Cross country running
Overview
 
Cross country running is a sport
Sport
A Sport is all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. Sport may be competitive, where a winner or winners can be identified by objective means, and may require a degree...

 in which people run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain. The course, typically 4–12 km (2.5–7.5 mi) long, may include surfaces of grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

 and earth
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

, pass through woodland
Woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

s and open country, and include hill
Hill
A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. Hills often have a distinct summit, although in areas with scarp/dip topography a hill may refer to a particular section of flat terrain without a massive summit A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. Hills...

s, flat ground and sometimes gravel road. It is both an individual
Individual sport
-Examples:Examples of individual sports include:*Archery*Athletics*Bodybuilding*Badminton*Boomerang*Boxing*Chess*Croquet*Cycling*Darts*Equestrian*Fencing*Figure Skating*Golf*Gymnastics*Knife Throwing*Krav Maga*Judo*Lawn Bowls*Orienteering*Pilates...

 and a team sport
Team sport
A team sport includes any sport which involves players working together towards a shared objective. A team sport is an activity in which a group of individuals, on the same team, work together to accomplish an ultimate goal which is usually to win. This can be done in a number of ways such as...

, as runners are judged on an individual basis and a points scoring method for teams. Both men and women of all ages compete in cross country, which usually takes place during autumn
Autumn
Autumn is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter usually in September or March when the arrival of night becomes noticeably earlier....

 and winter
Winter
Winter is the coldest season of the year in temperate climates, between autumn and spring. At the winter solstice, the days are shortest and the nights are longest, with days lengthening as the season progresses after the solstice.-Meteorology:...

, and can include weather conditions of rain, sleet, snow or hail, and a wide range of temperatures.

Cross country running is one of the disciplines under the umbrella sport of athletics, and cross country athletes often compete in long-distance track and road running
Road running
Road running is the sport of running on a measured course over an established road . These events would be classified as long distance according to athletics terminology, with distances typically ranging from 5 kilometers to 42.2 kilometers in the marathon. They may involve large numbers of runners...

.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
Cross country running is a sport
Sport
A Sport is all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. Sport may be competitive, where a winner or winners can be identified by objective means, and may require a degree...

 in which people run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain. The course, typically 4–12 km (2.5–7.5 mi) long, may include surfaces of grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

 and earth
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

, pass through woodland
Woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

s and open country, and include hill
Hill
A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. Hills often have a distinct summit, although in areas with scarp/dip topography a hill may refer to a particular section of flat terrain without a massive summit A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. Hills...

s, flat ground and sometimes gravel road. It is both an individual
Individual sport
-Examples:Examples of individual sports include:*Archery*Athletics*Bodybuilding*Badminton*Boomerang*Boxing*Chess*Croquet*Cycling*Darts*Equestrian*Fencing*Figure Skating*Golf*Gymnastics*Knife Throwing*Krav Maga*Judo*Lawn Bowls*Orienteering*Pilates...

 and a team sport
Team sport
A team sport includes any sport which involves players working together towards a shared objective. A team sport is an activity in which a group of individuals, on the same team, work together to accomplish an ultimate goal which is usually to win. This can be done in a number of ways such as...

, as runners are judged on an individual basis and a points scoring method for teams. Both men and women of all ages compete in cross country, which usually takes place during autumn
Autumn
Autumn is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter usually in September or March when the arrival of night becomes noticeably earlier....

 and winter
Winter
Winter is the coldest season of the year in temperate climates, between autumn and spring. At the winter solstice, the days are shortest and the nights are longest, with days lengthening as the season progresses after the solstice.-Meteorology:...

, and can include weather conditions of rain, sleet, snow or hail, and a wide range of temperatures.

Cross country running is one of the disciplines under the umbrella sport of athletics, and cross country athletes often compete in long-distance track and road running
Road running
Road running is the sport of running on a measured course over an established road . These events would be classified as long distance according to athletics terminology, with distances typically ranging from 5 kilometers to 42.2 kilometers in the marathon. They may involve large numbers of runners...

. Although open-air running competitions are pre-historic, the rules and traditions of cross country racing emerged in Britain. The English championship became the first national competition in 1876 and the International Cross Country Championships
International Cross Country Championships
The International Cross Country Championships was an annual international competition in cross country running. It was created in 1903 by the International Cross Country Union and it marked the first time that an annual international championships had been held for the sport.It began its life as...

 was held for the first time in 1903. Since 1973 the foremost elite competition has been the IAAF World Cross Country Championships
IAAF World Cross Country Championships
IAAF World Cross Country Championships is the most important competition in international cross country running. Held annually and organised by International Association of Athletics Federations , it was inaugurated in 1973, when it replaced the International Cross Country Championships...

