Cross country races are held off-road and take place in the winter, outside of the track and field season. The courses can be flat, hilly, undulating on grass or muddy terrain. Even the same course can become a very different test as the weather and conditions underfoot change. As such, while times are usually taken, there are no rankings for any given distance. Events can be over a range of distances, the length of races usually being dependent on the age group competing.
Many clubs are involved in cross country leagues and championships, and there are open races which individuals can enter. There are also cross country relay events including national cross country relay championships.
Many of the clubs which enjoy road running are also very active in cross country events. The ability for cross country races to have large numbers participating means they can be suitable for wide ranges of ability levels. Events usually give information on who they are suitable for and previous results also help indicate this.
Recognised cross country races are held under UKA Rules of Competition. The UKA Rules also give the ages at which athletes become eligible to compete in events of certain distances.