Best All Time Cross Country Runner

Cross country running became recognized as a sport in1837 in England. In 1887, the United States recognized cross country running and it became a formal sport in the country. However, by 1924 Cross Country was dropped from the Olympic Games due to it not being popular enough. But the sport is internationally known and we need only look at Africa to find the best all time cross country runner.

Eastern Africans dominate the sport today, especially in Kenya and Ethiopa. Carlos Lopes is the first man to win the World Cross Country Championship three times; while John Ngugi is the first man to win it five times. But as far as being the best all time cross country runner, it seems Paul Tergat is the first man to win the title five straight times.

Paul Kibii Tergat was born on June 17, 1969 in Kenya. He held the world record from 2003 to 2007 and now concentrates exclusively on marathons. Paul won his 5 straight World Cross Country Champions from 1995 to 1999 then went on to win the Lisbon Half Marathon in 2000 and again in 2005. Tergat hold’s many records including the current record for the 15km which he set in 1995. A known celebrity in Brazil, his claim to fame was his performance in the Saint Silvester race. While participating in the Olympic Games he was narrowly defeated in 1996 and 2000 by his rival and friend Haile Gerbselassie by only nine hundredths of a second, but in 1997 Tergat broke Gebreslassie’s 10m world record.

Haile Gebrslassiie and Paul Tergat.
Haile Gebrslassiie and Paul Tergat. Thanks to rUd? on for the picture.

Cross country running is not only a sport of speed, but a sport of endurance and strength. A runner must know how to push his body and when to pull out all the stops. If you run too fast at the beginning you will surely fade out by the end, but let the leaders pull too far ahead at first and you may never recover. The key is keeping a speed that permits you to finish the race with plenty of strength left to kick up the speed towards the finish to pull off a victory. Tergat is the top cross country runner in history because he alone had the passion and drive to develop the patience and skill to beat the best out there 5 times in a row.

NYC Marathon Paul Tergat (KEN).
NYC Marathon Paul Tergat (KEN) 2:10:10. Thanks to dirk.malorny on for the picture.

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Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia has also won five times in a row

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