Fab five: World Cross Country courses (© Getty Images)
In the latest in our series we focus on five special venues to have hosted the IAAF World Cross Country Championships over the past 46 years.
Stavanger Golf Club
One for the cross-country purist as mud – lots and lots of deep-clinging mud – made this edition of the World Cross an unforgettable experience for all those who competed.
Such were the demands of the course, in this brutal physical and mental examination, numerous athletes complained of stitches and even abdominal pain. John Ngugi ploughed through the mud to secure a fourth successive title in the senior men’s race, while France’s Annette Sergent prevailed in the senior women’s race.
Host of numerous high school and collegiate meets, the iconic Franklin Park is regarded as one of the spiritual homes of US cross country. Set in a partially wooded parkland, the venue provides a classic cross-country test, which in 1992 was made even more demanding as the athletes faced a demanding mix of snow, mud and biting winds.
Lynn Jennings – a former student at the nearby Bromfield School in Harvard – provided the highlight by completing a hat-trick of senior women’s titles.
The former imperial city of Marrakesh has long stood out as a tourist hot spot with its maze-like alleys and souks. Yet 21 years ago the mystical Moroccan city also served up a World Cross Country Championships with a difference.
Set in a charming olive grove, Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan lit up the championships with a women’s long and short double while curious camels watched on by the side of the course.
Umi-no-nakamichi Seaside Park
A picturesque course lined with cherry blossom trees provided a uniquely Japanese flavour to the historic championship. Yet this was no picnic as high winds, which whipped off the nearby Genkai Sea, made this a dogged war of attrition.
At the front end, Ethiopia dominated led by Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba – two all-time greats of the sport. The event also marked the last time the short course race was on the programme.
Set in a historic royal park on a belter of a course, few venues in the long and proud history of the World Cross comes close to topping its 2008 home. Traditionalists were giddy with delight as athletes faced the prospect of negotiating a combination of incessant sticky mud and the energy-sapping hill – Haggis Knowe – on a twisting course.
Fittingly, the championships also threw up a pair of gold medal winners fit for a king or queen in Ethiopian duo Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele – the latter completing a record-breaking sixth victory in the senior men’s race.
Steve Landells for the IAAF