Try Cross Country!
The cross country season is upon us, and I wanted to big up these often underrated local races. In the face of more and more obstacle style races cropping up like Tough Mudder it's worth a look at a cheaper way to spice up your running as the days start getting shorter and the weather colder.
What is Cross Country?
It's an outdoor, off road running race typically on rough terrain. The races are approximately 5 miles long (varying substantially, but not usually over 7 miles) and they are run in the winter for maximum mud!
What do I need to run one?
A pair of off road running shoes with good grippy soles to give you confidence underfoot, warm winter running gear and a change of clothes for after the race. If you are a bit more experienced at cross country events, you could invest in some cross country spikes for great grip.
Where can I find them?
Try your local county athletics association or use the runners world events finder. If you are a member of a running club they have be involved in a local series of events you can join.
Why should I run one?
Well, here there are lots of reasons!
- At the end of a summer of running on the track, or on the roads it's good for body and mind to change things up a little and run off road
- They are short and fun and don't need masses of training to build up to them
- They are muddy, challenging and "character building" - but don't cost anywhere near as much as obstacle races
- The will I've your legs a break from road running and give your brain a new challenge as it learn to negotiate off road terrain
- They will really improve your balance, agility and coordination; skills that will cross over to road and track running and leave you a stronger runner
- There is usually good tea and cake at the end :)
What can I do to prepare for cross country races?
- Try including some core exercises into your weekly training routine, as these will help boost your balance up front
- If you have been training on track for the summer up your mileage. This won't be a concern for those who've been running longer road events
- Start doing some of your weekly runs off road; find a local park, path or bridleway and give off road running a go. Start once a week and you'll soon learn to love the mud, the challenge and the opportunity to get into some good countryside.
- Experiment with different terrains and how to run on them; uphill, downhill and different surfaces like loose stones and mud.