The Cross-Country Running Club at Shrewsbury – known as the Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt – is the oldest running club in the world. Written records date back to 1831, but there is evidence of organised running first taking place at the School in 1819.
The inclusion of the Huntsman at the World Cross-Country Championships – dressed in full regalia and starting the race with the traditional Huntsman’s rallying cry "All hounds who wish to run, run well, run hard and may the Devil take the hindmost!" and bugle call – will be a symbolic moment of celebrating 200 years of a sport that is rich in history, as it moves into an exciting modern era. This is an initiative strongly backed by IAAF President Lord (Seb) Coe.
The 2019 World Championship course has been designed to "take cross-country back to its roots". Twist, muddy and climbing steeply over 1,000 feet, it is being described as the toughest course in the history of the Championships. Jakob Larsen, Director of the Danish Athletics Federation and organiser of the World Cross-Country Championships, is enthusiastic about the partnership with Shrewsbury School: “We are really excited to be able to involve the Huntsman in the race weekend, celebrating the sport’s origins and reconnecting cross-country with its roots at Shrewsbury. It promises to be an exciting and historic occasion.”
Several artefacts from the School’s Hunt archives, including the oldest surviving ‘Hound Book’ (a diary of all the Club's activities, still kept up today) dating from 1831, are currently on display in a month-long Heritage of Cross-Country Exhibition in Aarhus. They were taken to Denmark by Shrewsbury School Archivist Robin Brooke-Smith (2nd from left below), who was invited to help perform the Opening Ceremony.
Cross-country running continues to thrive at Shrewsbury School, and increasingly so. Headmaster Leo Winkley explains: “Cross-country is a sport that cultivates grit and determination. It crosses boundaries and is open to all who are willing and able to take up the challenge. Shrewsbury School occupies a unique place in the history of the sport. The Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt has evolved into a thriving cross-country club for girls and boys, and we are proud of our heritage and tradition. We are thrilled to be partnering with the World Cross-Country Championships and the IAAF in a celebration of the elite level of world cross-country, as well as is marking its roots in the muddy hills and spectacular countryside of Shropshire.”
You can listen to an interview with Ian Haworth, Teacher in Charge of the Hunt, which was broadcast on Radio Shropshire on Friday 29th March: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p072qfkh (scroll forward to 1hr 21 mins).
An interview with Charlie Ockleston is being broadcast on Radio Shropshire on Saturday 30th March at 7.15am: https://www.bbc.co.uk/radioshropshire.
The World Cross-Country Championships are being broadcast on Saturday 30th March around the world and will be available to view live in the UK on BBC Red Button and later on iPlayer (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/43572549).
Charlie is due to start the Men's U20 Final, which is scheduled for 11.10am (GMT). It will be preceded by a filmed feature on The Hunt and Shrewsbury School, presented by World Cross-Country Silver Medallist Tim Hutchings.
Full details about the World Championships, including Shrewsbury School's historic links, are available on the IAAF website: https://www.iaaf.org/competitions/iaaf-world-cross-country-championships