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Great XCountry bids fond farewell to Edinburgh

Great XCountry bids fond farewell to Edinburgh

The high-quality cross country event will be held in a new location from 2019

Scotland’s capital city has staged the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh XCountry for the final time today, with a new venue to be sought for future editions of the high-quality event.

Since 1988, the Great North Cross Country – which is organised by The Great Run Company and began life in the North-East of England before it moved to Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park in 2005 – has played host to a veritable who’s who of the athletics world.

Mo Farah (pictured below in 2011), Paula Radcliffe, Tirunesh Dibaba, Liz McColgan, Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge are just a few of the star athletes to have tackled the challenging conditions of the Great International Cross Country in front of a global television audience and thousands of spectators from across the UK over the past 30 years.

The backdrop of Holyrood and Arthur’s Seat has provided a magnificent setting for the 14 years that the city has hosted the event, which also features a mass participation 5km with over 3000 entrants and the Scottish Inter District Cross Country Championships.

Mo-Farah-Great-Edinburgh-2011

One athlete who has grown up with the Great Edinburgh XCountry, and who this weekend completes a journey from the role of a wide-eyed junior sampling the inter-district clashes for the first time to racing for Great Britain in the senior race, is Mhairi MacLennan.

The Inverness athlete first sampled the event when she was 15. Hers is a love affair which endures and she knows she is not alone in feeling that way.

“I’ve always loved it,” says MacLennan, part of the British senior women’s team who struck gold at last month’s European Cross Country Championships in Slovakia. “It’s real cross country – it always provides pretty bad weather conditions and there are bits of hill, bits of mud, bits of river. It’s a real test and I really enjoy it.

“I enjoy getting a solid block of training in over the Christmas holidays and Edinburgh is one of those races where it’s very telling who has put the work in and who hasn’t over the holiday.

“I think it’s a huge inspiration for younger athletes to be within reach of these (world-class) athletes at such a huge, prestigious event.”

New Year’s Eve 1988 was when the starting gun was fired on the Great North XC and, thanks to the hard work of organiser Max Coleby and BBC producer Martin Webster, a recipe for success was created.

Brendan Foster, chairman of The Great Run Company, said, “We have enjoyed so many memorable moments in Edinburgh in recent years with the greatest names in the sport competing in a festival of cross country running. We thank Edinburgh City Council and EventScotland for their support and look forward to working with a new location from 2019 onwards.

“The Great International Cross Country is a hugely important fixture in the international athletics calendar and it has helped develop the career of so many world-class distance athletes. I’ll never forget Kenenisa Bekele bursting on to the world scene in Newcastle, gliding over the mud to defeat Paul Tergat.”

The Great Run Company is in preliminary discussions with several potential locations and expects to make an announcement in the coming months.

» For more on the history of the event, see the January 11 edition of AW magazine, which can be ordered here or read digitally here

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