The IAAF president reflects on the racing he used to do as a young athlete, which sometimes included two cross country competitions in one day

Seb Coe says he sometimes did two cross country races in the same day as a teenager. He raced once for his school and then for his club and he believes it gave him a huge physical advantage over rivals although, he adds, “it would not be allowed today”.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist does not particularly endorse the idea, but it did not seem to do him any harm and he remembers: “I used to run 30-40 cross country races a year – very often one on Wednesday and another at the weekend.

“Sometimes I did one on Saturday morning for the school and then Saturday afternoon for the club and you’d never been allowed to do that nowadays.

“I had a massive physical advantage over other athletes who didn’t do cross country.”

The IAAF president adds: “It’s a mental thing too.

“If you run 3-5 miles across that kind of terrain in Yorkshire on the side of escarpments in places like Halifax and Batley and Huddersfield and the edges of Sheffield it gave you a massive physical advantage over kids who were not doing cross country.

“If you run cross country as a 16-17-year-old, there’s nothing much that will spook you physically on the track.”

He continues: “I believe with the problems we’ve had in European distance running that it’s not remotely coincidental that we’ve lost a generation of coaches who do not believe cross country is important.

“Paul Tergat won five world cross titles and lost the 10,000m in Sydney by the thickness of a vest. So you can do both.”

» You can read more from AW’s interview with Seb Coe in a six-page feature published in the May 11 edition of the magazine, which is available to buy and read digitally here