Cross Country running has been part of many sports competitions for a long time. This is a kind of running competition where runners run through natural terrain, like mud, dirt, etc., to fulfill the challenge. Like other kinds of running, cross country running also has certain benefits as well as downsides. So, what are the pros and cons of running cross country?
In normal running, you can sustain low energy. But this is a more tough kind of running where one needs different leg action, different stride lengths, and a different running plan. So, never consider this practice just like normal running.
Read on to explore all the pros and cons of cross-country running and tips for training for your next cross-country running. You might also enjoy reading: The 10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Running for Weight Loss (According to Science).
Table of Contents
What is Cross Country Run?
Cross country running is a sport where teams and individuals (also called harriers) run races on outdoor courses over natural terrain, including open country, hills, grass, golf courses, woodlands, fields, parks, mud, grasslands, flat ground, and even water.
Cross country run is very popular, particularly in high school. Below are statistics on the number of people participle in cross country running.
Number of Participants in U.S. High School Cross Country From 2009-2010 to 2018-2019
How Long Should You Run For Cross Country?
- Usually 1.5 to 2 miles (2.42 to 3.22 Km) for middle-school runners.
- Usually, 3.1 miles ( 5K) in high school cross country races
- Usually, college men and women may run longer distances and vary significantly in length.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Cross Country Running
Here are some facts that describe how cross country running is beneficial and what are its possible side effects. These points will help you to conclude whether it’s beneficial or harmful for you.
Benefits Of Running Cross Country
I sometimes do cross country runs, and I find it very enjoyable. Here are the main benefits of running cross country:
1- A New Experience Each Time
Cross country running is not identical to the normal race as it includes different courses each time. One will have to cover a different time for each race. This helps the runner to encounter a different running path each time.
Mostly, the same running track seems boring to most of the racers; however, this kind of race doesn’t let someone get bored as it keeps the mind active.
Moreover, this kind of running includes surprise paths like mud, dirt, hilly paths, and so on. So this helps the competitors to be ready for each kind of race.
2- Helps Build Stamina
Cross-country running includes different paths, which helps you build stamina for each kind of surface.
In addition, cross-country running offers relatively good opportunities in the form of different challenges that, in turn, help build stamina for the long run.
3- Cross Country Running Helps You Stay Physically Active
Staying active offers many benefits, mainly in college, including:
- Possible scholarships depend on how good you are and what level you can run at.
- And potentially, it can lead you to a professional running career with coaches helping you succeed.
4- Keeps Mentally Active
In normal running, one will have to run on the same track again and again. However, cross country running has different challenges that keep one active.
So, it doesn’t make the runners mentally tired as new challenges always wait for them. In short, this kind of race keeps one mentally engaged.
Running the same thing repeatedly can quickly take a toll on a runner mentally and physically because it can make you feel trapped in a never-ending pattern that gets annoying or boring.
5- Prepares For Different Running Courses
As the name suggests, cross country is not the name of a single running course. One will have to encounter a variety of running courses throughout the competition.
Those who are well prepared for these competitions can go through all kinds of surfaces like forests, mud, dirt, fields, mountains, and so on. So, practice for such a racing competition prepares one for all kinds of running courses.
Every race you compete in, you will experience new sights as you race around different courses, which is mentally very beneficial. See also: Top 12 Simple Tips Starting Running When Overweight.
6- Cross country Runs Help Build Confidence
In addition, to building lasting friendships, running cross country will help you develop the confidence to be a better friend and a more social person. Running every day will make you much happier, less anxious and neurotic, and more satisfied with yourself.
It will also make you a more reliable person because of the team-building aspect. While training for cross country running, you will learn to be there for your team and count on your team.
7- Builds the Power to Accept Challenges
Generally, experienced cross-country runners are more robust, adaptable, and less likely to be thrown by a sudden change in the weather.
The benefits of participating, training, and competing in the cross-country season provide challenging physical activity, strengthening you mentally and physically.
Cross country running is the name of unseen challenges. One will have to go through lots of running courses in a single race. This thing trains one to accept different challenges bravely and boldly.
8- A Quick Race
Unlike normal racing, which takes a lot of time, cross country running is completed in a relatively short time. Such a completion finishes in only 2 hours if managed properly.
Women’s cross country race needs a maximum of 30 minutes, while that of the men will need a maximum of 25 minutes.
So, the running time, medal distribution, and other activities will need a maximum of 2 hours. All these facts make cross-running a quick race.
9- Running Cross Country Helps Create Close Friendship
Throughout cross country runs and training, you meet amazing people and build friendships for the rest of your life.
