Race director Eamonn Martin is creating an exciting spectator-friendly cross-country event at north London venue on January 20 with the support of On Running

Cross-country running in the UK is set to be revitalised in spectacular fashion this winter with a new-look world trials event at Parliament Hill Fields in London on Saturday January 20.

British distance running legend Eamonn Martin hopes to transfer the same kind of atmosphere and excitement seen at the Night of the 10,000m PBs in early summer on to the nearby grassy slopes of Hampstead Heath at the beginning of 2024.

Early details of this new event were first published in the July issue of AW magazine, but since then plans have gathered pace with the shoe brand On Running coming on board to offer some support with the new event following their sponsorship of this year’s Night of the 10,000m PBs on the track that sits on the edge of the Heath.

“We plan to have a 2km lap and it will be an extremely spectator-friendly course with at least one decent hill on it,” says Martin. “We’re looking at athletes running through a tent and having features such as a hairpin bend in front of the crowd.”

The event will be the official British trial for the World Cross Country Championships, which takes place in Medulin and Pula, Croatia, on February 10. In addition it will incorporate a home countries international including teams from the English areas, although entry requirements will be fairly tight in order to avoid runners being lapped on the 2km loop.

National competitors at Parliament Hill (Gary Mitchell)

Martin is a former UK record-holder for 10,000m and the last British man to win the London Marathon in 1993. The 64-year-old adds there are plans to have a big screen and maybe even pyrotechnics on a Parliament Hill course that has long since been regarded as the spiritual home of cross-country running in the UK.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to has been so supportive and wants to make it happen,” he says, adding that the same Highgate Harriers volunteers who make the Night of the 10,000m PBs such a special event are poised to act as marshals on January 20.

Night of the 10,000m PBs (Mark Shearman)

Martin has also been in talks with Night of the 10,000m PBs event director Ben Pochee and long-time British Athletics Cross Challenge co-ordinator Cliff Robinson on the event and how best to weave it into the winter calendar.

Martin adds that he’s also gained inspiration from the now defunct Great Edinburgh Cross Country International, plus the 2019 World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, the 2022 European Cross Country Championships in Turin which saw athletes running through a museum, plus the 2023 World Cross in Bathurst, which featured a number of unusual course features.

World Cross in Aarhus in 2019

Martin modestly describes it as a “pilot” event but is quietly ambitious that the venue could stage the European Clubs Cross Country Championships and maybe even the European Cross Country Championships itself in future. The latter has not been staged in the UK since Edinburgh in 2003.

Key winter dates – 2023-24

November 4 – English Cross Country Relay Champs, Mansfield
November 11 – British Athletics Cross Challenge, Cardiff
November 25 – British Athletics Cross Challenge, Liverpool
December 10 – European Cross Country Champs, Brussels
January 13 – British Athletics Cross Challenge, Renfrew
January 20 –  World Trials and Home Countries International, Parliament Hill
February 3 – BUCS Champs, TBC
February 10-11 – World Cross Country Champs, Medulin and Pula, Croatia (World Athletics is now moving the event to a new venue – see here)
February 24 – English National, Weston Park, Shropshire; Scottish National, Falkirk
March 9 – UK Inter-Counties Champs & Cross Challenge Final, Prestwold Hall
March 16 – English Schools Champs, Pontefract

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