The History of Cross Country Running

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Where it Began

You won’t be surprised at what you learn about the history of cross country running, which is best suited for the fall and cooler seasons. It began in England in the early 1800’s, and it wasn’t originally a sport, per se. As with many grand inventions, cross country running originated from an idea to do something fun. The idea was to play a game where runners ran a course, leaving behind a paper trail for subsequent runners to try to follow.

Two to three decades later, cross country running became a competitive game then found its way into public schools and universities. After that, it became a competitive sport with the running courses being pre-laid and events timed.

In the United States

Cross country running finally made its way to the United States in the late 1800’s. Even then, it didn’t begin as a competitive sport but rather a training program for track and field athletes. Less than a decade later, cross country running became a formal competitive sport that maintained its tenure until the early 1900’s when it was eliminated from being an Olympic sport because of challenges presented during the warm summer months. Nonetheless, cross country running, in its true sense of running through country trails, roads, and rugged unpredictable terrain and weather, remains a popular sport. It seems that more and more, the running is taking place along courses laid in advance, and even sometimes in controlled environments.

From an Olympic perspective, competitive cross country running takes place on a track field, usually outdoors. It also continues to be a popular non-competitive sport for many runners who simply enjoy running. These days, there are various running groups to join the runs for leisure activity. Cross country running is done as sports or fitness training for other athletic and physical fitness purposes. Some runners run for the health benefits. Cross country running is also so common that some people engage in it simply to accomplish a goal that is well beyond their normal performance levels. For these runners, it’s usually the personal gratification they aspire to achieve.

Regardless of the reason, the history of cross country running has clearly shown that it is multifaceted in that it’s a great game, an informal sport and a challenging, yet rewarding, competitive sport offering promising future for runners.