.

Race course

Cross country courses generally are laid out on an open or woodland area. The IAAF recommends that courses be grass-covered, and have rolling terrain with frequent but smooth turns. Courses consist of one or more loops, with a long straight at the start and another leading to the finish line.

Course design

Because of variations in conditions, international standardization of cross country courses is impossible, and not necessarily desirable. Part of cross country running's appeal is the natural and distinct characteristics of each venue's terrain and weather.

According to the IAAF, an ideal cross country course has a loop of 1750 to 2000 m (1,913.8 to 2,187.2 yd) laid out on an open or wooded land. It should be covered by grass, as much as possible, and include rolling hills "with smooth curves and short straights". While perfectly acceptable for local conditions to make dirt or snow the primary surface, courses should minimize running on roads or other macadamised paths. Parks and golf courses often provide good locations. While a course may include natural or artificial obstacles, cross country courses support continuous running, and generally do not require climbing over high barriers, through deep ditches, or fighting through underbrush.

A course at least 5 metres (5.5 yd) wide allows competitors to pass during the race. Clear markings keep competitors from making wrong turns, and spectators from interfering with the competition. Markings may include tape or ribbon on both sides of the course, chalk or paint on the ground, or cones. Some courses use colored flags to indicate directions: red flags for left turns, yellow flags for right turns and blue flags for continuing straight ahead. Courses also commonly include distance markings, usually at each kilometre or each mile.

The course should have 400 to 1200 m (437.4 to 1,312.3 yd) of straight terrain before the first turn, to reduce contact and congestion at the start. However, many courses at smaller competitions have their first turn after a much shorter distance.

Distances

Courses for international competitions consist of a loop between 1750 and 2000 meters. Athletes complete three to six loops, depending on the race. Senior men compete on a 12-kilometre course. Senior women and junior men compete on an 8-kilometre course. Junior women compete on a 6-kilometre course.

In the United States, college men typically compete on 8 km (5 mi) or 10 km (6.2 mi) courses, while college women race for 5 km (3.1 mi) or 6 km (3.7 mi). High school courses may be as short as 2.5 km (1.6 mi), but the most common distance is 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) (although a few states, such as California, race 3 miles (4.8 km)).For example in Dublin High School, CA the freshmen and sophomores run 2 miles on races(boys and girls)and junors and seniors run 3 miles(boys and girls).

Start

All runners start at the same time, from a starting arc
Arc
Arc may refer to:-Mathematics:*Arc , a segment of a differentiable curve*Arc , a particular type of set of points of a projective plane*Arcminute, a measure used for angles, equal to 1/60th of a degree...

 (or line) marked with lanes or boxes for each team or individual. An official, 50 metres or more in front of the starting line, fires a pistol to indicate the start. If runners collide and fall within the first 100 metres, officials can call the runners back and restart the race. Crossing the line or starting before the starting pistol is fired
most often results in disqualification of the runner.

Finish

The course ends at a finish line located at the beginning of a funnel or chute (a long walkway marked with flags) that keeps athletes single-file in order of finish and facilitates accurate scoring.

Depending on the timing and scoring system, finish officials may collect a small slip from each runner's bib, to keep track of finishing positions. An alternative method (common in the UK) is to have four officials in two pairs. In the first pair, one official reads out numbers of finishers and the other records them. In the second pair, one official reads out times for the other to record. At the end of the race the two lists are joined along with information from the entry information. The major disadvantage of this system is that distractions can easily upset the results, particularly when large numbers of runners finish close together.

Chip timing
Transponder timing
Transponder timing is a technique for measuring performance in sport events. A transponder working on a radio-frequency identification basis is attached to the athlete and emits a unique code that is detected by radio receivers located at the strategic points in an event.Prior to the use of this...

 has grown in popularity to increase accuracy and decrease the number of officials required at the finish line. Each runner attaches a transponder
Transponder
In telecommunication, the term transponder has the following meanings:...

 with RFID to his or her shoe. When the runner crosses the finish line an electronic pad records the chip number and matches to the runner to a database. Chip timing allows officials to use checkpoint mats throughout the race to calculate split times, and to ensure runners cover the entire course. This is by far the most accurate method, although it is the most expensive.

