The Importance of Cross Country

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Speaking at the Press conference ahead of tomorrow’s European Cross Country Championships, Chritian Milz, the Director General of European Athletics, emphasised the importance of Cross Country in the development of a track athlete.

Using former winner of the championships Mo Farah as an example, Milz said that it was important that athletes continued to compete in cross country and that they would struggle to do well on the track without it.

The Director General also noted the use of the European Cross Country Championships by Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee as a building block for his career.

Brownlee who finished 48th in Dublin in 2009 and obviously took a slightly different path after competing in the championships, but with the IAAF meeting in Belgrade on Monday to discuss how they can improve cross country, it is likely that Seb Coe and the rest of the federation, will point to Brownlee and Farah as examples of what they want they want cross country to be used for.

Whilst there is concern at the decrease in the number of European countries choosing to take part in the World Cross Country Championships the same cannot be said for the European Championships. Sunday’s race in Belgrade will be see a record number of 570 athletes competing all together in the 6 different race categories, with the number of nations involved also up on last year’s total of 36.

One category within the event that is often queried is the u23’s race where the likes of Great Britain’s Charlotte Purdue and Lily Partridge will look for success. The class has been criticised in the past by athletes such as Paula Radcliffe for being unnecessary. However European President, Hansjorg Witz, told today’s press conference that the category was vital in bringing athletes through from juniors to seniors.

This Sunday’s race will see  the runners compete at the Friendship Park, Belgrade; the course which is to the west of the Caba-Sava  river is certainly one of the most central venue’s the championships has ever been staged at.  However athletes should not expect to become used to the inner city atmosphere for future championships, with next year’s edition taking place in the mountainous region of Samokv, Bulgaria, where athletes will be competing at an altitude of 1,300 metres.