1992 IAAF World Cross Country Championships

20 years ago, this coming week, I took the MBTA Orange Line to Forest Hills station and then hopped a bus to Franklin Park, for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. I was a sophomore at Boston University living in the South End. It was a classic March day, and though my cross country experiences had mostly been in the autumns of past years, it was perfect conditions for a race. I might have forgotten about this epic event in Boston running history, but this month’s New England Runner published an awesome story about the race. The recollection is written by Jean Cann and emphasizes how many runners were positively impacted by the success of the event.

NER’s story and photos are fantastic and they brought back great memories for me. I was really happy to see such a world-class race in person. At the time, this was the pinnacle of the sport for middle-distance runners. John Ngugi of Kenya won the men’s long race for a record fifth time. In reading about Ngugi this morning, I discovered that his running career ended in a cloud of controversy related to performance enhancing drugs. Why am I not surprised? Every era in endurance sports has been tarnished by the use of drugs. It has gotten very difficult to look at top athletes in any sport as a source of inspiration. That suspicion is always there. Despite those feelings, there are still events that transcend the performances of individuals.

The women’s race was won by Lynn Jennings of the USA. Jennings was a Massachusetts native and the 1992 championship (her third) was a huge triumph on her home turf. When I was running middle school and high school cross country in Connecticut in the mid-1980’s, she was already a legend. I had clipped photos of Jennings out of magazines and posted them in my locker. Watching both the men’s and women’s races was an incredible experience for a 19-year-old. I had stopped running a year earlier due to a knee injury, and wouldn’t take it up again until 2000, but  I had picked up road cycling in earnest. Still, I was a huge running enthusiast.

I went out there on my own and just soaked in the immense vibe. The course was snow-covered and muddy most of the way. Seeing so many international runners in one spot was a thrill. There were thousands and thousands of people. Much like cycling, particularly cycle-cross, cross country is a sport where the spectators can get right up next to the runners. The fans are part of the action, which makes it special. Franklin Park was an excellent venue for the race and remains a running Mecca for cross country athletes in New England. I bought a painters cap emblazoned with the logo of the race. I’ll have to look around for it because I haven’t seen it in years.

1 Response to “1992 IAAF World Cross Country Championships”

  1. 1 Christian Friis 5 November 2012 at 5:29 am

    I ran in the Junior race that day – and must say it impacted my life too, in many good ways.

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