Baan looking to be part of winning Otago team

Keeping your eyes on where you are running is important — just ask Josh Baan.

It was something that left the Otago runner having to overcome more than most to get to last year’s cross-country world championships.

He will get to show his experience from those championships at home today.

The 24-year-old is part of a strong Otago senior men’s team competing at the New Zealand Cross Country Challenge at the Chisholm Golf Links.

Baan had been adjusting his GPS watch when he ran into a pole while out training.

It left him with a concussion from which it took two years to recover.

That meant no running and limited study, adding a year to his commerce degree.

While that may have stopped many, Baan completed an amazing comeback.

He returned to running and, after eight months of slow progress, his fitness started to return.

Not long after, he finished fifth at the 2018 national cross-country championships.

That was enough to propel him into the New Zealand team that raced at the world championships in Denmark early last year.

He finished 128th at those championships, although just being there after the setback was "quite a big achievement".

The event had been a great experience. It was on a different scale to anything in New Zealand.

"You’ve got obviously a lot of spectators, you have big hotels where all the athletes are staying, they put on buffets for you and have butlers take you around.

"And of course you have all the athletes you see on TV standing next to you on the start line.

"There’s a lot of hype around it, you have TV interviews and all that jazz.

"It’s a little bit different to when you turn up to the start line in New Zealand, but you still come to do the same thing."

That same thing will be what he is trying to achieve in Dunedin today.

Baan now bases himself out of Christchurch and Palmerston North — where he is originally from — having finished at the University of Otago in 2018.

But he still runs for Otago, doing much training with fellow Christchurch-based runner Caden Shields.

He enjoyed the company of the group of runners in the province and felt they had a good chance of winning the team event — the top four finishers from each province — today.

He still tried to train as much as possible, although admitted that was getting difficult around work.

As well as being the chief financial officer of an engineering company with 45 staff, he manages the accounts for a handful of other businesses too.

He said it was a disappointing for the Auckland runners not to be able to attend given the Covid-19 alert level restrictions, although it was good to still have the event.

Baan will be part of a quality senior men’s field.

Otago fields a strong team with the likes of Oli Chignell, Sam Bremer, Shields and Janus Staufenberg all contenders.

Canterbury trio Daniel Balchin, Oska Baynes and Christopher Dryden are all classy, while Whakatane’s Hayden Wilde will enter as one of the favourites.

In the senior women’s race, Otago’s Rebekah Greene is one of the favourites for the title.

The senior races begin at 2.05pm and, while spectators will be restricted, it will be broadcast on Sky Sport Next.

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