Cross Country Running

How it works

Races, for both teams and individuals, are run on either grass or woodland courses and might also include stretches of gravel paths, road and hills. Races usually take place in the winter months, outside the usual track and field season.

The IAAF recommend for international competitions that there is a main course loop of between 1750m and 2000m with natural obstacles used where possible, and the likes of deep ditches, dangerous ascents and descents as well as thick undergrowth should be avoided.


The first international cross country race was staged in 1898 at Ville d’Avray, France. The first International Cross Country Championships (the forerunner to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships) was held five years later at Hamilton Park Racecourse in Scotland. The inaugural IAAF World Cross Country Championships took place on 17 March, 1973, in the Belgian town of Waregem. Men’s cross country races have also taken place at three summer Olympics, in 1912, 1920 and 1924.

 Did you know

The oldest gold medallist at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships is Jack Foster, who was part of New Zealand’s triumphant 1975 team at 42 years and 297 days. Portugal’s Carlos Lopes is the oldest individual winner when he won the third of his trio of titles in 1985 when he was 38 years and 34 days. At the other end of the spectrum, the youngest individual winner is Kenya’s Lydia Cheromei, who took the 1991 junior women’s title when she was just 13 years and 317 days. Do you also know that Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa? Many people, including Peter, a punter on betika sports betting say they can’t get enough of it.

Gold standard

Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele has won 16 gold medals at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, 12 individual and four team wins. He won five consecutive double victories between 2002 and 2006 in both the long course and now-discontinued short course races. In addition, he got an unprecedented sixth senior men’s long course victory in 2008 and also won the 2001 junior title.