Dave Bedford, who held the 10,000 metres world record, and is a previous race director for the London Marathon, was the guest of honour at Shrewsbury School for a ceremony to officially unveil its World Athletic Heritage Plaque.
The plaque is one of only seven across the globe, and commemorates the The Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt (RSSH) in the 'culture' category, as the birthplace of cross-country running, some 200 years ago.
The huntsmen and women of the RSSH, governors, Old Salopians and the Shrewsbury School community gathered to hear from headmaster Leo Winkley, master in charge of RSSH Frank Tickner, and special guest Mr Bedford as they celebrated the accolade.
As well as an address from Mr Bedford the audience also enjoyed video messages from some famous sporting names linked to distance running, including Lord Coe, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Sir Mo Farah, Steve Cram, Hannah England and Eamonn Martin.
Following the unveiling, Mr Bedford was given the honour of starting this year’s Tucks, the annual 5Km cross-country race at Attingham Park and a staple in the school’s sporting calendar.
Mr Bedford secured the 10,000m record in 1973, completing the distance in 27 minutes 30.80 seconds.
Mr Winkley said: “We are delighted and honoured that World Athletics has recognised Shrewsbury School’s unique place in the history of athletics as the birthplace of cross-country running.
"It was a great pleasure to welcome distance-running legend Dave Bedford, former director of the London Marathon, to unveil the World Heritage Plaque.
“The sport continues to have such a central role in our sporting programme. As the whole school participates in the Tucks, it is wonderful to celebrate this prestigious award and Shrewsbury’s rich running history.”
Mr Bedford added: “I’m delighted that Shrewsbury School has received this award. Over the years I've been aware of the school’s position in the sport and what you had started, but never thought I would get the chance to be part of it.
“It’s a pleasure to be here and thank you for your great welcome.”
Mr Tickner said: “To be officially recognised as the birthplace of cross-country is a wonderful achievement, and fitting that we celebrate it just hours before running of the Tucks, the school’s annual inter-house race that dates back to 1831 and just so happens to be the oldest cross-country race in the world.”
The World Athletics Heritage Plaque, a location-based recognition, is awarded for “an outstanding contribution to the worldwide history and development of the sport of track and field athletics and of out of stadia athletics disciplines such as cross country, mountain, road, trail and ultra-running, and race walking.”