A week today, in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, something wonderful/dispiriting will take place: the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships.
Since its first running in 1973 - when it replaced the International Cross Country Championships that had been contested since 1903 - this competition, like every other distance event in the sport, has become the domain of East African runners, predominantly from Kenya and Ethiopia.
For the Kenyans and Ethiopians, naturally enough, this is wonderful. For runners from other parts of the world which once figured in medal ceremonies at these Championships, this is perennially - or, since the shift established in 2011, biennially - dispiriting.
Final entry figures for Kampala 2017 suggest it will be the biggest Championship in terms of athletes since 2006, with an expected 557 runners from 60 teams set to compete.
That figure includes four athletes who are set to represent an Athlete Refugee Team in the new mixed relay event.
Guided by team leader Tegla Loroupe, Kenya’s former world half marathon champion and marathon world record holder, the squad includes Olympian Paulo Amotun Lokoro, who was part of the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio last summer.
In total, 13 nations are set to contest the mixed relay, the latest innovation for the oldest IAAF World Athletics Series event. Each team comprises two men and two women, who will each run a two-kilometre circuit.
Among the stellar names attracted by this Olympic-friendly innovation is Kenya's triple world and 2008 Olympic 1,500 metres champion Asbel Kiprop.
Which is all good. But these Championships, perhaps more than any other in athletics, have become a polarising force between the - biennially - successful and unsuccessful. And for the latter majority group this requires some radical mental reorganisation over what constitutes a positive outcome.
Let us briefly look at the statistics behind this broad shift.
In the men's senior individual event the last runner from a non-African nation to win a medal of any kind - a bronze in 2005 - was Qatar’s Abdullah Ahmed Hassan. Even he was a naturalised Kenyan named Albert Chepkurui.
So we go back to 2001, when Mohammed Mourhit of Belgium won his second consecutive gold. But Mourhit was a Moroccan by birth, who earned Belgian citizenship in 1997 by marriage. He was suspended in 2002 for using erythropoietin.
Silver medallist behind him in 2001, however, was Ukraine’s Sergey Lebid, nine-times a winner of the European cross country title.
A year before Mourhit won his first title, in 1999, Portugal's Paulo Guerra won bronze. You have to go back another decade to find the previous individual European medallist - Britain's Tim Hutchings. The co-founder of the Brighton Marathon was the runner-up behind Kenya's Olympic 5,000m champion John Ngugi at Stavanger in 1989, earning a second silver following his 1984 placing behind Carlos Lopes as the Portuguese runner won the second of his three titles.
No men's team other than Kenya or Ethiopia has won gold since 1981. England were the last European winners in 1980. Since then Ethiopia has won nine times, and Kenya 24 times, including 18 times consecutively between 1986 and 2003.
During its nine-year existence from 1998 to 2006, the men's short race was won only by Ethiopian or Kenyan runners, with both countries sharing the team titles.
The stats in the men's junior race are even more crushing. Since Spain's Pere Casacuberta won in 1984, African runners have won not just every title, but every medal save one - the 2001 bronze, which went to Dathan Ritzenhein of the United States. Ethiopia or Kenya has won every team title since 1982.
The pattern in the women's senior race is broadly the same, although the statistics are not so stark.
Of the last nine individual races, the last five have been won by Kenyan women. The 2007 winner representing The Netherlands, Lornah Kiplagat, was an adopted Kenyan. Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba won in 2005, 2006 and 2008.
The last non-African winner was Australia's Benita Johnson in 2004 and the last European winner was Britain's Paula Radcliffe, who won in 2001 and 2002.
The last team other than Kenya or Ethiopia to win was Portugal in 1994.
Only one woman - Ireland's Sonia O’Sullivan in 1998, broke the Kenya-Ethiopia domination in the women's short race from 1998 to 2006.
Since Radcliffe won the women's junior title in 1992, only one non-African has matched her - Finland’s Annemari Sandell, who took gold in 1995. Sandell also won silver in 1996. Since then, there has been only one non-African medallist - Japan's Yoshiko Fjinaga, the bronze medallist in 1999.
