The 25th edition of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships takes place in the Dutch city of Tilburg one month today on 9 December.
Tilburg has already played host to the European Cross Country Championships back in 2005 but the venue will be different this time around. This year’s event will take place on a challenging course at the Beekse Bergen Safari Park, situated just to the south-east of Tilburg.
But while the venue might not be the same, there could be a similar outcome in the senior women’s race. Thirteen years after Lornah Kiplagat strode to victory, there are high hopes Sifan Hassan will follow suit and secure her second senior title at the European Cross Country Championships - and her third in total.
Hassan, who won this title three years ago in the south of France in Hyeres, has been in exceptional form across a wide gamut of surfaces and distances this season, setting European records over 5000m (14:22.51) and the half marathon (65:15) and finishing the season as the world leader at the mile (4:14.71). She also won medals over 1500m and 3000m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
And any medal expectations on the Dutch senior women’s team won’t be misplaced either. European 10,000m silver medallist Susan Krumins and sub-four minute 1500m runner Maureen Koster have also been pre-selected for Tilburg.
Great Britain topped the medal table at the 2017 SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Samorin with six gold medals, and nine medals in total. However, it was Turkey’s day again in the senior races with Yasemin Can defending her women’s title and Kaan Kigen Ozbilen coming from behind to win the men’s title.
Another winner from last year was Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen and the European 1500m and 5000m champion has already confirmed he is targeting a third successive title in the U20 race.
The European Athletics Cross Country Permit Series gathers pace on 18 November with the Cross de L’Acier in Leffrinckoucke, one week before the annual Warandecross will be held in Tilburg on the same course which will be used for the European Cross Country Championships.
Not only will the Warandecross serve as a dress rehearsal for a fortnight later, many countries are also using the event as one of their selection races for the pinnacle event of the continental cross country season.
The organisers have also put together a robust legacy programme to tackle important issues such as social inclusion, health and youth involvement and the race day programme begins with the Brabant Challenge, incorporating two races for children and involving local schools.
The first medal race in Tilburg is the U20 women’s race at 10.45am local time and the championships conclude with the second staging of the mixed relay at 2.55pm.