Cross-country is one of only fourteen Full Blue sports and Oxford University Cross-Country Club (OUCCC) maintains an extremely high standard of competition. Many of our athletes regularly compete at national, regional and county levels, with some of our best having run internationally. One does not have to look too far into the past to find some household names of British running: Richard Nerurkar, Roger Bannister and Chris Chataway. Both the men’s and women’s side of the Club have current members with international experience.
However, the Club does not cater for experienced athletes alone. With over one hundred runners, the Club has something for everyone. While it fields five men’s teams and three ladies’ teams against Cambridge in the December Varsity Matches and consistently competes to a high standard in the British Universities’ Cross-Country Championship (both men’s and women’s teams are regular medal contenders), in most fixtures anyone who wants to compete can do so. It also has a number of guaranteed entries for the London Marathon, and the Club has recently had a number of strong runners competing.
The Club’s large membership, supplemented by that of our sister club, Oxford University Athletics Club (OUAC), means that cross-country is an excellent way of meeting and socialising with other students outside of one’s college or degree-course. A full running programme is complemented by many social events throughout the year.
Oxford has been closely involved in the development of athletics and cross-country as an organised sport. In 1850, a ‘College foot grind’ was held by some undergraduates of Exeter College, who decided to hack across the country on foot rather than horse-back. Later that century, on the 24th of April 1880, three members of OUAC convened a meeting at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, so establishing the Amateur Athletic Association of England, or AAA. Since then, the University has produced many members of Olympic teams, whose names may be seen inside the stadium at the Iffley Road Track, a venue which is itself famous for Roger Bannister’s sub-4 minute mile, run on May 6th 1954. Despite keeping strong ties with the Athletics Club, OUCCC has established itself as a separate body in the University.
OUCCC competes in a variety of events throughout the year and has recently developed an active road-running side. In 2015, the 125th Varsity Cross-Country Match against Cambridge was held on the bumps and hollows of Wimbledon Common. Oxford, captained by Aidan Smith, won by 27 points to 55, giving Oxford an overall series lead of 63 wins to Cambridge’s 62. In the 40th Ladies’ Race, Oxford, captained by Bethanie Murray, unfortunately lost by 38 points to Cambridge’s 23. The Oxford women lead the series by 23 wins to 17. The 126th and 41st Varsity Matches will take place in December 2016. The Varsity Match can claim to be one of the oldest cross-country events still in existence today, and, whilst no longer claiming quite the prestige in the athletics calendar that it once had, still showcases a number of extremely talented athletes.