Formal cross country competition traces its history to the 19th century and an English game called "hare and hounds" or "the paper chase". English schools started competing in cross country races in 1837, and established a national championship on December 7, 1867. It was held on Wimbledon Common in south-west London. It was the first cross country race that was considered "open", or could be run by anyone.

In 1878, the sport was introduced to the United States by William C. Vosburgh. At first, the sport served mainly as training for summer track and field athletics. In 1887cross country running became a formal sport in the United States.

Cross country running at the Summer Olympics was held at the multi-sport event for men only from 1912 to 1924. During its brief tenure as an Olympic event, it featured on the Olympic athletics program. Medals were awarded on an individual race basis as well as a national team points basis. Despite the international popularity of cross-country, the sport was dropped from the Olympic Games after 1924 due to it being an inappropriate summer sport.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation, which regulates cross-country running, allowed women to run for the first time at in 1967 International Cross-Country Championships held in Barry, Wales.

Internationally, the IAAF (renamed World Athletics in 2019) organizes the World Cross Country Championships. In recent years, courses have tended to change to faster, drier courses than the traditional ones.

The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (for US colleges and universities) was founded in 1971 and sponsored the first collegiate Women Cross Country Championships in 1975. I started a women’s club team at Miami University while I was in graduate school and coached the team for four years.  In 1981 two women from Miami qualified for the IAAW National Championship held in Pocatello, Idaho. 

The Ohio High School Athletic Association first held a Girls State Cross Country Championship in 1979.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association first sponsored women championships in 1981. Cross country was one of twelve women's sports added to the NCAA championship program for the 1981–82 school year. The AIAW continued to conduct its established championship program in the same twelve sports; however, after a year of dual women's championships the IAAW was dissolved in 1983.

Read Rod O’Donnell’s Keeping Track article Life Lessons from Cross-Country - https://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/10-life-lessons-from-cross-country-updated-2020 

Runners of All Ages Enjoy Racing at Granville’s Bryn Du –

When I was the Mayor of Granville the Village of Granville purchased the Bryn Du Mansion property along with funds from the Granville Open Space Program. Years ago I laid out cross country courses of 3K, 5K, 6K, 8K, and 10K. Denison University used the course when they hosted the North Coast Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships. Granville High School and Newark Catholic have hosted cross country invitational on the property.  Sixty summer cross country events have been held over the past twenty years. https://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/news/420-runners-of-all-ages-enjoy-racing-at-bryn-du-by-kurt-snyder-newark-advocate