Scoring

Scores are determined by summing the top four or five individual finishing places on each team. In international competition, a team typically consists of six runners, with the top four scoring. In the United States, the most common scoring system is seven runners, with the top five scoring. Points are awarded to the individual runners of eligible teams, equal to the position in which they cross the finish line (first place gets 1 point, second place gets 2 points, etc.). The points for these runners are summed, and the low score wins. Individual athletes, and athletes from incomplete teams are excluded from scoring. Ties can be broken in several ways. In international competition, ties are resolved in favour of the team whose last scoring member finishes nearer to first place. In high school competition, ties are resolved in favor of the team whose next non-scoring member finishes first. In U.S. college competition, ties are not resolved.

The lowest possible score in a five-to-score match is 15 (1+2+3+4+5), achieved by a team's runners finishing in each of the top five positions. If there is a single opposing team then they would have a score of 40 (6+7+8+9+10), which can be considered a "sweep" for the winning team. In some competitions a team's sixth and seventh runner are scored in the overall field and are known as "pushers" or "displacers" as their place can count ahead of other runners. In the above match, if there are two non-scoring runners and they came 6th and 7th overall, the opponent's score would be 50 (8+9+10+11+12). Accordingly, the official score of a forfeited dual meet is 15-50.

Strategy

Because of differences between courses in running surface, frequency and tightness of turns, and amount of up and downhill, cross country strategy
Strategy
Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

 does not necessarily simplify to running a steady pace from start to finish. Coach
Coach (sport)
In sports, a coach is an individual involved in the direction, instruction and training of the operations of a sports team or of individual sportspeople.-Staff:...

es and cross country runners debate the relative merits of fast starts to get clear of the field, versus steady pacing to maximize physiological efficiency. Some teams emphasize running in a group in order to provide encouragement to others on the team, while others hold that every individual should run his or her own race.

Training and Form

As far as off the course strategy is concerned, core workouts are incredibly helpful when it comes to improving. Integrating core workouts into training regiments helps to improve running form, endurance and may even improve one’s ability to push themselves while running.

One of the most important qualities of running is form, and this is even more true when it comes to long distance running. Core workouts strengthen muscles and help to promote good running posture. As races or practices drag on, one’s form starts to naturally diminish as their body attempts to rest which can lead to less efficient training sessions. However, practicing core workouts in addition to running can help to combat this diminishing of form by making the muscles that promote this posture more ready for the long runs. The endurance of a long distance runner’s legs is unparalleled, however, the upper body (which is still part of the running form) is less focused on and, therefore, less efficient.

Endurance is what separates two runners of equal skills. They may both be as fast and can handle the distance, however, if one of the runners can push themselves a little bit more than his or her counterpart, they will win that battle. Core workouts offer that endurance by calling on a will that is very integral to running, the will to push oneself. Now, the point of the core workouts are to strengthen the body, however, it is more of a repetitious process for runners than a strengthening process. The goal is to tone the body and improve cardiac endurance rather than increase muscle mass. This endurance helps to fine tone the will of the runner to maintain a good form while running and to go stronger for longer because it takes more to wear out the body if one’s core is strong.

Pushing oneself in a race is easy to talk about but incredibly difficult to achieve. Any runner who has been in the middle of a race after they have exhausted themselves knows that digging even further within their body to bring out more strength in order to go even harder and even faster seems impossible when one is already gasping for air and every muscle in their body is burning. Core workouts can help to train the body to withstand more abuse which leads to the runner having more of an ability to push themselves because by the second mile, they have that much more energy than one who does not practice core workouts. Additionally, when the muscles are more conditioned to handle the physical draw of a race, they take longer to break down which leaves the runner with more to give during the race.

There are many different ways to strengthen the core of the body. Most of them, especially so for runners, are manual workouts. Things like push-ups, sit-ups and tricep presses go a long way because they call on the strength of the runner carrying the weight of the runner (which is also the case during a race). Additionally, the manual workouts will help to focus more on repetition and endurance rather than building up muscle mass. The number of sets and repetitions are up to the individual runner as each runner would likely vary in capabilities. However, so long as the runner is working to push himself or herself, the workout should be beneficial.

As most runners know, the abilities one has in a race rely heavily on the training they take part in off the course. Core workouts are merely another set of training tactics which can really improve a runner’s ability and strengths in a race.

