Early findings from UK Athletics survey shows women generally prefer to race 8km and men like 10km – and in separate races too

Female cross-country runners want to race over 8km and men prefer the 10km distance. Individual races for men and women are better than a mixed race. And when it comes to organising cross-country events, grassroots competition providers probably know best.

Those are the findings so far from the cross-country questionnaire which was released by UK Athletics at the start of this year.

After more than 10,000 responses the governing body says the reaction has been so overwhelming and complex that “cross country would benefit form a wider strategy to be produced that recognises the event’s unique characteristics and requirements”.

Given this, no immediate decisions will be made when it comes to racing distances and gender equality over the country.

Instead, Welsh endurance coach Chris Jones will work with interim head of endurance Rob Denmark to create a new “endurance sub-group of competition working group” with a goal of making “enhancements, greater investment in cross country and, in turn, a more cohesive community that believes equity is important and can be addressed in the most practical way without impacting the integrity of the event”.

Pic: Mark Shearman

On the early findings from the survey, UKA listed three key points in a statement:

» A majority of respondents showed preference for separate male and female races to maintain value and exposure and quality of racing and although some respondents felt that equity could be achieved through one mixed race, this was not a majority preference.

» There was a difference in preference of distance between men and women though, with the majority of women preferring 8km and men seeing 10km as the optimum racing distance.

» While more than half of respondents think guidance from national governing bodies is important, there was an even greater preference for competition providers at a local level to determine how best to deliver cross country competition most effectively.

READ MORE: Thousands respond to gender equality survey

UKA said their survey also gave them insight into finding improved courses in future, raising the profile of cross country and “creating a product that is welcoming to all”.

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