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 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.
At the 2023 ECCC Cross Country which was held in Oropesa del Mar near Castellon on 5 February, local club Playas de Castellon dominated proceedings by winning two individual and three team titles. Burundi's Rodrigue Kwizera, who lives and trains in Spain, won the individual title in the senior men's race and led Playas de Castellon to the team title while last year's individual winner Likina Amebew, who finished sixth this year, led the host club to honours in the senior women's race.
Mariam Benkert opened the account for Playas de Castellon with victory in the U20 women's race while the day fittingly concluded with yet another victory for the hosts with Uganda's middle distance star Winnie Nanyonda anchoring her club to their second successive victory in the mixed relay.