Almond Blossom Cross Country
|Almond Blossom Cross Country|
The race takes place in a touristic town in the Algarve
|Event type||Cross country|
|Distance||12 km (7 mi) for men
8 km (5 mi) for women
The Almond Blossom Cross Country (Portuguese: Cross Internacional das Amendoeiras em Flor) is an annual international cross country running competition which takes place in Albufeira, Portugal, in early March. It is one of the IAAF permit meetings which serve as qualifying events for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. It is held in co-operation with the Associação de Atletismo do Algarve (Algarve Athletics Association). The race gets its name from the white blossom which appears on the almond trees native to the Algarve region during the spring.
The competition was first organised in 1977 through a joint partnership of the Federação Portuguesa de Atletismo (Portuguese Athletics Federation), the District of Faro and Turismo de Portugal, with the aim of promoting both sport and tourism in the region. The race relocated to Vilamoura, another town nearby, in 1996 and the competition remained there until 2003. The 2004 edition was not held due to financial problems, causing the race's annual history to be interrupted for the first time. The Almond Blossom Cross returned to its original home in Albufeira in 2005 and has been held there annually ever since.
The race takes place at the Açoteias Cross Country course; a looping track which is 2 km (1.2 mi) in length and comprises sections of both grass and sand. The race distances have traditionally been 10 km (6 mi) for men and 6 km (4 mi) for women, but this was extended in the 2010 edition to 12 km (7 mi) and 8 km (5 mi).
The Almond Blossom Cross Country competition is international in its nature, attracting a large number of foreign athletes each year, but it is also a significant draw for Portugal's top domestic runners. Among the past winners in the men's race are Portuguese world medallists Fernando Mamede and Paulo Guerra, track world champion Charles Kamathi, and Serhiy Lebid – a multiple European champion. On the women's side, past winners include Olympic champions Fernanda Ribeiro and Gabriela Szabo, the 1996 World Cross Country champion Gete Wami, and world champion in the 10,000 m Berhane Adere. Only two Portuguese athletes have won at the World Cross Country Championships (Carlos Lopes and Albertina Dias) and both have been victorious in Albufeira: Lopes won the first ever Almond Blossom race in 1977 while Dias won the 1989 women's race.
The Açoteias Cross Country course was also used to host the European Clubs Cross Country Cup in 2008, as it had done a number of times in the 1980s and 1990s. During the Almond Blossom's time in Vilamoura, it served as the tester race for the 2000 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, which was held on the same course a month later. The competition itself was selected in 2010 to host the Portuguese national cross country championship, in which Yousef El Kalai and Ana Dulce Félix took the honours in the men's and women's races, respectively. The national competition returned to the race in 2012 and Manuel Damião was the men's Portuguese victor, while Félix again won the women's title. A year later Damião became the first Portuguese man to win the Almond Blossom race itself since 1995 – the invited African contingent (including four-time winner Josphat Kiprono Menjo) did not arrive due to travel issues.
Past senior race winners 
Key: Portuguese championship race (12 km and 8 km races)
Distances: 8 km and 5 km races (10 km for men and 6 km for women where not stated) 4 km race
Winners by country 
Multiple winners 
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