a set of train tracks. I said, “Yeah, there’s going to be a train during the interview.” Okay, so you are representing New Zealand for the first time as an adult. This is the Trail World Championships, the distance is about 45k. You’re good at a lot of stuff, but that distance is a bit of a ‘Ruth Croft sweet spot.’
Croft: Yeah, definitely I prefer the 50k and at most 50 miles. Distances in that range, definitely.
iRunFar: There’s a lot of talk in the press about what type of runner is going to win this race. Is it going to be a runner that’s good at shorter, faster, mountainous stuff? Or is it a mountain runner who has a little bit more strength? You’re both. You cross the bridge between the two.
Croft: I don’t know. I only looked over the last 10k of the course yesterday and I was kind of surprised. I felt like it was really hard even on that even to get into a flow, from 34 to 39k. I’ve heard that earlier on in the course, a lot of the sections are like that. I don’t think it’s a runner’s race. When I originally looked at the course profile, I was like, “Oh, it’s 44k with 2,000 meters.” I thought it was going to be quite fast, but I think it’s going to be deceiving tomorrow.
iRunFar: A little more strength-based than you thought going into it?
Croft: Yeah, definitely.
iRunFar: Can you tell me about Team New Zealand? You have a full team this year.
Croft: Yeah, it’s awesome. We’ve got six guys and three girls. On the women’s side, we’ve got Mel Aitken and also Nancy Jiang. Nancy’s raced a lot in Europe last year and also in New Zealand. She’s getting stronger and stronger. Also Mel, who was racing in New Caledonia and was on the Trail World Champs team last year. As for the guys, I’m not so sure about them [laughs], so I’ll just speak about the girls.
iRunFar: For you, you’re coming from the Southern Hemisphere. You’re kind of coming off summertime, but I hear it’s not been a great summer, weather-wise.
Croft: I don’t think the summer’s been too bad. It’s just this last month that it started to get pretty cold. I was expecting it to be hotter here, so as long as it’s not too hot it should be good for the New Zealand team.
iRunFar: Sometimes you’re a world traveler, where you move around and follow summer throughout the world. But this year you stayed in the Southern Hemisphere?
Croft: Yeah, I’ve been in New Zealand for pretty much the majority of the summer. I did a couple of races in Asia and I’ve been in Monaco, but apart from that…
iRunFar: Has that been sort of intentional for you? Did you want to stay closer to home?
Croft: Yeah, I like to go back and have a base for somewhere six months and not be traveling. When you’re in Europe for the season it’s quite draining, where you’re always moving around. I like being in a kind of base where I’ve got friends and can just train.
iRunFar: Can you tell me about what your Southern Hemisphere summer has looked like in terms of training and racing?
Croft: It’s been different for me this year. I haven’t raced, I haven’t done any trail races in New Zealand. I did the Seoul Marathon in March, so I was pretty focused on the roads until the end. Then, I had a break to recover after Seoul and then transitioned back to the trails.
iRunFar: How did marathon running go?
Croft: I actually enjoyed it a lot. It was different mentally, it really challenged me and it’s just a different training structure. There’s something about a road marathon, how you can go for a time. There’s no lying, there’s no hiding.
iRunFar: It’s the most honest of races, right?
Croft: Yeah [laughs]. I just enjoyed having a shift in focus.
iRunFar: For your training, were you mostly on roads, or on soft, flat surfaces? Did you get to any trails?
Croft: While I was training for the road, you mean? Yeah, I had to be careful not to train too much on the road, especially at the beginning because all my training had been previously on trails. Yeah, it was really a toll on the body. It took until about two weeks before Seoul that I felt like I had transitioned to the road. But I still did some of my faster sessions on sort of a flat-packed trail.
iRunFar: Since then, how has it been to transition back to trails? I mean, that leg speed that you trained for has got to be good for you here.
Croft: Yeah, it will definitely help. The transition back to trail wasn’t as bad as the road, but I think the road marathon did take quite a lot out of me. More than I thought. It’s kind of taken me a bit to get back into training and feel good again.
iRunFar: What did that look like? Did you put in some short, quick, steep training?
Croft: After the road, I went back and did some base training. It’s a long season.
iRunFar: So you’re sort of thinking about the year in full.
Croft: Yeah, definitely. I see the year as the bigger picture. So I did base training and, then, some sharpening sessions in the tail end.
iRunFar: Got it. Well, all right. We’re about to go to the opening-ceremony parade where you’ll fly New Zealand’s colors here in Portugal. It’s kind of fun to see all these colors out and about. Best of luck to you out there tomorrow. We’ll see you going around the mountain.
Croft: Thanks, Meghan. Cheers!