When Bella Earl hears the starting gun in her cross country race today, it won't just be about putting one foot in front of the other.

Earl, who competes in the three-kilometre, Year 9 national cross country championship race in Timaru, will execute a carefully laid out plan. She'll get ahead of the 82-runner field early, stay with the lead pack and slowly pull away, hopefully to a win.

While it might seem simple, the plan has been crafted and reinforced by one of Northland's greatest athletics exports, Ian Babe. Also the Athletics NZ president, Babe came out of a