Women's junior team titles have been dominated exclusively by Kenya, with 15 wins, and Ethiopia, with 10 wins.
So there are the stats which make more comprehensible, perhaps, France's decision to send no-one at all to the last World Cross Country Championships in 2015, hosted by Guiyang in China. Or British Athletics' decision not to send a senior men's team to Kampala on the basis that it will only contemplate picking senior athletes with top 30 potential.
Jason Henderson, editor of Athletics Weekly, clearly articulates the altered attitude that many followers of the sport outside Africa have adopted over recent years.
"Like a lot of people I'm sad to see the demise of a race that was once 'the greatest footrace in the world', that matched milers against marathon runners," he told insidethegames. "It shows how much it's declined when a runner like Mo Farah has no interest in doing it.
"As an athletics-obsessed 13-year-old in 1983 I recorded the World Cross on BBC on an old VHS video recorder and then watched it a 100 times over the next year or so to the extent I virtually knew David Coleman's commentary word for word.
"It was totally inspirational, but nowadays it's hard for young runners from Europe, or areas like the United States, to relate to the performances of the dozens of East Africans who totally swamp the leading places.
"My first World Cross at Athletics Weekly was 1995 and I've been lucky enough over the years to cover the event in places like Punta Umbria, Bydgoszcz, Edinburgh, Vilamoura, Dublin and Fukuoka, and I still often get mildly excited about sneaking on to the course the day before the races so I can jog around a World Cross course and say I've run on it.
"Sadly now, though, it's only once every two years and the last two events in Guiyang and now Kampala have been so far off the beaten trail that we have not sent a reporter - probably for the first time since it began in the early 1970s.
"How do we save or improve this great event? I'm not sure there's an easy solution. If the Africans suddenly slowed down and western runners miraculously became more competitive, it would help! Holding it in glamorous locations like New York's Central Park would be amazing but probably dreamland. Better prize money might lure the likes of Farah to it."
Hutchings, meanwhile, views what he sees as the long decline of his favourite athletics event with a huge amount of frustration.
"The dominance of the East African athletes in the world of distance running has turned the whole globe upside down," he told insidethegames.
"I think in road running generally we are almost reaching a point where the average punter's interest is reaching breaking point.
"It’s virtually killed the World Cross, that is my feeling. It's been downgraded in a lot of people's eyes. Fewer and fewer top runners from Europe and the States see it as worth making the effort for and I can't see an obvious way round it.
"I feel really, really strongly that something needs doing or the World Cross Country Championships will be gone in six to eight years. Unfortunately there are a lot of people with a genuine love of distance running who are blinded by their infatuation for it.
"Everyone used to cover the World Cross. But the event has been killed off very effectively over the last few editions by being in obscure venues and failing to engage the interest in the rest of the Western world. It's been stuck away in a range of places, like Guiyang and Amman, backwaters in terms of distance running interest.
"In Kampala I’m sure there will be massive crowds, just like in Mombasa, and many people will say what a great meeting it was, but it will mean virtually zero in the Western world. It will be another occasion when the rest of the world gets pulverised.
"A little while back I attended an IAAF event where the Championships were being discussed and I suggested an A and a B event.
"To qualify for the A event you would need certain standard marks over 10km, and you would have the top 80 runners - mostly African, but with a few European runners in the mix. The B race would be the rest of the world, European, North American, Asian runners mostly.
"It is a radical proposal, but I feel it could do a lot to revive a wider interest in the event. But it seemed clear the idea was not likely to be supported.
"In Stavanger in 1989, I was beaten by a phenomenal Kenyan, John Ngugi, who had won the Olympic 5,000m title the previous year and I had another very good Kenyan behind me in bronze medal position, Wilfred Kirochi. But the top 25 included a really good spread of runners from around the world.
"But African runners have become so much more competitive in the last 20 years, with training camps, and European coaches.
"Instead of the odd freakish talent working hard, there are now a mass of talented runners. For each Ngugi or Kirochi there are now five or six runners of similar talent at the Championships."
Hutchings added: "Running is the number one sport in Kenya. Children are growing up hoping to become the next John Ngugi or Geoffrey Kamworor.
