The European Cross Country Championships is an annual international cross country running competition. Organised by the European Athletic Association, it is the area championships for the region and is held in December each year. The championships was inaugurated in 1994 in Alnwick and the venue for the championships changes each year.
Unlike the World Championships for the sport, the European Cross Country Championships consists of six races in age categories, with separate senior, under-23, and junior races for both men and women. There are individual and national team medals awarded in each race. In the team competition, the finishing positions of the top six scorers from a team of up to nine are combined for the men and women, respectively, and the low score wins. For the junior races, the top three from a team of up to four are scored.
The first edition of the competition featured only senior races and 180 athletes took part. Men's and women's junior (under-20) races were introduced at the third edition in 1996 and under-23 races were added to the programme in 2006. In its six-race format, the championships had record high participation in 2010, when 468 athletes from 34 nations competed.
Two cities have hosted the competition on multiple occasions: Alnwick held the 1994 and 1995 editions, while Velenje was the 1999 and 2011 host city. Five athletes have won the senior title on more than one occasion: Paulo Guerra of Portugal is a four-time men's champion, Britain's Paula Radcliffe and Hayley Yelling have each won the women's title twice, Ireland's Fionnuala Britton became the first female athlete to win back to back gold when she retained her title in Hungary, 2012, and Ukrainian Serhiy Lebid has a record of nine senior men's gold medals. Lebid also holds the record for consecutive appearances, as he has competed at the championships every year since its inception.