IAAF Global Seminar on Cross Country Running

Belgrade – Serbia, Dec 10, 2013: More than 100 participants from all six of the IAAF Area Associations gathered in the Serbian capital Belgrade for the IAAF Global Seminar on Cross Country Running on Monday (December 9).

The chair and moderator was IAAF Vice President Sebastian Coe and the seminar addressed a variety of issues currently concerning cross country running.

The broad themes covered the challenges of ensuring that athletes, coaches, media, sponsors and fans continued to appreciate the values and benefits of cross country running as well as encouraging greater participation, both at elite and grassroots level.

“I am really pleased that such a wealth of expertise in a single discipline could come together. We have a challenge to maintain a global perspective on this aspect of the sport, which not only has great tradition, but tremendous potential not only as a unique discipline but as a bed rock of endurance running,” said Coe.

Former IAAF World Cross Country Championships gold medallists Annette Sergent (FRA) and Craig Virgin (USA) opened the seminar with personal insights about what cross country running meant to them.

They were followed on to the stage by Benjamin Limo (KEN), Sonia O’Sullivan (IRL) and Paula Radcliffe (GBR), who developed the theme of cross country running being one of the core activities in helping develop an athlete’s endurance and how it helped them to succeed in their track and road careers.

“Doing well at the World Cross Country Championships was a catalyst for all my other successes,” reflected Virgin, whose thoughts were echoed by all the other four former IAAF World Cross Country Championships winners.

Providing a thought-provoking coaching perspective about why cross country running was so important to an endurance runner and giving an insight into their two countries’ stunning success in the discipline in the last 25-30 years were Ibrahim Kipkemboi Husseim (KEN) and Jillo Dube (ETH).

IAAF staff Gunter Lange (GER) and Abdel Malek El Hebil (MAR) then provided physiological and philosophical reasons about why cross country running is so important to an endurance athlete who is aspiring to succeed at the highest levels.

Spanish athletics federation President Jose Maria Odriozola and French athletics federation General Director Jean Gracia then directly addressed the issue of declining European participation in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, and provided some imaginative solutions to reversing that trend, while IAAF Cross Country Commission members Anne Lord (AUS) and Thelma Wright (CAN) gave the issue a global perspective and drew upon relevant material from their home countries.

The seminar concluded with a round table discussion about the future of cross country running which involved a panel of: David Bedford (GBR), Franco Fava (ITA), Frank Fredericks (NAM), Tim Hutchings (GBR), Victor Lopez (PUR) Massimo Magnani (ITA), David Okeyo (KEN) and Hansjorg Wirz (SUI).

The round table panel, who represented various stakeholders in both athletics and specifically cross country running, took a series of questions from the floor regarding a wide range of issues as the international calendar and structure, the possibility of cross country running returning to the Olympic Games, having flexibility both in course construction (to foster “real” cross country conditions) and competition formats, funding both of events and federations and enhanced promotion of the discipline by the IAAF, Area Associations, Member Federations, competition organisers as well as the athletes themselves. In the coming months, the IAAF’s Area Associations will also hold individual seminars to examine and address how cross country running can be developed and promoted in their own continents.

Immediately following the Seminar, the IAAF Cross Country Committee concluded its annual meeting (the first half of which took place yesterday) to reflect on the issues raised by the Seminar and begin preparing a detailed report to IAAF Council for further action. —- IAAF

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