Equipment

Cross country running involves very little specialized equipment. Most races are run in shorts and vests or singlets, usually in club or school colors. In particularly cold conditions, long-sleeved shirts and tights can be worn to retain warmth without losing mobility. The most common footwear are cross country spikes, lightweight racing shoes with a rubber sole and approximately six metal spikes screwed into the forefoot part of the sole. Spike length depends on race conditions, with a muddy course appropriate for spikes as long as 25 millimetre (0.984251968503937 in). If a course has a harder surface, spikes as short as 6 millimetre (0.236220472440945 in) may be most effective. While spikes are suitable for grassy, muddy, or other slippery conditions, runners may choose to wear racing flats
Racing flats
Racing flats, or simply flats, are lightweight athletic shoes designed for "long distance" track and field, cross country, and most often, road races. They differ from normal training shoes mainly by the lack of a substantial heel...

, rubber-soled racing shoes without spikes, if the course includes significant portions of paved surfaces or dirt road.

History

While humans have raced each other over natural terrain since before recorded history, formal cross country competition traces its history to the 19th century and an English game called "hare and hounds" or "the paper chase
Paper Chase (game)
Paper Chase is a racing game played outdoors with any number of players. At the start of the game, one person is designated the 'hare' and everyone else in the group are the 'hounds'...

". English schools started competing in cross country races in 1837, and established a national championship in 1876.

Olympic Games

Cross country was contested as a team and individual event at the 1904
1904 Summer Olympics
The 1904 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States from 1 July 1904, to November 23, 1904, at what is now known as Francis Field on the campus of Washington University...

, 1912
1912 Summer Olympics
The 1912 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the V Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Stockholm, Sweden, between 5 May and 27 July 1912. Twenty-eight nations and 2,407 competitors, including 48 women, competed in 102 events in 14 sports...

, 1920
1920 Summer Olympics
The 1920 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the VII Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium....

 and 1924
1924 Summer Olympics
The 1924 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the VIII Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1924 in Paris, France...

 Summer Games. A United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 team won the gold medal
Gold medal
A gold medal is typically the medal awarded for highest achievement in a non-military field. Its name derives from the use of at least a fraction of gold in form of plating or alloying in its manufacture...

 for cross country in the 1904 Olympics. Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 took gold in 1912. Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, led by Paavo Nurmi
Paavo Nurmi
Paavo Johannes Nurmi was a Finnish runner. Born in Turku, he was known as one of the "Flying Finns," a term given to him, Hannes Kolehmainen, Ville Ritola, and others for their distinction in running...

, captured the gold in 1920 and 1924 before the Olympics dropped cross country from its program.

World Championships

Europeans dominated early International Cross Country Championships
International Cross Country Championships
The International Cross Country Championships was an annual international competition in cross country running. It was created in 1903 by the International Cross Country Union and it marked the first time that an annual international championships had been held for the sport.It began its life as...

, first held at the Hamilton Park Racecourse
Hamilton Park Racecourse
Hamilton Park Racecourse is a thoroughbred horse racing venue in Hamilton, Scotland to the south of Glasgow. It is a flat racing venue, with a season which runs from May to September....

 in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 on 28 March 1903. England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 won the first 14 titles, and 43 of 59 until the IAAF took over the competition in 1973
1973 IAAF World Cross Country Championships
The 1st IAAF World Cross Country Championships were held on 17 March 1973 in Waregem, Belgium.-Individual:-Team:- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :...

. France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 was the next most successful country in the early years, winning 12 championships between 1922 and 1956. Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 is the only other country to win at the International Cross Country Championship, capturing titles in 1948, 1957, 1961 and 1963. The English also dominated the individual competition, with an Englishman winning the individual title 35 times, including three wins by Jack Holden
Jack Holden (athlete)
John Thomas Holden was a long-distance runner from England, who won four consecutive national titles in the men's marathon . He represented Great Britain at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, where he did not finish...

 (1933–1935).

The first international cross country championship for women was held in 1931, and thirteen more times through 1972. England won 12 of these early championships, losing only in 1968 and 1969 (to the United States). American Doris Brown won five consecutive individual titles between 1967 and 1971.

Beginning in 1973
1973 IAAF World Cross Country Championships
The 1st IAAF World Cross Country Championships were held on 17 March 1973 in Waregem, Belgium.-Individual:-Team:- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :...

