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Frozen Conrad on her World Championships debut

South African athlete Nolene Conrad is unlikely to forget her debut IAAF World Cross Country Championships in a hurry, writes Mark Etheridge.

Bitterly cold Bydogoszcz in Poland on Sunday was light years away from sunny South Africa and it proved a huge shock for the 27-year-old Johannesburg athlete.

Fresh from a personal best time for the 10km at the recent Spar women’s 10km challenge in Cape Town, the tiny Conrad had every reason to be confident of a solid debut but was blown away and ended 79th in 27min 08sec for the eight kilometre course.

“Conditions were really bad and I’m not just saying that, it was the worst experience of my running career. There was mud almost all of the way,” she told Road to Rio 2016 on Monday.

“The Taiwanese girl that was running with me fell three times at the same corner. A lot of girls fell on that route, so I had to be extra careful and slow down at the corners.

“There was also a huge hill, that doesn’t look that bad at first, but when you are running up that hill, with slippery ice on it, it’s bad.

“My feet felt like rocks and my fingers were paining from the cold. While I was running I felt like I was just not getting anywhere. I wasn’t tired but my body was frozen ÔÇô an awful experience.”

But an experience that she’ll take to heart for the next big race. “I also learnt very quickly that a good start is vital in these championships.”