Most cross country runners get training at the same place. Those who spend maximum time together become friends, which builds a friendly environment among the racers.
During practice, your teammates become your friends. Even though cross country runs can be stressful, most cross country runners believe that the stress and ups and downs are worth it.
Practicing and competing with your team will take away all of your worries, and you will feel connected, happy, and accomplished with your team beside you. In other kinds of running, like regular running, you train alone and develop friendships.
When training for cross country runs, you will often practice with your team on the weekend while sharing your experiences, passions, and other hobbies. Practicing as a team will help you better know each other as you work towards a common goal.
10- Running Cross Country Will Teach You to Be a Better and Stronger Person
All the rubbers taking part in cross country running don’t have the same mental capability. Some are mentally strong, while others may be weak. Cross country running will teach you to be a better and stronger person, capable of better handling challenging situations.
For those who look at the mountain and muddy paths dreadfully, cross country running can be a very tough challenge. They may lose their consistency after some time. This is a disadvantage of such a race.
Disadvantages of Running Cross Country
11- Cross Country Running Requires a Lot of Time And Commitment, mainly for college students
Cross country running requires a lot of time and commitment between practice, meets, study tables, and tutoring. It means high expectations in the classroom and on track for college students.
In addition, cross-country runs can be time-consuming, painful at times, and a bit stressful, but you will forget all this once you finish the race.
12- Inconsistency of Paths
Being an amateur cross country runner, you may know that the running courses of cross country races are not the same. They are inconsistent and keep on changing.
This inconsistency of track is an adventure for some racers, while others take it negatively. For those who are terrified of this inconsistency, cross-country running is a hard course to cover.
In addition, when you run cross country, your running time and speed will likely fluctuate throughout the season mostly because of the inconsistency of the sports and its changing racecourses.
13- Variable Time Of Running
One can’t train himself or herself for a particular running course or for a particular time in the case of cross country race.
In such a race, the time varies as per the course of running. This is another drawback of cross country running.
14- Increased Chances of Injury
Surprise paths are not the same for all runners. Some can handle them effectively, while others may face difficulties through a variety of courses. For those who don’t have the capability of accepting challenges and building stamina, this kind of running can be very dangerous.
The hilly paths, in particular, are very tough to cover for them. This may lead to a remarkable injury. Also, cross country running features more injuries than normal plain running as it features different running courses.
15- Develops a Running Technique That is not Practical For Other Type of Runs
Cross-country has its disadvantages, and the top one is that it develops a running technique that is not practical for the high speeds of track and road racing.
To keep yourself mentally and physically strong, ensure you add strength training to your training program and maintain a diet.
See also: Here’s How You Can Set SMART Running Goals.
Is Running Cross Country Bad For You?
It is not true to say that cross-country running is beneficial all the time. For some people, it may also be a tough challenge as it comes with a few disadvantages (see above)
Best For Training For Cross Country Running
If you’re considering running cross country, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Find the right running shoes. It is essential to wear the proper running shoes for the cross-country course. Cross-country courses can be snowy, hilly, grassy, and slippery. If a cross-country course is hilly or rough, most cross-country runners choose running shoes with metal spikes (usually called cross-country spikes).
- Train with your team. Even though some cross-country runners run individually, most cross-country runs are organized as a team. It is essential that you train and regularly communicate with your cross-country team members.
- An essential part of cross-country racing success is adjusting your strengths as a runner to the different courses while minimizing your weaknesses. In addition, being patient and confident in your race strategy will make a huge difference in your successfully completing the race.
- Avoid practicing on a flat and smooth track or a treadmill. Instead, train on hills and run outdoors or on rough terrains, including golf courses, water, mud, and parks, to prepare your legs and lungs for the cross-country course.
- Run consistently and develop stamina to prepare your body and mind for cross-country runs challenge. Generally, cross-country runners run year-round and practice on rough terrain during cross-country season. In addition, they also perform cardio-based sports, such as martial arts, yoga, strength training, and even spring training.
- Learn to pace yourself. If you are running your first cross country race, spend your time learning to pace yourself and avoid spending too much energy on the distance you run. Contrary to other races requiring you to closely track your race pace and personal records to make sure you are consistent during your runs. The rough and natural terrain will make runs much less consistent and harder to track with cross-country runs.
Cross country running is a challenging race as compared to normal plain running. For those who are new in this field, it can be a tough task. However, the experience can make one more confident. There are lots of pros and a few cons of running cross country.
If you are on the fence, I suggest you try cross country running. You will most likely love the sport as you practice it. It also doesn’t matter how good you are. Once you start training, you will only get better and maybe even surprise yourself at what you can run.