, the IAAF began hosting the renamed World Cross Country Championships each year. In 1975
1975 IAAF World Cross Country Championships
The 3rd IAAF World Cross Country Championships were held on March 16, 1975 in Rabat, Morocco.- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- External links :*...

 the New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 men and United States women won, marking the first championships by non-European countries. In 1981
1981 IAAF World Cross Country Championships
The 9th IAAF World Cross Country Championships were held on March 28, 1981 in Madrid, Spain. There were a total number of 457 participating athletes from 39 countries.- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :...

 an African nation (Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

) won the men's race for the first time, and a decade later
1991 IAAF World Cross Country Championships
The 19th IAAF World Cross Country Championships were held on March 24, 1991 in Antwerp, Belgium.- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- External links :**- References :...

 an African nation (Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

) won the women's race for the first time. Ethiopia or Kenya has captured every men's title since 1981 and every women's title since 2001
2001 IAAF World Cross Country Championships
The 29th IAAF World Cross Country Championships were held 24–25 March 2001 in Ostend, Belgium.- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :- Individual :- Team :...

. Through 2010, Kenya has won 40 World Cross Country Championships and Ethiopia has won 23.

Men

  • Kenenisa Bekele
    Kenenisa Bekele
    Kenenisa Bekele is an Ethiopian long-distance runner, who holds the world record and Olympic record in both the 5000 metres and 10,000 metres events...

     – won both short and long World Cross Country course titles in the same year five times (2002–2006), after a junior men victory and senior long course silver in 2001. The IAAF calls him the "greatest ever male cross country runner to have graced the sport."
  • Carlos Lopes
    Carlos Lopes
    Carlos Alberto de Sousa Lopes, GCIH, is a former Portuguese long-distance athlete, winner of the marathon race at the 1984 Summer Olympics, in Los Angeles. He brought home Portugal's first ever Olympic gold medal along with a new Olympic record - 2:09.21.Born in Vildemoinhos, near Viseu, Portugal,...

     – first man to win World Cross Country title three times.
  • John Ngugi
    John Ngugi
    John Ngugi Kamau , is a former Kenyan athlete, often called one of the greatest cross country runners of all time and winner of the 5000 metres at the 1988 Summer Olympics.-Career:...

     – first man to win five World Cross Country titles, including four consecutively in the late 1980s.
  • Steve Prefontaine
    Steve Prefontaine
    Steve Roland "Pre" Prefontaine was an American middle and long-distance runner. Prefontaine once held the American record in the seven distance track events from the 2,000 meters to the 10,000 meters...

     – three-time NCAA cross country champion and subject of the movies Prefontaine and Without Limits
    Without Limits
    Without Limits is a 1998 biographical film about the relationship between record-breaking distance runner Steve Prefontaine and his coach Bill Bowerman, who later co-founded Nike, Inc....

    .
  • Gaston Roelants
    Gaston Roelants
    Gaston, Baron Roelants was a top steeplechaser in the early 1960s and a great cross-country runner. At the steeplechase he won the 1962 European and 1964 Olympic titles as well as setting two world records, 8 minutes 29.6 seconds in 1963 and 8 minutes 26.4 seconds in 1965.Roelants was born in...

     – four-time champion at the International Cross Country Championship between 1962 and 1972.
  • Paul Tergat
    Paul Tergat
    Paul Kibii Tergat is a Kenyan professional long distance runner. He held the world record in the marathon from 2003 to 2007, with a time of 2:04:55, and is regarded as one of the most accomplished long-distance runners of all time.Now concentrating exclusively on the marathon, Tergat won many...

     – long course champion five years in a row (1995–1999), plus a bronze medal finish in 2000.

Women

  • Doris Brown – won the International Cross Country Championship for five consecutive years (1967–1971).
  • Zola Budd
    Zola Budd
    Zola Pieterse, better known by her maiden name of Zola Budd , is a former Olympic track and field competitor who, in less than three years, twice broke the world record in the women's 5000 metres and twice was the women's winner at the World Cross Country Championships...

     – young prodigy who twice won women's World championship (1985–1986), known for running barefooted.
  • Tirunesh Dibaba
    Tirunesh Dibaba
    Tirunesh Dibaba also known as Tirunesh Dibaba Kenene is an Ethiopian long distance track athlete and the outdoor 5000 metres world record holder. She is the current Olympic 5000 metres and 10,000 metres champion...

     – won three times at the World long course and once at the short.
  • Lynn Jennings
    Lynn Jennings
    Lynn Jennings is a retired American athlete who competed mainly in the long distances. She is one of the best female American runners of all time, with a range from 1500 meters to the marathon. She excelled at all three of the sport's major disciplines--track, road, and cross country...

