Reinventing the traditional cross country

Eamonn Martin on the new London International Cross Country

Runners and spectators alike will tell you how amazing the Night of the 10,000m PBs can be, and now thanks to former London Marathon winner, Eamonn Martin, Parliament Hill Fields will play host to a cross country version on 20 January 2024; the London International Cross Country.

England Athletics caught up with Eamonn earlier this autumn to chat about the programme and the drama the day should provide:

Eamonn Martin

“The track night is so exciting,” enthuses Eamonn, “I knew cross-country needed something like that as we can’t just live in the past, so I set about organising its equivalent.”

Of course, the past is something very relevant for Eamonn given his incredible record that incudes that London Marathon victory in 1993, a British record for 10,000m on the track in 1988, a Commonwealth gold medal over the same distance in 1990 and two National cross country titles.

More recently, his role at the English Cross Country Association as well as being a team manager at the World Cross Country, means he has the perfect pedigree not to just attract the best runners in the country, but also build a team qualified for the job in hand. (pictured top is Eamonn team managing at Belfast in 2002.)

Creating a brand-new format for cross country

Athletes and fans may remember the Edinburgh International Cross Country event which took place a few years ago, but since that ended there has been a real gap. “The London event will condense the racing calendar by combining several events into one. And on the way, it’ll also assist some of the Home Countries who struggle to host the Home International on its four-year rotation,” he explains.

 To hold this at the home of the Night of the 10,000m PBs was no coincidence as Eamonn explained:

“Parliament Hill came into my head having won a World Athletics Heritage Award for Cross Country and played host to the English National cross country and the Night of the 10,000m PBs, it seemed the perfect place to start.

Night of 10,000 PBs

“With my role as England Cross Country Team Manager for over 20 years, I have travelled to many European races from the winding courses of Belgium where I used to compete to the small multiple lap races where the crowd can really engage. Alongside the racing there are extensive food, beverage, and entertainment outlets so the day becomes as much a social day out as it does about the racing.

“It is all about making the event spectator friendly and thanks to event sponsors, On Running, we will have giant screens, pyrotechnics, and music as well as the prestigious tents for athletes to run through which creates an electric wall of noise for both competitors and fans.

“I want to try to elevate or even re-invent cross country in the UK and also encourage athletes to run cross-country longer into the winter and improve their general endurance.”

An important event for international selection

As well as enabling the club runners to get involved, this event will also act as an important trial race for the World Cross Country in Belgrade next March, meaning there have been extra considerations for Eamonn in planning the event:

"Having the trial certainly gives the event extra kudos and it has dictated the length for both the senior and junior races making it easier to plan."

"I have worked closely with the Home Countries to ensure that the elite races will have an excellent standard of athletes by combining a couple of races together to make the calendar less congested. The former Milton Keynes Cross Challenge will now be held here in London, making the race choices easier for the athletes, putting their needs first.”

And of course, Eamonn being the driven runner he was, has eyes on the future.

"Maybe it’ll host the Celtic Cross and potentially the next event will feature a European select team selected from the European Cross the previous December going forward."

Information on The London International

  • The races will take place on 20 January at Parliament Hill Fields and include a UK Cross Challenge and Home Countries international (England, Scotland, Wales and NI) and an Area Match (North, Midlands, South).
  • Four athletes will be selected to run for their country or areas as that will all be in one match. Everyone who competes will be automatically entered into the UK World Trial and UK Cross Challenge. This will be the Senior and U20 races only; the age groups will be UK Cross Challenge races only. Plus, the team for the World University Champs will be selected from this race.
  • The lap is a 2km loop so seniors will run 10k (5 laps) Juniors 8k (4 laps).
  • The UKA World Trial will be for seniors and U20 men and women (4 races).
  • Other age group races will be U17, U15, U13.
  • The race will be available to stream or watch on YouTube.

Top photo by Mark Shearman