Alina Reh booked her place on the German team for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Piemonte-La Mandria Park on 11 December with decisive victory at the German Championships on Saturday (26).
Reh has been one of Europe's leading cross country exponents in recent seasons, winning the U23 title at the European Cross Country Championships in 2017 ahead of Konstanze Klosterhalfen before stepping up to win senior bronze in 2021 against one of the strongest fields ever assembled at the European Cross Country Championships.
But the build-up to this year's championships has been far from perfect. In an interview with Leichtathletik.de following her victory at the German Cross Country Championships, Reh talks about the challenges she has faced since the European Athletics Championships in Munich and her expectations at this year's European Cross Country Championships.
The interview conducted by Birte Grote can be read in full in German here.
Alina Reh, congratulations on the title and the strong race! At the finish you looked so incredulous. This must have been a really emotional day for you.
Alina Reh: Yes, it was because I wasn't expecting it at all. We set off on Thursday and I didn’t actually want to come along. I felt so bad; the last few days nothing went well in training. Then I drove here with the Tübingen team and that seemed to be the right decision.
Were there any doubts during the race or did they disappear with the starting gun?
Alina Reh: In any case, there were still doubts in the first lap. Then I asked myself: why was the pace so slow. I thought I'd try it from the beginning and I got into the race and then felt pretty good until the end. But I've been thinking about whether I'll make it through to the end.
The women's race was extremely packed. In addition to the already very successful runners such as Hanna Klein and Miriam Dattke, young runners like Eva Dieterich and Emma Heckel are also very strong. Did you feel that extra pressure?
Alina Reh: Yes, in any case. I stood at the starting line and thought: if I finish in the top-10 today, that's perfectly okay. I also had a really difficult time after the European Championships in Munich. It was really tough mentally. I'm now training in Tübingen with Hanna [Klein] and Eva [Dieterich] and I know how strong they are and how they run away from me in training.
So you mostly surprised yourself today?
Alina Reh: I was really surprised that I found my stride in the race. Maybe it went well because it feels better running up front rather than running at the same speed in tenth place. The fact that I didn't have any expectations of myself at all obviously did me good.
The last European Cross Country Championships was very successful with individual bronze and team silver. Do you already have expectations for this year's European Championships in Italy?
Alina Reh: No, I don't have those expectations yet. A few hours ago I wasn't even expecting to qualify. That's why I have to put that into perspective a bit. Maybe I just had a good day today. I know my current form is far from what I was able to do last year. I'm happy to go the European Cross Country Championships but I also don't want to stir up false expectations. Maybe I can help the team.
Have you been able to talk a little with the women's team about what your expectations are?
Alina Reh: Not yet. I'm sure that with a strong women's team we can pull something together and, like last year, we can rock it.
What kind of course would you like: a lot of mud or not that much?
Alina Reh: Last year the course in Dublin was fine. There were only a few section that were a bit muddy. I hope it won't be as bad as it was at the German Cross Country Championships in Sonsbeck last year. That was really bad.
How are you preparing for the European Cross Country Championships?
Alina Reh: We're going to the high-altitude training centre in Herxheim with my training group for four days. This is the first time I will be there. I'm definitely very excited about that.
You have already indicated the European Championships in Munich were difficult and that you had to either stop or drop out of your races there. It looked like you were struggling with a stomach ache.
Alina Reh: Yes, it was stomach pain from all the pressure I was putting on myself. This made me sick to my stomach. That wasn't my European Championships, I wasn't myself. In the end, the head obviously counts for more than the pure form. It's not easy when you're constantly struggling with doubts and a lack of self-confidence.
Did you take a break from running afterwards?
Alina Reh: Yes, I had a complete break. I didn't feel like running at all. Everything felt heavy and the lightness was missing. We are now working on them step-by-step. I don't think there is one right key to mental problems. Everyone has to find their own way there.