     – won World title three times.
  • Edith Masai
    Edith Masai
    Edith Chewangel Masai is a Kenyan former long-distance runner who specialised in cross country and track races, then road races in her late career. She represented Kenya at the 2004 Summer Olympics.. Sports Reference. Retrieved on 2011-11-07...

     – won the World short race three times.
  • Derartu Tulu
    Derartu Tulu
    Derartu Tulu is an Ethiopian long distance track, road and marathon athlete.Derartu , a member of the Oromo ethnic group, grew up tending cattle in the village of Bekoji in the highlands of Arsi Province...

     – won World titles three times in six years (1995, 1997, 2000).
  • Grete Waitz
    Grete Waitz
    Grete Waitz was a Norwegian marathon runner and former world record holder. Waitz won nine New York City Marathons between 1978 and 1988, more than any other runner in history...

     – first athlete to win five IAAF World Cross Country titles.
  • Gete Wami
    Gete Wami
    Getenesh Wami is a female Ethiopian cross country and track runner....

     – won twice at the World long course and once at the short.

Regional organization

In addition to the World Cross Country Championships, the IAAF sponsors six annual area-level competitions: the African Cross Country Championships
African Cross Country Championships
The African Cross Country Championships is a regional cross country running competition for athletes from Africa.-History:The competition had a one off edition in 1985 in Nairobi, Kenya, and the medallists were mostly from the host nation...

, Asian Cross Country Championships
Asian Cross Country Championships
The Asian Cross Country Championships is a biennial regional cross country running competition for athletes from Asia. It is organised by the Asian Athletics Association and was first held in 1991 in Fukuoka, Japan...

, European Cross Country Championships
European Cross Country Championships
The European Cross Country Championships is an annual international cross country running competition. Organised by the European Athletic Association, it is the area championships for the region and is held in December each year...

, NACAC Cross Country Championships, Oceania Cross Country Championships and South American Cross Country Championships
South American Cross Country Championships
The South American Cross Country Championships is an annual continental cross country running competition for athletes from South America or, more specifically, member countries of CONSUDATLE. It was first held in 1986, making it the oldest of the continental cross country championships...

.

Beyond championships, IAAF world cross country meetings include the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country
Great Edinburgh International Cross Country
The Great Edinburgh International Cross Country is an annual cross country running competition that takes place every January in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is one of the competitions in the Great Run series of athletics events and is held alongside the Great Winter Run 5 kilometres mass...

, Cross Internacional de Itálica
Cross Internacional de Itálica
The Cross Internacional de Itálica is an annual cross country running competition that is held every January in Santiponce, near Seville, Spain. Inaugurated in 1982, the race course is set in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Itálica...

, Antrim International Cross Country
Antrim International Cross Country
The Antrim International Cross Country, formerly the Belfast International Cross Country, is an annual cross country running meeting which takes place every January in Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is one of the IAAF's cross country permit meetings, as well as being part of the UK Cross Challenge tour...

, Cinque Mulini
Cinque Mulini
The Cinque Mulini is an annual cross country running race in San Vittore Olona, Italy. First held in 1933, the course is unusual in that it revolves around a number of water mills, which lend the competition its name – meaning Five Mills in Italian. It is one of the IAAF cross country permit...

, Nairobi Cross, Chiba International Cross Country
Chiba International Cross Country
The Chiba International Cross Country is an annual cross country running competition which takes place in Chiba, Japan in mid-February. It is one of the IAAF permit meetings which serve as qualifying events for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships....

, Fukuoka International Cross Country
Fukuoka International Cross Country
The Fukuoka International Cross Country is an annual cross country running competition which takes place in Fukuoka, Japan in either late February or Early March...

 meet, Eurocross
Eurocross
Eurocross is an annual international cross country running competition which takes place in Diekirch, Luxembourg in February. It is one of the IAAF permit meetings which serve as qualifying events for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships....

 and Almond Blossom Cross Country
Almond Blossom Cross Country
The Almond Blossom Cross Country is an annual international cross country running competition which takes place in Albufeira, Portugal in early March. It is one of the IAAF permit meetings which serve as qualifying events for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. It is held in co-operation...

.

