Spanish cross country races in Elgoibar and San Sebastian have each been awarded World Athletics Heritage Plaque in recognition of their historic status and contribution to the sport.
The announcements were made at ceremonies on Monday (4) in the town halls of Elgoibar and San Sebastian, which are approximately 40 kilometres apart, by World Athletics Council Member Anna Riccardi on behalf of World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.
The Elgoibar meeting – the Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza – started in 1943 and was initially a domestic male-only event but invited international runners for the first time on its 20th anniversary (the race was not held in 1950) in 1963, with Ethiopian icon Mamo Wolde taking the first of his four victories.
Wolde’s final victory came in in 1968, a year which saw him go on to take the Olympic marathon title in Mexico City.
A women’s race was held for the first time in 1967 and it became part of the annual programme in 1972.
Winners in Elgoibar include myriad Olympic and world champions and some notable men’s names include Portugal’s Carlos Lopes, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei and Kenyans Paul Tergat, Sammy Kipketer and Charles Kamathi. On the women’s side, the winners have included Portugal’s Fernanda Ribiero, Ethiopia’s Derartu Tulu and Kenya’s Sally Barsosio and Hellen Obiri, the latter winning at the latest edition in January before going on to retain her world 5000m title last month.
Haro the Elgoibar hero
Spain’s three-time world cross-country silver medallist Mariano Haro is the most prolific winner in Elgoibar, having won five times in the 1970s.
The race, part of the World Cross Country Permit series, is named after multiple Spanish champion Juan Muguerza, who won titles over diverse distances from the 110m hurdles to the 5000m but was killed in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.
In the race’s early years, winners were given a hunting rifle as a prize. “But the race switched over to prize money once we started to have international fields. There is a story, I’m not completely sure whether it’s true, that Wolde was given a rifle but had problems taking it on the plane. Prize money and less dangerous gifts was instituted no long after that,” said current race organiser Zigor Diez.
The Cross Internacional de San Sebastián, also known as the Cross Internacional de Donostia, was inaugurated in 1956 and quickly became a popular destination for the world’s leading runners to test their mettle with early winners in the 1950s including Olympic champions Emil Zatopek and Alain Mimoun.
Five cross country meetings
Among the more recent winners is Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie while Spain’s two-time world cross-country champion Carmen Valero won the women’s race on four consecutive occasions between 1974-77 and Portugal’s Rosa Mota was a three-time winner in the early 1980s before going on to take Olympic and world marathon titles.
The two Basque races become just the fourth and fifth cross country races to be honoured with a Plaque, joining the English and US Cross Country Championships and Italy’s Cinque Mulini race.
“On behalf of the race and the city, it’s an honour to be added to this illustrious list,” said San Sebastian mayor Eneko Goia.
More details of the World Athletics Heritage Plaques can be found at iaaf.org/heritage/plaque-news
The announcements were made on the opening day of the second International Athletics Film Festival (FICA), which is being held in San Sebastian.
The festival continues until Saturday and as well as out-of-competition screenings includes two separate competitions: an open section for films – including short films, documentaries and animated shorts – already released and in the public domain as well as a special film competition created by the World Athletics Heritage and broadcast departments in partnership with the FICA festival to give the opportunity to young filmmakers around the world, regardless of experience but under the age of 23, to show their talent. The second – age-restricted – competition invited entries of short athletics-themed films which had to be no longer than two minutes and shot on mobile phones or tablets.
The winner of this competition will receive a FICA Achilles trophy and an all-expenses-paid six-day trip for two people to the World U20 Championships in Nairobi next year.
More details of FICA are available at ficafestival.com
Phil Minshull for the IAAF