"I love cross country. It is a wonderful event. Given the number of people who go road running, cross country should be able to be a part of that whole psyche.
"It offers a different physiological challenge from road running. It is much more demanding in terms of terrain, or should be. You are more in touch with nature when you run cross country. It is a more spiritual activity.
"It’s also a lot more user friendly. You don’t have to shut down city centres for cross-country running.
"I ran the World Cross Country four times and won silver in 1984 and 1989. I had taken silver behind Carlos Lopes of Portugal in 1984, and he went on to win the Olympic marathon title that year, so I was in good company.
"I suppose Stavanger in 1989 is my favourite memory of the Championships because it was such a tough course.
"It was based on a golf course, but there was a loop around woods at the top end. Half the course was 10 yards wide of deep mud with boulders concealed in it. People were sliding and stumbling all over the place.
"The mud was so sucking and clinging in places that it wrenched at your stomach muscles, and several runners dropped out. I had a Portuguese, Ezequiel Canario, running with me for two thirds of the course and he just stopped and bent over double.
"I was in fantastic shape that year. I had been altitude training for four to five weeks in Kenya earlier in the year, and I was probably in 27 minutes, 20 seconds shape for 10km. I arrived at Stavanger unbeaten, but Ngugi finished 28 seconds ahead of me. He was skipping over puddles that other people were wading through.
"One of the problems with more recent World Cross Country Championships is that they are not much more than glorified road races on grass. There are specific skills to cross country - it should be twisty and turny, it should make particular demands, it should have some significant climbs.
"A fast distance race with a couple of bumps en-route is not cross country."
There are clear indications from the organisers of the 2019 World Championships in Aarhus that this particular issue Hutchings has will be robustly addressed as one of a series of innovations intended to widen the appeal of these venerable Championships.
The IAAF Council awarded the Danish city the right to host the 2019 edition in December following an audio visual presentation which included proposals for supporting races for 2,000 school children and a mass race which is expected to attract 8,000 runners.
But now let us look at these Championships from a different perspective - a Kenyan perspective - supplied by the 2012 IAAF World Journalist of the Year Elias Makori, managing editor for sports in the Nation Media Group.
Asked if Kenya still regarded the World Championships as it always had, or whether interest had dropped since the days of Ngugi, Makori told insidethegames: "Kenya still regards it highly and this is exemplified by the turnout during the National Championships/Trials where all the top cross runners show up. There’s no apathy at all.
"For example at last month's nationals, several Olympic and world champions were in the mix and some made it to the team and didn't pull out with any excuses. They are in camp for Kampala, namely Asbel Kiprop, Geoffrey Kamworor, Hyvin Kiyeng and Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon.
"Being World Cross Country champion remains ever prestigious for Kenya and it's an important title to hold.
"Cross country running in Kenya also always rekindles the bitter rivalries between the top teams, namely Kenya Police Service, Kenya Prisons Service, Kenya Defence Forces and the civilian team from Rift Valley."
Asked if Kenyans could understand how some European nations had lost interest in the event because of their inability to make any impact on the medal standings, Makori responded: "Kenyans don't get this at all. In fact, there is seething rage in Kenya and Ethiopia over why it ceased to be an annual event.
"Nonetheless, Kenyans welcome the 'export' of stars to countries such as Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey and the US, who have injected some iota of competitiveness outside the Kenya against Ethiopia duel. These are seen as Kenya 'B', Kenya 'C' sides.
"Kenyans are waiting eagerly to see how the Kenyan Americans and Kenyan Turks will perform in Kampala.
"The introduction of the mixed relays has given it a new lease of life, so to speak. Asbel himself was delighted at the opportunity to make a comeback to cross running via the relays as it marks exactly 10 years since he ran a World Cross Country event. The last time was in 2007 in Mombasa when he won the junior race.
"Technically, the athletes see the World Cross Country as an important bridge from track to road. Many athletes who are changing from track to road use cross as a vital bridge at it assesses both their speed and endurance.
"Kenya still sees a great future for the World Cross Country."