Australia

Cross country running is organised at the state level by the athletics association for each state. In Queensland this Queensland Athletics. In the Masters category (over 30), this is organised by Australian Masters Athletics. Brisbane will host the Australian Masters Nationals Championships, April 21–24, 2011 with the Cross Country hosted by Thompson Estate and Eastern Suburbs Athletics
Thompson Estate and Eastern Suburbs Athletics
Thompson Estate and Eastern Suburbs Athletics is Brisbane's oldest sporting club, founded in 1900. Run by volunteers, it caters for athletes and cross country runners of all abilities....

  at Minnippi Parklands.

The cross country season in Brisbane is usually March - September. During the season there is usually one race each week in a different park, normally organised and hosted by one of the participating clubs. Photos of such events can be found here.

Canada

Cross country running is a far reaching sport in Canada. Starting in elementary school, most children have had some form of exposure to cross country running, usually in the form of an annual all-school event. In middle school, races are more serious and are divided by grade and gender. In high school the races are very serious and tend to be the main talent pool (especially at the senior level) for university or national-level runners. At the university level, the sport is administered by Canadian Interuniversity Sport
Canadian Interuniversity Sport
Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada, comprising the majority of degree granting universities in the country. Its equivalent body for organized sports at colleges in Canada is The Canadian Colleges Athletic Association...

.

United Kingdom

The organization of cross country running in the United Kingdom has continued to be mostly devolved to the four national associations: England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, and Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. The sport is based around the clubs, which usually are mixed cross country and road running clubs. The current position (which is changing) is that in England, the English Cross Country Association
English Cross Country Association
The English Cross Country Association is the governing body of cross country running in England. Its objects are to promote and develop cross country running and to advance and safeguard the interests of the sport and the governing body...

 is part of the Amateur Athletic Association.

Cross country running takes place from roughly September until March. Most matches are parts of different cross country leagues, which are organised on an ad hoc basis. These vary from large, high quality leagues, such as the London Metropolitan Cross Country League
London Metropolitan Cross Country League
The Metropolitan League is a 21 club Cross Country Running league in South East England. There are 5 league fixtures held in various locations between October and February...

, Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

 League and Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

 League (which is unusual in requiring ten runners to score) to small, local leagues (such as the Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

 AA league), and individual clubs can be a member of several leagues.

Typically there will be four or five fixtures a season. In addition there are county championships, area championships (north, south, and midlands), the national championship (whose location rotates around the three areas), and the Inter-Counties Championship (which is often the best quality race owing to its restricted entry and its role as the trial for the World Championships).

In addition there can be many inter-club matches, particularly among the older clubs. Most league matches are around 10 km (6.2 mi) long, and most championships 12 to 15 km (c. 7½ to 9 miles) long. Most clubs are mixed, though men's and women's races tend to be run separately.

Secondary school aged students are also to compete at local schools races, with a set number of students qualifying for county level, at which there is a further race to qualify for the English Schools Cross Country race. There is also quite a lot of racing between universities, with larger fixtures organised through BUCS.

Primary schools, although more often the juniors, also participate in cross country events and in some areas of England have done so since the late 1960's. An example would be schools near Ouston, County Durham
Ouston, County Durham
Ouston is a village in County Durham, approximately 5 miles to the south-west of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne in the north-east of England...

 which compete as part of Chester-le-Street & District Primary Cross Country Association.

United States

USA Track & Field hosts four annual national cross country championships. The USA Cross Country Championships
USA Cross Country Championships
The USA Cross Country Championships is the annual national championships for cross country running in the United States. The championships is generally held in mid-February and it serves as a way of designating the country's national champion, as well as acting as the selection race for the IAAF...

, first held in 1890, include six races: masters women (8 km), masters men (8 km), junior women (6 km), junior men (8 km), open women (8 km) and open men (12 km). In addition to crowning national champions, the championships serve as the trials race to select the Team USA squad for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. The USA Masters 5 km Cross Country Championships, first held in 2002, include a men's race and a women's race. The USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, first held in 1998, feature the top clubs from across the United States as they vie for honors and bragging rights as the nation's top cross country team. The USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships, first held in 2001, has races for boys and girls in five different two-year age divisions.
Most American universities and colleges field men's and women's cross country teams as part of their athletic program. Over 900 men's cross country teams and over 1000 women's cross country teams compete in the three divisions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association
National Collegiate Athletic Association
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a semi-voluntary association of 1,281 institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals that organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States...

