If the “Running Man” theorists are correct, humans evolved as a species by running across the savannahs of Africa chasing prey. What our ancestors lacked in sharp claws and venomous stings they made up with the ability to persevere for long periods of time in pursuit (and sweat — no other creature can cool itself through sweating like hominids can).
Today, the essence of running through the grasslands lives on in the sport of cross country, a popular sport at the high school and college level. Still, many running stores, outfitters and community organizations put on cross country events for runners of all ages and abilities these days.
Unlike its track and road racing counterparts, cross country and its undulating terrain rewards stamina and grit more than raw speed. It also diminishes the importance of the watch, as cross country courses can vary from blazing flat and fast to hilly roller coasters, which require specific cross country spikes.
What’s more, with most cross country races being in the fall and winter, conditions shift from September heat waves to hats and mittens in February. Oh, and mud. Lots and lots of mud.
All of these qualifiers mean that cross country training requires a special blend of endurance training, strength work and just enough speed to make it all count at the end.
For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume you, the reader, is already running four to seven times per week and that you’re coming into the season in respectable shape. I’m also going to assume you’re getting in solid recovery runs in between your workouts and that you are already incorporating long runs into your training diet.
If those assumptions are incorrect, you’ll probably want to spend a few weeks getting in some consistent miles before jumping into the workouts prescribed below.
But if you're already there, lace up your running shoes and get ready to put in some work.