The first International Cross Country was held in 1903 as a competition between the four home nations of the UK before expanding to include European teams; the first African team to compete was Tunisia in 1958. A junior men's race was added from 1961 and more controversially at the time, women were included in 1967. The event became the IAAF World Championships in 1973 and the latest was held at Kampala, Uganda on Sunday (26 March).
There were 34 runners from GB and Northern Ireland in the 1973 IAAF World Championships with teams representing all four home nations. Sadly, no senior men ran for Britain in Uganda as 33 African nations outnumbered and outclassed the 26 other national teams in action.
The lack of domestic interest was disappointing but there was still plenty of thrills and spills at the Kololo Independence Ground, Kampala, where a man-made ditch, mound and log jumps added a semblance of cross country to an otherwise flat and fast course. Innovations this year included the unisex distance of 10km for both senior men and women and the introduction of a mixed 4x2km relay (two men, two women in any order). The relay proved to be exciting, with Kenya prevailing by eight seconds from Ethiopia and Turkey.
The British Athletics squad of 16 athletes was captained by Claire Duck (Leeds City). Full teams of six runners were fielded for experience in the two junior races. Victoria Weir (City of Plymouth, 40th) led the under-20 women to a respectable ninth place overall. Sam Stevens (Leicester, 43rd) was the best of the under-20 men's team that finished 10th.
Louise Small (Aldershot, 39th) achieved Britain's highest individual placing, competing in the senior women's race, with Rebecca Murray (Bedford, 43rd) not far behind. Small (pictured), who was 29th in the 2011 junior race, said: “It was tough and it was hot out there but I’m proud of the way we battled as individuals and as a team. Overall I’m pleased with the finish and both the race and the championships have been a fantastic experience.”
The senior champions were Kenya's Geoffrey Kamworor and Irene Cheptai and Kenya won the women's team and Ethiopia took the men's team gold.
Image courtesy British Athletics press.