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CISM cross-country running

Lt(N) Michael Bergeron and Lt(N) Natalia Borszczow, in white shirts, will be representing Canada at the CISM World Military Cross-Country Championship in Hungary.
Photo: Jeremy Lethbridge

Campus Atlantic members headed to Hungary for CISM running

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

Lt(N) Michael Bergeron and Lt(N) Natalia Borszczow are both accomplished road runners with years of experience, but for their next race, they’re stepping outside their comfort zones and doing it on one of the biggest stages for military athletes.

The two RCN officers and Campus Atlantic members will be travelling to Balatonakarattya, Hungary from November 3-7 for the CISM World Military Cross-Country Championship. The event will feature some of the best military athletes in the world from 25 countries, including 15 runners on the CAF team, competing in one of three different distances on a grassy open-air course over natural, hilly terrain.

Lt(N) Bergeron will compete in the 11.5km men’s long race, while Lt(N) Borszczow will race 4.6km in the women’s event. The distances aren’t long compared to marathon or half-marathon road races, but cross-country racing presents different challenges, and with little experience in that racing style, the runners are tempering their expectations.

“We’re mainly road runners, so we have to reconfigure our thinking. We might be used to having a certain time for a 5k for example, and we always want to improve, but you just can’t compare them. It’s completely different,” Lt(N) Borszczow said.

Preparation is also a factor. The recommendation is normally for three to four months of focused training before a cross-country event of this nature, but the duo just recently learned they had secured spots on the team.

“We only found out about a month ago – luckily we were both training for other road races already,” Lt(N) Bergeron added.

“We’ll also have a couple days to get acclimatized when we travel, to learn the course, meet with our coaches and things like that, which is very good.”

Their strong performances at races through the 2017 season qualified them to be part of the elite CISM team. Athletes submit their certified times from local races to qualify for CAF Nationals, which were held earlier this summer in Ottawa, and the CISM road running, cross country and track teams are then formed from those with the top finishing times at the National event. Lt(N) Bergeron previously served as an alternate with Canada’s CISM World Military Marathon Championship team earlier this year in Ottawa, while Lt(N) Borszczow will be at her first CISM event.

“I’m nervous but I’m extremely excited,” Lt(N) Borszczow said about racing as part of the CISM squad on the international stage.

“It’s a privilege to be there representing your country and the Canadian Armed Forces. That’s huge for me.”

The two train together with the Halifax Road Hammers, an elite local running club, and they’ll be joined in Hungary by fellow club member and RCN colleague LS Mark Brown. LS Brown is currently posted to Quebec, but the group began training together after serving together in HMCS Halifax, and he frequently returns to this area for military and civilian races. Training alongside other high-level athletes locally has helped them all improve their individual performances, and the hope is that stepping up against international competition will have a similar impact. A meet and greet set up in Hungary will also allow a chance for athletes from different countries to meet, exchange apparel or other souvenirs, and form bonds with their international counterparts.

The runners have all their gear ready, including special cleats for cross-country, and are continuing to work on their distance and speed through the last weeks of training. They’re aware the course might present unique challenges, especially if weather becomes a factor, but plan to give it their all and hopefully help contribute to a good team result.

“I’m taking it as a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m going to do the best I can,” Lt(N) Borszczow said.