The ECCC Cross Country is one of the longest standing and most established cross country fixtures on the calendar, even predating the SPAR European Cross Country Championships by more than three decades.
The first edition of the ECCC Cross Country was held in Arlon, Belgium in 1962 - the venue for the first 13 editions of the championships. But the first event looked and felt very different to the last iteration of the ECCC Cross Country which was held in Oeiras, Portugal.
It was only in 1982 when a women’s event was added to the ECCC Cross Country for the first time and the men’s and women’s competitions were held in different venues until 2005 when the championships became a combined event. Men’s and women’s U20 races were added to the programme in 2006 with a mixed relay the latest addition to the timetable in 2021.
Notable past individual winners have included many of the greats of European distance running such as Karel Lismont (1972, 1974, 1979), Carlos Lopes (1977, 1982, 1985), Francesco Panetta (1987-88) and Paulo Guerra (1995-97, 1999) and Sergey Lebid (2001) on the men’s side and Albertina Dias (1994-96), Carla Sacramento (1998, 2002) and Fernanda Ribeiro (2005) on the women’s side.
The landscape of the ECCC Cross Country has changed over the last decade-and-a-half with clubs allowed to recruit and declare one foreign athlete to their ranks. Notable non-European winners have included world cross country champions Zersenay Tadese (2004-06) and Irene Cheptai (2015-17) and world half marathon record-holder Jacob Kiplimo (2019).
The most successful clubs in the senior events are Sporting Clube de Portugal who have won 15 titles in the men’s race - including six in a row between 1981-1986 and again between 1989-1994 - and Sporting Braga on the women’s side who won seven successive titles between 1987-1993.
Last year’s individual winners were Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera and Ethiopia’s Likina Amebaw who led her Spanish club Playas de Castellon to victory in Oeiras, Portugal. Twins Dean and Dylan Casey took a one-two in the men’s U20 race and led Irish club Ennis Track to the team honours while Playas de Castellon prevailed in the inaugural mixed relay.
The 2023 edition of the event will be held in Oropesa del Mar in Spain, just to the north of Castellon, on 5 February.