The series of nine individual meetings in four different countries which make up the 2018/2019 IAAF Cross Country Permit series will kick off in ten days time with the Cross de Atapuerca on Sunday 11 November.
The Atapuerca race, held near the Spanish city of Burgos, has served as the curtain raiser for the series several times in recent years. To mark its 15th running, the winners of nine of the last ten men's races will be on the start line next weekend, including Imane Merga of Ethiopia, the winner of five straight editions from 2011-15.
Others who’ll make up the impressive gathering include Spain's Alemayehu Bezabeh, the 2008 winner; 2010 champion Teklemariam Medhin of Ethiopia, who took world cross country silver earlier that year behind surprise winner Joseph Ebuya but defeated the Kenyan in Burgos; 2016 winner Aweke Ayalew of Bahrain; and defending champion Getaneh Molla of Ethiopia. Only Gebre Gebremariam, the winner in 2009 who retired in 2015, won't be on the start line.
The women's race will also feature recent champions. So far, organisers have attracted Ethiopians Senbere Teferi, the winner in 2016 and 2017, and her compatriot Belaynesh Oljira, the 2014 and 2015 winner, for another return engagement.
During the course of the three months after Atapuerca, many of the world’s finest distance runners will take part in the series that showcases the strength of cross-country running as the IAAF pushes for the discipline to return to the Olympic programme. Its appeal was clearly illustrated with its inclusion at the Youth Olympic Games last month.
"It has long been our desire to see cross-country running back in the Olympic Games," IAAF President Sebastian Coe said.
"We see the inclusion of cross-country in the programme for the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires as the first step towards its return to the main programme of the Olympic Games.
"Cross-country is the endurance bedrock on which all middle and long distance running is based and we believe it deserves this recognition."
The permit series takes on added significance this season as it acts as a lead-in to the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019 which take place on Saturday 30 March in the Danish city.
As always, the Cross Country Permit section of the IAAF website will provide in-depth coverage of all the action, including previews, reports and results.