ARTICLE: The Great Dane

There aren't too many Danish on the hill-running circuit and arguably the greatest off-road runner in Denmark is not a mountain runner at all, but an orienteer: Carsten Jorgensen who will turn 40 this year (but carriess the nickname in Denmark: "oldie- a threat to anyone". I first heard of Carsten in Ireland and there was a rumour that he had competed on the hill running circuit. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any record of this. You only need to look at Carsten's career to realise what a pity it is that he didn't, for here was a runner of rare talent and versatility who could have done great things on the mountain running circuit.

While international orienteering titles have been won endless times by Swedes and Norwegians, Carsten Jorgensen managed to get some silverware first taking bronze in 1995 before winning gold with the Danish team in 1997. On a national level, he has been indomitable winning 17 championships and earning 59 caps for his country.

1997 was perhaps the zenith of his career as it not only saw him win the aforementioned team gold in orienteering but also took the Nordic Cross Country title before claiming the magnificent prize of the European Cross-Country Championships. It was easy to see why Carsten would make a great hill runner, he had warmed up by finishing 4th in the 1996. He did not quite reach these heights again in the cross-country (although he finished 5th in the Europeans and won another Nordic title in 1998) but this was no sign that his career had peaked just yet. (incidentally, he also had time to go to Newry and run 46:13 for the 10 mile).

Turning to the even terrain of track and roads, Carsten set records that still stand for the 10000m (27:54) and half-marathon (1:01:55), the latter at the World Half-Marathon Championships in Switzerland. With such an impressive time, there was hope that Denmark could lay some of the ghosts that haunt all Western nations to rest: The glorious set of records set by the generation of European, American, Australian and New Zealand runners that hit their bloom in the 70s and 80s (will we ever see their like again?). Alas, it was not to be, Henrik Jorgensen's Danish Record from the 1985 London Marathon still stands untouched, 25 years later, at 2:09:43.

Forget Gerry Kiernan and his defeatist talk on Newstalk about us not being able to compete with the Africans. Let's compete, and defeat, our past first.

Today, Carsten resides in New Zealand, which is good news for contenders to the super-traditional "Eremitageloeb" (The Eremitage Run). This 13.3km trail run with 131m climb through the forests North of Copenhagen was won by the Great Dane 6 of 8 times between 1993 and 2000 (the years he didn't win, he didn't contend). Have we seen the last of this multi-disciplinary runner whom international competitors refer to simply as "The Moose"? Perhaps, after the disappointing performance of the Danish team in the 2006 Orienteering Championships, he said: "Today's result might show that its about time for me to stop . I don't know if I'll run the Relay on Saturday."

It's not possible to talk about Carsten without mentioning Kim J. Godtfredsen. The Greenlander has been a staple on the Danish running circuit for longer than most can remember and still, now past 40, runs a very strong marathon. In the WMRA European Championshiop of 2003, he finished 65th of 78 runners in 124% of the winning time (for the local interest, he was beaten by Colm Turner and George Lonergan while Vincent O'Sullivan finished behind him). The 44-year-old holds the greenlandic records on the 1500, 3000, 5000 and marathon (his record stands at 2:25:22).

If this inspired the Danes is hard to tell, but for the first time more than one Danishman travelled in 2004, when a team consisting of Jakob Jensen, Mads Jakobsen and Sonni Lundberg packed well to finish 53, 56 and 58 respectively. That year a field of 79 contested but the Danes competed more effectively on the shorter course being at around 116% of the winners time. (and again, for local interest, they had two Irishmen in front of them, and two behind them).

Unfortunately, no team capitalised on this promising result, but Christian Madsen made his debut with an impressive 44th spot in 2005 against 93 other runners and finished within 111% of the winner, undoubtedly the best result yet. About a minute ahead was Ireland's John Heneghan in 37th while Chris beat out Sean O'Heigeartaigh, Brian Ervine and George Lonergan.

This unfortunately, was the last diary entry of the Danish Internationals and their brief flowering in international mountain running. Hopefully, the white cross on red background will soon again join the Italians, the French, the English, the Scots, the Turks, the Norwegians, New Zealanders, Irish and the remaining countries with proud hill running traditions.

2009 did not pass without completely without any notable Danish performances, however, at the 6th World Long Distance Challenge 4 men and 1 woman completed the course. One with notable success: Martin Rabech finished 25th completing the extremely taxing marathon distance course in 3:38:59.