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IAAF Prepares To Celebrate 40 Years Of XC

  • By Duncan Larkin
  • Published Oct. 24, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 24, 2012 at 9:43 AM UTC
Pekka Paivarinta (right), won the first IAAF Cross-Country Championships. Photo: IAAF

The first race was won by a Finnish runner.

In 1973, the IAAF took over ownership of the World Cross Country Championships. Previously, the races had been called the International Cross Country Championships and had been run for 70 years up to that point.

Back then, only 21 countries took part in the first edition of the new race series, which was held in Waregem, Belgium.

Even more of a surprise: back then only two African countries were represented (Tunisia and Morocco). And no African  runner earned a medal in either the men’s senior or junior races. The highest-placing African was Tunisia’s Abdelkader Zadem, who came in a distant 20th.

Back then it was the Finns who dominated the sport, with Pekka Paivarint winning the men’s race. He went on to run a world record in the 25K (1 hour, 14 minutes, and 16 seconds).

Throughout his long career, he battled fellow Finn Lasse Viren, two-time double Olympic gold medalist in the 5,000m and 10,000m.

In the cross-country race, Paivarinta narrowly defeated Spaniard Mariano Haro by .01 second.

For More: IAAF

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Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin is the news editor at Competitor.com and a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released last July.

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