International Cross Country Union

The International Cross Country Union (ICCU) was the first major international sports governing body for cross country running. Created in 1903,[1] it launched the International Cross Country Championships that same year. Originally a grouping for contests between the four Home Nations of the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales),[2] the body was symbolic of the increasing co-operation of the older national bodies found in those nations.[3][4]

International Cross Country Union
SuccessorInternational Association of Athletics Federations
TypeSports federation
Purposegoverning body for cross country running

The organisation expanded to include France in 1907 and by the 50th annual edition of the championships it included countries of North Africa and Western Europe, the United States, and New Zealand.[5] The appearance of France directly led to the inclusion of athletes of its colonies and ultimately Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco competed independently at the competition. In the late 1960s Tunisia and Morocco hosted the event, reflecting the ICCU's gradual move away from its Western European base.[6]

The body served as the leading international organisation for top level cross country running until 1973, at which point it merged with the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), which until then had largely been a track and field-oriented body.[7] The Union voted to pass the organisation of the International Championships on to the IAAF in 1971. The decline of the ICCU particularly affected the nations of the United Kingdom, whose national bodies were expelled in favour of the United Kingdom's body and saw the four nations' athletes compete in a merged British team.[8] In contrast, the change benefited the countries with distance running traditions where were not part of the ICCU, such as most of Eastern Europe, East Asia, and East Africa. Athletes from the latter region would soon dominate cross country at the global level.[9]

Although there was cross country running at the Olympics during the ICCU's existence, the events were overseen by the Amateur Athletic Association of England and the International Olympic Committee instead.[10]


  1. ^ Lawrence N. Richardson (1953). Jubilee History of the International Cross-Country Union 1903-1953. ASIN B000J352LK.
  2. ^ Cross Country. Scottish Association of Track Statisticians. Retrieved on 2016-04-06.
  3. ^ Records of the English Cross-Country Union. Birmingham University. Retrieved on 2016-04-06.
  4. ^ Telfer, Hamish McDonald (February 2006). The Origins, Governance and Social Structure of Club Cross Country Running in Scotland, 1885 – 1914. University of Stirling. Retrieved on 2016-04-06.
  5. ^ International Cross Country Championships. GBR Athletics. Retrieved on 2016-04-06.
  6. ^ Johnson, Len (1988-03-24). Kiwis Reap the Benefit of distinguished cross country history. The Age. Retrieved on 2016-04-06.
  7. ^ Robinson, Roger (2012-03-16). Roger on Running: How World Cross Went Off Course. Runner's World. Retrieved on 2016-04-06.
  8. ^ Scotland back in running for cross-country honours. Herald Scotland (1992-10-10). Retrieved on 2016-04-06.
  9. ^ Nakamura, Ken. A Brief History of the World Cross Country Championships. Spanish Athletics Federation. Retrieved on 2016-04-06.
  10. ^ Hutchinson, Andrew (2015-01-11). Cross-Country Running in the Olympics: New Debate Has a Long Legacy. Lyn Brooks Sports. Retrieved on 2016-04-06.