UK athletics bodies must catch up with Scotland and let women compete on an equal level in cross country events, runners say.

The RunEqual campaign, which is fighting for an end to gender inequality in the sport, has made the call ahead of this weekend’s Scottish championships.

Organised by Scottish Athletics, the Lindsays National XC event, which attracts elite athletes including Olympians, sees women and men compete across identical distances in separate events.

Women runners from English clubs will be among the record 2500 people taking part – because the Falkirk championship is the only event of its kind in the UK which does not set shorter limits for females.

In some events, those in the senior women’s category are set courses that are the same distance set for junior boys.

RunEqual campaigner Kelly Clark says it’s time that governing bodies in the rest of the UK follow Scotland’s lead.

Clark, originally from Dunblane, said: “Unequal races give the message your race isn’t as important, you aren’t as capable and you aren’t being welcomed on equal terms. This places limits on us all – based not on what we are capable of or enjoy, but whether we are female or male. We want our sport to offer an equal and warmer welcome to everyone, and lead the way for other sports and communities to change.

Sport has the power to inspire and empower, especially young people. Our sport should be setting the right example to all our athletes.”

Maude Hodson, who founded RunEqual in 2017, is among the English runners set to compete in the 10km run at Falkirk’s Callendar Park.

In England, senior women race across in 8km events – 50% less than the 12k challenge for men.

Clark, 38, says such disparity undermines female capability, putting girls off sport and feeding into damaging attitudes about gender and equality.

She wants to “call on England Athletics to equalise their national cross country championships”.

Clark told The National: “You hear people talk about ‘the main event’, and that’s the senior men’s race. If senior women are racing the same as junior boys, then people pick up on that.

“In junior races, girls see that they are racing shorter distances than boys and it just starts that whole awful thing where they don’t think they are able to do it. It’s one of those smaller things that sets off bigger structural inequalities.

“This needs to be taken seriously.”

Welsh Athletics and Athletics Northern Ireland confirmed they set shorter distances for women, they did not comment further.

No response was received from England Athletics.

Scottish Athletics said: “A run equal policy is part of our overall equality strategy.”