By OMULO OKOTH
Is there anything left of the World Cross Country Championships? What a wonderful sport, a tough competition just going under as we watch.
I had personally wished that it would make the Olympic Games some time in future, as it used to be in the early 20th century. How wrong I was! Instead of being elevated to compete for inclusion in the Olympics, where golf and rugby sevens managed, the pounding of the feet over the terrain, jumping over huge logs, the mud bath, the run on the snow is surely dying a natural death.
Without besmirching track events, which are equally exciting, especially, the shorter races and a few middle distance like the metric mile, others become boring to observers. Running around a track for 25 laps, for 27-30 minutes makes it tiresome to the observers.
But around the terrain, sometimes away from the fans, who only resort to watching from the big screens, makes cross-country a real entertaining athletics event.
Athletics chiefs, in their wisdom, decided to make it a biennial event. For the first time in all my years as an adult, there will be no World Cross Country Championships. After last year in Punta Umbria, it we shall wait until next year. Thereby making this yearâs Kenya National Cross Country Championships, coming in two weeks, not worth watching. What a big loss! A catastrophe.
The Championships will only be used to pick a team for an African Cross Country Championships in Cape Town on March 18.
What went wrong? In 1997, a committee within IAAF that runs road running and cross country, then under German Otto Klappert, introduced the shorter races, the 4km for men and women. This added the programme to six races of cross country running on top of the junior men and women and senior men and women.
The reason given then was to expand cross-country running. Insiders, however, knew this was an idea promoted by European federations to try and balance cross country to give their athletes a chance to finish in respectable positions.
This was because cross-country had become very much a competition among Kenyan, Ethiopian and Moroccan athletes.