By Lauren MacDonald
Last week, Ed wrote about how there’s no form of running that teaches like cross country, and as someone who got her start in the running world because of her high school cross country team, it really resonated with me. I joined my high school team in eighth grade and was welcomed and mentored by all my older teammates.
After Ed’s blog last week, I began to get nostalgic for cross-country, long runs, fall leaves, muddy trails, and all that comes with my favorite sport. My love affair with running started on fall trails filled with crunchy leaves and the occasional mud puddle, it continued throughout my collegiate career with dirt roads and golf course runs, and as a post-graduated “adult” I hold onto my first love through regular trail runs at Green Lakes.
I’m in shock that it is already the middle of August and I know before we realize it, fall will be here. And while “cross-country season” is really for the scholastic and collegiate runners, there are a few things that you can still learn from cross country.
Run some trails.
Part of the fun of cross-country is its picturesque setting. While you may be struggling to get up a killer hill or get through a tough workout, at least your surroundings are pleasant. My family and friends can attest that I am semi-obsessed with the trails surrounding Green Lakes. This “cross country” season hit up some of your local trails! The beauty of nature can really ease you through a particularly difficult workout and the softer surface can be a nice change from pounding the pavement.
Strength beats speed.
When I was in high school, this was one of my coach’s favorite sayings when it came to cross-country. He would opine that when it came to cross country, a strong runner could beat out a fast runner by working the uphill’s and pushing through the tough sections on the course. It’s something I still think about in my running today. Speed is often genetically pre-determined, your VO2 max, fast and slow twitch muscles, height, weight,etc, but strength is something you can develop and use to get ahead. This “cross country” season hone your strength to push through tough sections in training, races, or even just everyday life.
Your teammates are there for you.
This is the most integral lesson I learned from my cross country days—in high school, my teammates were more family than friends, and it is the thing I miss most every cross-country season. This season I’m focusing on building my team. As I’ve written before, my dad is my favorite running partner and I’ve committed to running with some of my fellow master’s students this fall. I know that most of my memories from cross country were not the races won or PRs achieved, but the long—sometimes slow—runs where my teammates and I meandered through the woods, racking up miles and talking about everything under the sun. It’s something I encourage you to do; find your team, your people and go enjoy “cross country” season!