This book should be on the desk of all coaches, athletes and fans of cross country. I have read several of the race reviews and loved it! It will be my read on my way to RAK half marathon next weekend. I loved the way Andrew brings the races alive: he allows the races and their character to speak to the reader.
I asked Jeff Benjamin to review the book and our man about Staten Island loved it! Here is his review!
The Complete History of Cross Country Running by Andrew Boyd Hutchinson –
Book Review by Jeff Benjamin
Over the past few years there has been a rumble of sorts about Cross Country returning to the Olympic Games, possibly in the Winter Edition. If the reader notice the above sentence, the “return” of XC means that it was indeed part of the modern Olympic program until its demise in 1924.
But you don’t need this writer to explain all of this, no can I. Andrew Boyd Hutchinson has done it for us. In his broad-scoped and wide ranging book “THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNING”, Hutchinson attempts to cover this grand component of our Sport over a span of 3 centuries, including almost every region in the world. Needless to say, while no book can ever completely cover a whole sport, Hutchinson, like a XC Runner, diligently sticks to his plan and roughs it out and covers more of a course than snyvwriter before him.
Beginning with a foreword by (who else?) Craig Virgin, Hutchinson’s work dives all-out right into the origins of XC. Along the way the book does shift from place to place almost in chronological order -it’s kind of what one feels like in those back hills of Van Cortland Park.
An aspect done very well by the author was his mentioning of key XC races through the history of the Sport. In these “Event Spotlights”, Hutchinson recounts these races almost like a play-by-play, also including finisher orders as well.
Speaking of competitors, the book includes a Who’s -Who of all the Greats, and some names will surprise some. As IAAF leader Sebastian Coe mentions in the book, “As far as I’m concerned there is no greater sport than Cross Country,” and Coe, known more as a 800-Mile Runner, speaks from XC experience.
A major theme in the book is that XC was the breeding ground for many of our great Runners. A brief list of American XC competitors include Don Lash, Fred Wilt, Jim Ryun, Alberto Salazar, Bob Kennedy, Pat Porter, Todd Williams, Galen Rupp, Adam Goucher and of course “Pre”, to name a few. On the Women’s side Lynn Jennings, Deena Drossin, Shalene Flanagan, Julie Brown, Shannon Rowbury, and Doris Brown-Heritage are all in here too. Please keep in mind that the book does transcend American Running, as almost all of the old-time world greats are in the book too, but this writer, as is customary, doesn’t want to reveal the whole book!!!
One thing that’s worth sharing is that Hutchinson made this reader (and hopefully others) truly appreciate 2 of America’s top 1970’s Road Racers accomplishments from a XC perspective. Probably forgotten or not known by many is the Incredible 1975 Bronze Medalist performance at the World XC Championships by the unknown Bill Rodgers, who would later go on to legendary status in the Marathon. Equally important (and probably not thought of much) is the total domination nationally and toughness internationally in XC that Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist Frank Shorter possessed.
Aside from legendary Runners and races, Hutchinson makes sure to include the development of XC, including the RRCA, IAAF and NIKE’s growth and influence in his work.
And don’t worry, for aside from National and International stories the youth, high school, and collegiate topics are included as well. After all, how can one write a huge book on this subject and not include Joe Newton, who, like all the others, gets his fair share?
Hutchinson concludes his book with a forecast on the future growth of XC. In his forecast he makes sure to include key figures along with their views as well. The bibliography at the end of the book also shows Hutchinson’s respect and homage to some of the great Runners, Writers and Historians of XC, along with others.
Who are the others? How did Van Cortlandt and Detweiler Park develop? Don’t know much about some of the above listed names? All the more reason to get this masterwork book.
Personally speaking, when the IAAF and IOC discuss the topic of XC again, perhaps Seb Coe could get a copy of this book into their hands. One hopes, like what happened to this writer, they won’t want to put it back down!!