. Men usually race 10 km (6.2 mi) or 8 km (5 mi), and women usually race 6 km (3.7 mi) or 5 km (3.1 mi). The season culminates in men's and women's
NCAA Women's Cross Country Championship
Each autumn, beginning in 1981, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has hosted women's cross country championships for each of its three divisions...

 championships.

Every state offers cross country as a high school sport for boys and girls. Over 440,000 high school students compete in cross country each year, making it the sixth most popular sport for girls, and seventh most popular for boys. The standard high school cross country race distance is 5 km (3.1 mi), though some states run a shorter, 3- to 4-kilometer course for girls. Beginning in 1979, the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships
Foot Locker Cross Country Championships
The Foot Locker Cross Country Championships are a series of annual cross country running races held in various regions of the United States to determine the premier cross country runner in various age groups, but mainly serves to find the best prep cross country athlete in the country...

 have offered a national championship for high school cross country runners. Since 2004, the Nike Cross Nationals have offered an alternative national championship, focused on teams rather than individuals. A 2008 film, The Long Green Line, documented the success of Joe Newton, cross country coach at York Community High School
York Community High School
York Community High School is a public secondary school in Elmhurst, Illinois, United States. Most of the students reside in Elmhurst, however the district also draws a small number of students from Addison, Bensenville, and Oak Brook...

 in Elmhurst, Illinois
Elmhurst, Illinois
Elmhurst is a suburb of Chicago in DuPage and Cook Counties, Illinois. The population is 46,013 as of the 2008 US Census population estimate.-History:...

.

While many middle schools (grades 6-8) in the U.S. offer cross country as a school sport, youth running clubs dominate in this age group. A typical middle school course is 3 km (1.9 mi), and races may not split up boys and girls. Few elementary school
Elementary school
An elementary school or primary school is an institution where children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as elementary or primary education. Elementary school is the preferred term in some countries, particularly those in North America, where the terms grade school and grammar...

s in the U.S. have school teams, but many running clubs exist for youth runners. Youth running clubs compete in local, regional, and national championships sanctioned by the AAU
Amateur Athletic Union
The Amateur Athletic Union is one of the largest non-profit volunteer sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.-History:The AAU was founded in 1888 to...

 or USATF. Course distances for this age group vary depending on the age of the athlete. Common championship distances are:
Group Ages Race Distance
Bantam Under 10 3 km (1.9 mi)
Midget 10 to 12 3 km (1.9 mi)
Youth 12 to 14 4 km (2.5 mi)
Intermediate 14 to 16 5 km (3.1 mi)
Young 16 to 18 5 km (3.1 mi)


Mt. San Antonio College
Mt. San Antonio College
Mt. San Antonio College is a community college located in the Los Angeles suburb of Walnut, California, 2.12 miles west of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona ....

 in Walnut, California hosts the largest cross country invitational in the United States, with over 22,000 runners from community colleges, high schools and elementary schools competing. The meet started in 1948 and continues today.

Outstanding American cross country runners include Don Lash
Don Lash
Donald Ray Lash was an American long-distance runner who won 12 national titles from 1934 to 1940, including seven consecutive men's national cross-country championships, and who set a world's record for the two-mile run in 1936.Born in Bluffton, Indiana, Lash grew up in Auburn, Indiana, where he...

, who won seven consecutive national championships from 1934 to 1940 and Pat Porter
Pat Porter
Patrick Ralph Porter is a former American distance runner. With an unremarkable personal best of 4:29 in the mile while running for Evergreen High School in Evergreen, Colorado, Porter was not heavily recruited to run in college...

, who won eight titles from 1982 to 1989. Only two American athletes have won the IAAF World Cross Country Championships: Craig Virgin
Craig Virgin
Craig Steven Virgin is an American distance runner. He was born in Belleville, Illinois and grew up near Lebanon, Illinois...

, who won in 1980 and again in 1981 and Lynn Jennings
Lynn Jennings
Lynn Jennings is a retired American athlete who competed mainly in the long distances. She is one of the best female American runners of all time, with a range from 1500 meters to the marathon. She excelled at all three of the sport's major disciplines--track, road, and cross country...

 from 1990–1992.

Variations

One variation on traditional cross country is mountain running, which incorporates significant uphill and/or downhill sections as an additional challenge to the course. Orienteering
Orienteering
Orienteering is a family of sports that requires navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain, and normally moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they...

 is another competitive sport similar to cross country, although it features an element of navigation
Navigation
Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

absent from the set and marked courses of cross country.
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