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Lebid to defend his Cross Title

Serhiy Lebid for 2011 Cross Title

Serhiy Lebid for 2011 Cross Title

Ukraine’s Serhiy Lebid, arguably Europe’s greatest ever cross country runner, has announced that he will defend his SPAR European Cross Country Championships title at this year’s event in the Slovenian city of Velenje on 11 December.

Lebid, now 36, is the only runner to have competed in every single SPAR European Cross Country Championships since they were established in 1994. Last year, he took his astonishing tally to nine victories in 17 editions of the event.

“The SPAR European Cross Country Championships means a lot to me, it’s a race which established my name more than 10 years ago. It will be a sad day when I can’t run in it any longer so I want to keep being on the start line for as long as possible,” Lebid told

“And I feel I still have a few more years left in my legs but, most importantly, I’m not just running to keep my streak going. I wouldn’t compete if I didn’t think that I had good possibilities for a medal, even though every year there are new faces and tough opponents to contend with.

“I’ve heard (Great Britain’s) Mo Farah will not be running this year but look at last year’s race. I had to work really hard to beat some good French, Spanish and Portuguese runners. Nobody ever lets me have an easy time,” joked Lebid.

Like in previous years, Lebid doesn’t intend to have any cross country races before he runs in the championships, which has proven to be a recipe for success on many occasions in the past.

His last race was back on 20 August when he won the Giro delle Mura Città di Feltre 9.5km road race in Italy in 27:10.

“I had some problems with my left calf after that. I travelled back to Italy to run in the Giro al Sas road race at the beginning of October (8 October) but the problem was so painful that I pulled out after just 800m.

“Fortunately, after taking two weeks off and getting some physiotherapy, I have been training normally in the last few weeks, and I’m back to my usual routine of training twice a day.

“I can say that I was worried for a while that I would not be in Slovenia but those problems seem to be behind me now, which is a huge relief and also a big boost to my morale,” added Lebid, who is currently training in the Ukraine.

“As usual at this time of year, I went to the mountains in the south of Russia but there was so much snow that I decided to come home at the end of last week.”

Lebid has mixed memories of his last appearance in Velenje, when the city staged the 1999 SPAR European Cross Country Championships.

“I also went there as the defending champion, having won my first European title the year before, but the course was very muddy. I didn’t cope with the conditions as well as I should have done and I finished seventh.

“Nevertheless, I learnt a lot from the race. It made me think about how to run in the mud and, indirectly, the experience contributed to me winning the silver medal at the World Cross Country Championships two years later in Belgium,” reflected Lebid, turning the clock back 12 years.

He is likely to be one of a very select group – and possibly could be unique although only time will tell – of runners who contested the 1999 senior men’s race in Velenje and who will be back in action in 2011.

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