An Ode to Cross-country

Cross-country. When I first started running it was after not being able to make any other sports team and my mom suggested I go out for the cross-country team. I thought it was some kind of traveling group.

When I found out it was running I wasn’t impressed. More like I was left in a pant but being that my parents were both runners I was also determined to do well; this was all on my own, my parents never put any pressure on me, all self-imposed.
cross country shoes

But regardless, I wanted to do my best to keep up with the other runners if for no other reason than to avoid feeling embarrassed about being outed as the girl who couldn’t keep up. Cross-country was my first introduction to this whole ‘running thing’ and so it will have a special little place in my heart. *Cue warm fuzzy music and Hallmark card.*

I also thought it was a lot more exciting than track because of the change of terrain, I wasn’t all too jazzed about running in a million circles like a gerbil. (Cut to today, I’ve done 10 mile tempos on the track and actually preferred it because I can be OCD anal about my splits, not to mention countless thrilling miles on the treadmill…haha.) I liked the challenge of hills too…the first time I went to the Mount Sac course, that sick little part in my brain all us runners have thought, “Awesome, this course is going to HURT!”

Hills are tough but there is a method to tackling them. Keep your eyes locked on the crest, know the end is going to eventually be there and what goes up must come down. Don’t hunch over, don’t overstride; keep your feet moving forward, if anything shorten your stride and dig into the ground with your forefoot, claw your way to the top.

Use your arms to your advantage, keep them swinging, did you know your feet will always keep pace with your arms; swing your arms faster and your legs will follow suit. Run THROUGH the top of the hill, don’t stop right before you get to the crest; make it over the hump and use that momentum to your advantage to flllllly down the backside.

There is an art to running downhill too; don’t fight it, let the hill carry you down. Focus on staying controlled and keeping your form. Don’t fight it.

Cross-country will get you muddy, get you dirty, make you tough. It will make you strong mentally and physically. The challenges each course sets before you is different, unique, but in the end it comes down to this: Will it be you or the course that wins?

1) Did you ever run cross-country?

2) Do you prefer cross-country or track?

3) What do you have going on this weekend?
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14 thoughts on “An Ode to Cross-country

  1. Well you know I ran cross country! LOL. I love xc but I love hurdles. As odd as it sounds I was good at hurdles and polevault in the time after xc as it was like I needed the speed. This weekend is a whole plethora of art. As a side note I am the worst position on hills but its also my strong area. I look at the ground the whole time and tell myself its flat otherwise I get psyched out.

  2. I never ran cross country but reading this kinda made me feel like I have lived in your shoes. Thanks for the little tips on running uphill. I always dread those hills but now I will think of you and how you claw your way up and I will swing my arms like a monkey in hopes of getting to the top sooner than later!

  3. Love this post! I have trouble tackling hills, I kinda do the super buff guy groan going up them, but it’s such a great feeling when you make it to the top. :)
    I never ran cross country in high school (I played basketball), but I wish I would have. I didn’t really fall in love with running until freshman year of college. It seems so strange that it was over two years ago already!

    • thanks! ya, i tried basketball but i have no coordination whatsoever. :P yes, hills definitely can give u that ‘rocky’ moment once u reach the top…hehe.

  4. A new visitor! I’ve never run CC specifically but I run trail races and “will get you muddy, get you dirty, make you tough. It will make you strong mentally and physically” is true for trail running too. I’m typically a street runner. The trail running challenges me in a totally different way.

    I host a weekly blog hop, Fitness Friday. I would love to have you join.

    Here are the details
    Life As I See It [FItness, Health and Happiness]

    Have a great weekend!

    • thanks so much for stopping by!! trail runs can certainly get you muddy; i have typically run on streets too just because i don’t live near any real trails, but whenever i do get lucky i can certainly feel the difference. the terrain definitely builds strength, not just muscularly but the tendons and joints too which will make u more injury resistant if u are able to get them used to landing at different angles.

      i appreciate ur invite and i’m going to check that out right now! :) Have a great weekend too!

  5. Ahh… good ol’ xc! I love the sport. Especially here in NorCal… nothing like the heat and your shoes melting to the pavement… and then making the yearly trek down to Mt. Sac and of course, Disneyland… and then I liked it even more in college (mostly because I was in much better shape) and we could wear spikes and run on grass and the hills weren’t as mountainousy… yeah, new word.

    But then indoor track is pretty fun… and outdoor and the 10k… gosh, I love those 25 laps of zoning out. That’s a tough decision! :)

    • i make up words all the time. i’m stealing mountainousy and submitting it to the dictionary. ya, i just moved back to the roseville area and i swear living in Portland made me soft. i think back to doing track workouts in 110 plus temps and i pitt out my shirt before even putting a shoe on!! and the drive down to Mt. Sac, such good times, but i’m sort of jealous that i wasn’t on ur team, uhhh, we never got to go to Disneyland and i’m a total Disney fanatic so i feel royally jyped. :P

  6. Hello darling Cait, sorry long time no comment. I was enjoying that SoCal sun just a little too much! (Guilty face).
    I never ran cross country, Lord knows I had to run the annual school cross country every year under duress in high school but running for me didn’t start until about 4 years ago, and even then it was treadmill all the way.
    Recently I have really started to love running outside again though so bring on summer and sweaty sunny runs :)

    • and she lives and breathes!!! hahaha…TOTALLY kidding!!! i fully understand, u were living it up in SoCal with ur loverboy, i would have given u flack if u HAD been up in here commenting away…get out and enjoy ur trip!!! and stuff that guilty face away, no need to even think about that stuff!! i’m happy u had a blast and got home safely!! :)

  7. I really love cross country, and this is my first season not competing or training for it at all since I started competing 11 years ago. I MISS IT SO MUCH!

    XC was definitely my fav in high school for the same reasons as you. I loved the different terrains, I enjoyed tackling hills and flying back down. I even liked the dirt. Track seemed completely boring and repetitive in comparison. But in college I could not decide. I loved every season equally. Cross country changed a lot in college too; golf courses, less hills, etc. But I still loved it all. Running just rocks, that’s the real reason :)

    • ummm, double cheers to that!! running just rocks!! people ask me why i’m running if i’m not even racing and i say, “it keeps me sane.” it’s not a lie; i just feel wonky without it and only us runners get it. :) as for XC vs. track, it’s funny because like u said, it grows on u. i think by my senior year i liked track more and actually didn’t mind the ‘boriness’ of laps.

      oh, it must feel really odd not racing with a team for the first time in soooo long!! but now, my friend, u have ‘bigger fish to fry’ hehe. i’m so proud of u and happy we stumbled into each other again! :)

  8. These are great tips. I’ve never run cross country in my life, I just run now for fun. But, these tips would have come in handy if I had read them before going to Hawaii! They have a TON of hills on Hawaii, there was no such thing as a “flat surface”. So, my runs there were always painful because of the instense/steep hills. :P

    • oh man, the other horrendous part about running in hawaii is the heat/humidity!! oh man, i looked like i jumped in the water after about t-minus ten minutes!!! haha. :P

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