Apalachee Regional Park to host World Cross Country Championships in 2026

Leon County projects the championships will have a $4 million economic impact on the area.
Apalachee Regional Park in Leon County was selected to host the 2026 World Cross Country Championships.
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 4:43 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Apalachee Regional Park in Leon County was selected to host the 2026 World Cross Country Championships.

This event has not been held in the United States for 30 years.

“It is the largest, most prestigious cross country race in the world,” said Joseph Piotrowski, director of sports marketing for Visit Tallahassee.

The course, which hosts cross country meets for Florida State University, with the backing of the community has grown “organically into a national venue for cross country,” Piotrowski said.

Leon County projects the races will have a $4 million economic impact on the area.

“We said ‘Why not us?’ and as we developed our program and our vision it fell right in line for World Athletics vision for the sport, and the partnership was born from there,” Piotrowski said.

The vision was born in 2019 when Visit Tallahassee made a call to World Athletics, and in three years’ time what was a dream became a reality.

The championship weekend typically runs in February, which Piotrowski said is “perfect timing for outdoor running and distance running in Tallahassee.”

He anticipates over 70 countries representing themselves in the championships and upward of 700-plus professional runners racing.

“There will be public races leading up to it, so our goal is 14 days of events over at Apalachee Regional Park and culminating with the professional races on the championship weekend,” Piotrowski said.

He said they also want to make the races as spectator-friendly as possible with smaller laps, two kilometers in distance and “lots of fan engagement, fanfare, different activations throughout the park.”

“We’re going to have VIP sections. We’re going to have all kinds of things that are extremely untraditional for the sport of cross country but much more traditional for the popular sports for spectators,” Piotrowski said.

Even with the event four years down the line, Piotrowski said the planning still starts today.

“World athletics is looking to go back to the roots of cross country: muddy, dirty water — get the athletes wet,” Piotrowski said. “If you want to run on a pristine course, run on a track.”

Piotrowski said there will be sand, water and mud pits for the athletes to run through with the idea of “leaving a legacy” for years after.

“Adding a championship level course, people are going to be coming for the next four years just to come see it,” Piotrowski said. “We already have partners that are wanting to book events — large, national scale events — because we were awarded the world championships.”

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