Beginners’ Guide to Cross-Country

What is a XC Race?

It is a flat (normally slightly downhill, with no hills) race run in warm (Winter) weather over soft carpet like ground (grass). There are varieties of cross country race:
League – 4 races, run on a Saturday afternoon in Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb. These are about 7 miles for men, and 5 miles for women. This is our club focus,  where we need about 20 runners per race to do our best.
Relay – vary from 2 to 3 miles per leg, and are sometimes local (Warwick Uni),
Regional (Midlands) or National (National?). Teams vary between 2 and 4 people normally.
Championship – similar to league races in distance, these consist of regional or national championships. We are looking to compete in these this year.

Flat? Carpet Like? Really?

Of course not. They are hilly, muddy, sometimes held in sub-zero conditions, often running through streams and bogs.

So why should I do it?

There are a number of reasons, the first being that it is a great Northbrook Team event, and it is FREE! But also, cross-country is great training. Winter is typically ‘base-load’ building, where you build a strong aerobic base in preparation for some ‘quality’ training in the spring ready for the road season, and/or a marathon. Think of it like building a sky-scraper where the foundations are base-loading and the tower is the quality faster work. Just as the skyscraper will fall down without foundations, runners will break (get injured) and struggle without a strong base.

I think I’m too slow for XC, and I’ve never done it before

No-one is too slow, fact. League scoring is done using points, with 1 point for 1st place through to 200 points for 200th place etc. The team with the fewest number of points over the season wins the league. The top six in each team count for the ‘A’ team, and the second six count for the ‘B’ team. BUT IT DOESN’T END THERE! If you are 20th counter for Northbrook in 120th place, but beat one of the first 12 counters for another team, then you effectively take a point away from that team. It is therefore vitally important that we put as many runners out as possible to ‘steal’ points from other teams. It really doesn’t matter where you finish, you WILL contribute to the A and B teams in some form.

Do I need any special equipment?

Yes, cross country spikes are essential. The ground is often very wet and muddy, and so you risk injury by using inappropriate footwear.
Spikes can be purchased from any good running shop (e.g. Coventry Runner) where you can normally get a good deal on last season’s shoes. Always remember to buy longer spikes when asked though, as the ones that come with the shoes can be too short.

Do I need to do any special training?

No, but incorporating some hill reps, leg strength, core strength and off-road work into your training plan will help.

How does the Club participate in Cross-Country events?

The Club’s main focus is the Birmingham and District Invitation Cross-Country League and the Midland Women’s Cross-Country League.
The Club Captains encourage as many as possible to turn out to run in these races to try to score more points than our competitor clubs. Promotion is our goal, and the Wednesday night training will equip each and every runner to play their part in this archetypal team game.

So what do I need to do now?

Look on the Cross-Country Fixtures page to see the list of races this season and let your team captains know that you are interested, and if you know already which races you would like to take part in then let them know as early as possible – the sooner the better!