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Cross Country Running

Cross Country Running Books

Cross country is a popular sport for both high school and collegiate runners. Although often lumped into the same category as track and field simply because both sports involve running, cross country is actually a sport which is significantly different from track and field. While track and field is largely an individual sport, cross country is more a team sport. Additionally, the distances and terrain make the sport somewhat unique. This article will provide some information on the sport of cross country running to give the reader a greater appreciation of the sport. The article will also feature some basic training information which is helpful for those who participate in cross country running or even those who participate in organized road races.

The distances associated with cross country running are usually significantly longer than the majority of running events associated with track and field. Distance of 5K and 10K, which are equal to 3.1 miles and 6.2 miles respectively, are two of the most common distances offered at a cross country meet. There may be alternative distances offered for freshman or in a situation where it is not possible to devise a course of the standard length in the meet location. However, these situations are rare and most meets feature one or both of the two standard distances. The longer 10K races are usually for men who are upperclassmen while women and underclassmen men usually participate in 5K races.

The terrain of cross country also makes the sport much different from track and field. While track and field events typically take place on a rubberized track of 400 meters, cross country meets typically take place on trails through wooded areas. This makes cross country running much less of an ideal spectator sport but also makes the course significantly more interesting for the runner. Traversing a 5K or 10K course on trails through wooded areas is much more exciting and entertaining than it would be to complete the same distance on a track. Additionally, the frequent turns the runner would have to make during the course of completing the race on a track would be very difficult on the ankles and knees.

The terrain of a cross country course also presents a number of different opportunities for trying different strategies. Most cross country courses not only contain a variety of surfaces such as grass, dirt gravel and sand but also include a profile which may include one or more substantial hills on the course. Cross country runners who are aware of the type of surfaces they can expect to encounter as well as the complexity of the hills on the course can develop a strategy ahead of time for navigating these difficult sections of the course without sacrificing time.

One of the other interesting aspects of cross country running is the team concept associated with the sport. Unlike track and field which even though a team winner may be declared at the conclusion of the meet in a manner similar to the medal count used at the Olympics, it is much less team oriented. However, in the sport of cross country the primary focus is on the placement of the team. Most cross country races allow each team to enter seven or more members in the race but typically only the top five finishers contribute to the overall team score. The overall team score for the cross country meet is determined by tallying the placements of the top five finishers from each team. Then the team with the lowest accumulated total is declared the winner. Based on this concept it is easy to see that one school may have the top overall finishers but if their next four finishers finish towards the bottom of the pack, the team has little chance of winning the meet. Conversely a team may not have a finisher in the top three overall but all five of their top finishes may be bunched together closely toward the top of the pack making it possible for this team to be declared the overall winner despite not having a finisher in the top three.

Training for cross country running can be a quite lengthy and difficult process. One of the most obvious components of training for competition in cross country meets is distance training. These runners need to be running high amounts of mileage each week to keep themselves in physical shape to tackle challenging courses each week. Hill training is also a critical element of cross country training. This is because the majority of cross country course contain one or more substantial hills. Some courses may be hillier than others but runners should be aware that each course will likely have some form of a hill for the competitors to navigate. One of the more surprising elements of cross country training is speed work. This will likely surprise many who assume speed work is only for runners who compete in shorter distance events. However, the high intensity training of sprint work can actually help a cross country runner to improve his overall performance by enabling the runner to improve his strength. Additionally, speed training is necessary for situations in which the cross country runner is attempting to out sprint an opponent at the end of the race. The finish lines on cross country courses are usually preceded by lengthy flat sections making it ideal for finishers to challenge each other for placement at the very end of the race.


The video clip above is from my DVD about running stetches and other running related information. Click on the DVD case below to find out more.

Running Stretches and Running Tips

Click Here to view the DVD.

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