Sedgefield has been confirmed as the host venue for next year’s Start Fitness Northern Cross-Country Championships.

The prestigious event, which is a highlight of the winter athletics calendar, will take place on Saturday, January 27, with more than 2,000 runners expected to participate.

The championships will be held in East Park, an area of open parkland to the east of Hardwick Park on the edge of Sedgefield. The land is owned by Durham County Council, which has agreed to let Northern Athletics hold the championships on the site.

East Park was the venue for the North-Eastern Counties Cross-Country Championships in 2015 and 2021, and January’s races will follow similar routes.

The Northern Cross-Country Championships are on a bigger scale and will see clubs from throughout the north of England bring runners of all ages to Sedgefield to compete in one of the UK’s biggest cross-country events of the year. Traditionally, the championships attract some of the nation’s elite athletes, who line up alongside club runners of all abilities to tackle the mud, undulating routes and wintry weather that characterise cross-country races.

Host club, Sedgefield Harriers, are working closely with Northern Athletics and local stakeholders to organise the championships, and will recruit volunteers to help out on the day.

Parking for competitors will be at Sedgefield Racecourse, which has a link to the championships as it hosted them almost 70 years ago, in 1955.

Steve Gaines, board member for cross-country at Northern Athletics, said: “We’re grateful to Sedgefield Harriers and Durham County Council for agreeing to host the 2024 Start Fitness Northern Cross-Country Championships.

“East Park is a great venue for cross-country and we think that runners will really like the course set up. The wider infrastructure also works very well for the event. Sedgefield is just two minutes from the A1 and 15 minutes from the A19, so is very easy to get to, and there are plenty of accommodation options in the near vicinity for those who want to stay for the weekend.

“Northern Athletics aims to try and move the event around the northern area, and we look forward to welcoming big fields of runners for the races at Sedgefield on January 27.”

Jane Spink, chair of Sedgefield Harriers, added: “We’re really delighted that the Northern Cross-Country Championships are coming to Sedgefield. East Park is a brilliant place to run and we’ve hosted two major cross-country events there in recent years.

“We’re proud that we now have the opportunity to showcase this part of County Durham to clubs from all over the north of England.

“Sedgefield Harriers will do our bit to ensure that the championships are a big success, and we’ll also be fielding plenty of junior and senior runners in the various races, who are already excited about taking part in such a big event on home soil.”