Cross Country running is a sport of running. Compete to complete a course over open or rough terrain faster than other teams. The courses used at these events may include grass, mud, woodlands, and water. It is a popular participatory sport, and usually takes place in temperate regions during the autumn and winter when soft conditions underfoot prevail.
In 1868, members of Thames Rowing Club looking for winter exercise (when rowing did not take place then) formed Thames Hare and Hounds in Roehampton on the south-west fringes of London and adjoining Wimbledon Common on which cross-country races were staged. They were joined by Peckham Hare and Hounds in 1869 (which became Blackheath Harriers in 1880), Cheshire Tally Ho Hare and Hounds in 1872, Birchfield Harriers 1877, Cambridge University Hare and Hounds in 1880, and Ranelagh Harriers in 1881. The English Cross Country Union followed in 1883 which introduced the National Championships. Most of these early clubs continue to thrive to this day. The reason for the names associated with hunting is that in many of the early matches, the course was set by paper chasing: a few runners (the hares) would have a start on the bulk of the field (the hounds), and lay a 'scent' by scattering a paper trail behind them which the hounds would follow. Racing would take place between the hares and the hounds and within the hounds themselves. Because of the obvious nuisance this can generate, this form of racing was largely discontinued quite early on. Occasional matches still take place, by Cheshire Tally Ho and the popular Hash House Harriers, for example. However, from an early date steeplechases and championship races also took place over fixed courses, as today.
In 1878, the sport was introduced into the United States by William C. Vosburgh. At first, the sport served mainly as training for summer track and field athletics. Nine years later, cross country running became a formal sport in the United States. Despite the international popularity of cross-country, the sport was dropped from the Olympic Games after 1924 due to it being an inappropriate summer sport. In the 1960s, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which regulates cross-country running, allowed women to run for the first time.
The sport is still popular in temperate countries. Internationally, the IAAF organises the World Cross Country Championships. In recent years the type of course at this event has changed, moving from the traditional form to faster, drier courses.
Races are started en masse, sometimes with each team having its own bull pen or box along the start line. Boxes may be big enough to fit the entire team on the starting line. In some meets, there is only enough room for one runner on the line. The 2-7 runners follow in a line, and if permitted may flow into other boxes. A gun or horn is then sounded, and runners have a few hundred metres to converge from the wide starting line into the much narrower path that must be followed until the finish. However, races are typically smaller in the common duel races between two schools which supply enough room for each team on the starting line.
Helpers at the finish line assist in making sure the athletes keep moving through the line while staying in order as more runners come through. They settle close finishes and help along any collapsing athletes to make sure they get their number in the right order. The helpers that work the chute also are in charge of giving water to the finishers and helping them if they are having trouble (vomiting, collapsing, trouble breathing).
There is often a small slip at the bottom of the runners' number (that is pinned to the front of their jersey during the race) that gets ripped off and collected, which shows each athlete's information. That slip is used to keep track of finishing positions. An alternative method (common in the UK) is to have 4 officials in two pairs. In the first pair one official reads out numbers of finishers. In the second pair one official reads out times, then records. 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.
|Team||Total score||1||2||3||4||Tie breaker|
|Blue Team||18||1||4||6||7||9 *Wins tie|
|Note on examples, there are usually 5 scoring runners on each team, 4 is for brevity.|
Scoring is done by the noting of a number, or the issuing of a disk with the runner's position stamped on it which clubs use to compose a return for the race organisers. This helps the people running the meet make sure everyone is scored correctly. Less common is an open finish line, which usually involves reading radio-broadcasting computer chips (sometimes referred to as "chip timing") attached to each runner. Prior to the finish line, the course may widen to allow more passing.
Cross country running is normally scored on a team basis. 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). Teams are considered ineligible to score if they have fewer than the meet's required number of scorers, which is typically five. Only the first runners in for a team are counted towards that team's score. Teams are awarded ranks based on the number of points their top runners have, with lowest being best. The rules in the event of a tie vary depending on the competition; often the team that closes scoring first wins, though in the US NCAA ties are possible. In high school competition, if two teams tie, then the victor is decided by whose sixth runner, the first one whose score does not count, finished first.
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.
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 Birmingham League and Surrey League (which is unusual in requiring ten runners to score) to small, local leagues (such as the Gloucestershire 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 miles) in length, and most championships 12 to 15 km (c. 7 1/2 to 9 miles) long. Most clubs are mixed, though women's races tend to be run separately from men's and to be shorter.
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.
Distances in United States (US) amateur running differ based on gender and league.
Most elementary schools in the US do not have school teams, but many running clubs exist for youth runners of 18 years of age and younger. Youth running clubs compete in local, regional, and national championships sanctioned by the AAU or USATF. Course distances for this age group vary depending on the age of the athlete. Common championship distances are:
|Age Group||Distance in Miles||Distance in Kilometers|
|6 & Under||.62||1km|
|7 & 8||1.24||2km|
|9 thru 12||1.86||3km|
|13 & 14||2.48||4km|
|15 thru 18||3.11||5km|
Many middle school (grades 6-8) in the US offer cross country as a school sport and youth running clubs are still very dominant in this age group. The course length varies, as listed above, but middle school cross country distances are generally a mile for both male and female.
In secondary/high schools, the standard male and female varsity distance is 5 kilometers (approximately 3.1 miles) in many states such as Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, and Virginia. 3.0 miles is also common, such as in Illinois. However, states differ in their regulations, and in some, different distances, mostly 3 miles and 4 kilometers, are typical for females. Some of the most prominent high school meets include September's Great American Cross Country Festival in Alabama, October's Manhattan Invitational in New York City's Van Cortlandt Park, and October's Mt. San Antonio College Invitational , "Mt. SAC" for short. The season culminates with the individual Foot Locker National XC Championships held in San Diego's Balboa Park and the Nike Team Nationals which are held in Portland, Oregon.
At college level, distances are usually 5 km or 6 km for females and 8 km (5 miles) for males for most invitationals and NCAA Division III regional and national meets. For NCAA Divisions I and II, men race 10 km (6.2 mi) and women 6 km at regional and national competitions. The largest cross-country invitational in the world is at Mt. SAC The USATF National Championships consist of a long course and a short course similar to the IAAF World Championships. The long course is 12 km for men and 8 km for women, while the short course is 4 km for both men and women.
Outstanding American cross-country runners include Don Lash, who won seven consecutive national championships from 1934 to 1940 and Pat Porter, who won eight titles from 1982 to 1989. Only two American athletes have won the IAAF World Cross Country Championships; Craig Virgin, who won in 1980 and again in 1981 and Lynn Jennings from 1990-1992.