Running Outside the Individual: How training partners make you faster

This weekend they will be running the NCAA Cross Country Championships. The pinnacle of excitement for college cross country, I’ve done a few pieces highlighting a few of the front runners vying for the individual title: Shelby Houlihan, Crystal Nelson, and Patrick Tiernan.
running workout faces  emojis
Whether you ran cross country in college, or even went to college, or not I urge you to read them because among all of there runs a similar theme: cross country is unique because it blends the individual component of running with the team aspect. As every runner knows, ultimately, a race is against beating yourself, and while track does have a team scoring element, it is in no way like cross country’s.

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The World Cup Reminds Me…the time I proved I had no coordination skills

The 2014 World Cup has begun!! Now here’s a fun fact, soccer was my first sport. Gosh how I loved it, I played for seven years and looked forward to every Saturday’s game (confession: the after-game snack a LOT too!) like nobody’s business. Why did I stop after seven years?? Enter exhibit A:
running sports cartoon
I sucked. Like I REALLY sucked. I can vividly remember scoring my first goal…mostly because it was my first and last. I don’t even have an excuse for one goal in seven years, like I played goalie or defense…nope, I was a forward and mid-fielder. Right where one with any iota of coordination would be set RIGHT up to score a goal.

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Rule Your Running Terrain: Because races aren’t done on a treadmill

Unless you’re racing on a track, there’s SOME kind of terrain you’ll need to be prepared for come gun-time. Even during track season athletes have much to gain from varying the terrain on their workouts.

  • Power and Speed: Hills build strength and when taken to flats that translates to speed. That same kind of logic applies to doing repeats on grass, the times may be ‘slower’ but you’re working harder and building strength.
  • Injury Prevention: Running on softer, more forgiving surfaces helps reduce impact and thus lowers your chances for injuries in the long-term.
  • Diversity: Running is a very repetitive action and mostly only working in a single, horizontal plane. At least by varying things slightly you’re able to give your body a bit of diversity; if you fail to do this, smaller muscles get weak and imbalances become injuries in waiting.

Those are all general reasons why mixing up your running terrain is a good idea, but if you know your actual race course will have key elements you’ll need to be prepared for, it’s even more important to introduce those same obstacles in training.
turn left on the track
Hilly Courses

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Hot Runner Deals!! Score at the Track and on the Cross-Country Course…but Beware of the Spit Zone

Have you checked out these signs lately, it sure looks like runners all over are getting offered some pretty sweet deals?!
track sign
Watch out who you line up against at the track…nevermind, I’m sure you’ll be the one offering up the free butt kickings rather than the other way around.
cross country running sign
Mud at the cross-country course is a given, but you decide whether the splattering will end up on your frontside or your backside. Same goes for all those trail runners.

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Approaching a Race: Depending on your goal going in how you run could be markedly different

Who are you up against on race day, the clock or the runner next to you? Everyone goes into a race with a different goal, be it just to finish, to be a scoring member of their team, set a PR, or go for the win. The funny thing with racing is that, contrary to what some may think, it’s NOT always a test of who is the fasted on the given day. There is a strategy behind all this running in circles. (okay, or running on the roads or cross country courses…hehe.)
girl on track
There’s a good read up on Running Times: “Chasing Vs. Racing” that highlights just this fact. Depending on what your GOAL is for the race the way you approach it is going to be very different.

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What Kind of Runner Are You? Trails, Tracks, Treadmills and Roads…Oh, My! (Part I)

When it comes to your choice of terrain, what kind of runner are you? Do you crave the speed of the track, the solitude of a long trail run, dodging car splash on the roads, or zoing out on the treadmill?
trail runner
I was sucked in forced to watch one of the episodes of The Bachelor (that Ben guy, am I the only one who finds him a bit of a scruffy version of Dax Shepard?) where they were in Park City, UT and he was saying how he’s an ‘outdoorsy’ guy. He likes to be out in the woods chopping trees, riding horseback, fishing, and such. All I could think was, “Dang, I would be sucking wind out there on any runs.” Then some flashbacks to some particularly gnarly runs in Park City followed that.

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“The First Run is the Sweetest”…or Something Like That, Cat

Six weeks and the legs went to the dogs! :) I know I haven’t talked about it too much on here (I’ve been playing by the ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ rules a bit.) but I injured my foot awhile back and was thus held captive to the cross-training.
chained animals
Still working to find out exactly what was/is wrong with my foot but it stems from head-diving into all outdoor running when I’d been doing solely treadmill running for over a year. My case is a little odd, the reason I was a gerbil on the ‘mill for so long was because I was a little iffy running on the roads after getting hit by the car.

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‘Twas the Night Before Some High School Cross Meets

Cross-country champs comes but once a year. :) Okay, I won’t go too crazy on that sentiment because technically there are LOTS of things that come but once a year…for instance 9:36 on 11/25/11 only comes but once a year too, right? Haha.

But because there are plenty of seasons wrapping up here I wanted to do a post. Yes, for all the NCAA fans those cross champs happened on Monday. Congrats to all the great college showings there! Living in California, during high school I really associated Thanksgiving weekend with the State Championships; California likes to be all special and be the VERY last state to hold their champs and it is tomorrow.
boy cross country runner
Along with that, the National High School meets are starting the rounds; there will be Nike Team Cross Champs (NXN) as well as the first few Footlocker Regional Meets. Now, even though I’m FAR graduated and becoming a geriatric, I still get a little excited buzz when I think about all these meets.

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Battling the Race Day Nerves — Use the Nerves to Your Advantage

Sunday again already, eh? Well, we are approaching the ‘GO TIME’ for races here; whether it’s the high schoolers gearing up and going through all the sectional/regional races, the college athletes doing the same, the road racers continually make the circuit, and of course the marathons. We have NYC Marathon fast approaching, other ones going on all around the world, and then come January the US Olympic Trials…exciting stuff!

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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

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