The New Zealand cross-country championships are held in August each year over a distance of 6¼ miles (corresponding to 10,000 metres). The race must be “over true cross-country” and the amount of prepared track or ground (such as playing fields, roads or race tracks) may not exceed one-third of the course. These requirements usually mean that the event is held in a small township or locality, rather than in one of the main centres as are the summer track and field championships. A junior race (for which runners must be under 19 on the day) is held at the same meeting over a distance of 3 1/8 miles.
Both an individual and a teams' result are recognised in the two grades. Each of the nine affiliated centres may field a team of six runners, of whom the four placed highest are counted for points in the teams' race. Points are awarded according to the placing gained (one for first, two for second, and so on) and the lowest score wins. A perfect score is thus 10 points. This has been achieved by Otago in 1913 and Wellington in 1922 (fewer than five teams competed in those years) and by Otago in 1934 and Auckland in 1963. Indeed, in 1963 Auckland placed five men in the top five places and the other in seventh place. The lowest team scores in the junior race are 14 by Wellington in 1944 (when there were fewer than five teams) and 15 by Auckland in 1962. Because of the varying courses, there are no record times recognised for the cross-country championship.
The NZAAA has given permission for the holding, as a trial, of an unofficial New Zealand championships for road running (over 10 miles) and for a women's cross-country. When these events have proved that they can attract sufficient entries of a high standard, they may be elevated to official championship status.
As a prelude to the national meeting, each centre holds a programme of club events culminating in the centre championships. Several events which are held locally also attract entries from other parts of New Zealand. Perhaps the best known of these are the Olympic Harrier Club (Wellington) Gold Cup race of 20 miles (over a flat course including much road), the Dannevirke rally, and the Wellington to Masterton the Marton to Wanganui, and the Christchurch to Akaroa road relay races.