Ten Reasons to run cross country
The cross country season may have started a little later this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic but that does not mean it is too late to get involved. We offer ten persuasive reasons why you should welcome the cross country spirit this winter.
1 – Embrace the fun
Cross country is a genuinely fun experience. Comprising jumps, water, mud, hills and even farmland terrain, the discipline is a great introduction for kids to the sport.
Athletics NZ Out of Stadia Co-ordinator and former New Zealand World Cross Country representative John Bowden says: “Cross country can appeal to many runners of all ages. I’ve even seen the oldies slogging through the mud with a look of joy on their faces.”
2 – Build mental toughness
Running up hills, through mud and across streams for up to 10km may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it does build mental resilience, according to New Zealand’s 2019 World Championship 5000m and 10,000m finalist Camille Buscomb.
“For me I always find cross country running really challenging,” she says. “I know going into every cross country race I’ve ever run it is going to hurt…a lot.”
“There are so many elements to consider from the terrain, the hills, your positioning on the course – you have to be really switched on.”
“But I always feel it helps build strength and makes me both mentally and physically more robust, which translates well when I switch to the track or road.”
3 – Follow in the footsteps of legends
All of New Zealand’s greatest endurance runners emerged from a cross country background. Sir Murray Halberg, Sir Peter Snell, Sir John Walker, Rod Dixon, Dick Quax, Nick Willis, Lorraine Moller, Anne Audain, and Allison Roe were given their initial running education competing in cross country.
So why not step up and follow their lead this winter. You never know where it might take you?
4 – Come together as a team
Whether you are competing at a club, provincial or international level, cross country differs from road and track in that there is often a team component to the competition.
This extra dimension can help generate greater motivation and is one of the attractions of the sport, according to John Bowden.
“I’ve been involved in many cross country teams and there have been many instances over the years of teams winning by small margins of one or two points,” he explains.
“With each finishing position often awarded a point (i.e. one point for first, two points for second etc) the role of everyone on the team is critical. Because of this you definitely push harder because you don’t want to let down your team-mates. For me, it is a joy and a privilege to be part of a team whether in the A or the D grade. You might have shoes full of mud and sand, but you just have to keep driving to the finish and do your best.”
5 – Run in all weathers
From snow, wind, rain, hail, and sun – the New Zealand winter typically can throw up every conceivable form of weather.
And getting the opportunity to run in all conditions is part of the appeal of cross country, according to John.
“I used to love running in the snow, rain, and wind,” recalls John, a former Auckland cross country champion. “When you look back it is always running in the snow that is the one you remember!”
6 – Something for everyone
No two cross country races are quite the same. Some are hilly. Some are flat and others more technical, while the on the day conditions – rain, wind, etc can also play a significant role.
This makes the outcome of the races often unpredictable, which is one of cross country running’s great attractions, according to Camille, the 2014 New Zealand cross country champion.
“I preferred the flat, faster courses whereas some races would suit the athletes who loved running the hills more,” she adds. “The beauty of cross country running is different tracks suit different athletes. There is a course to suit everyone.”
7 – Save your legs
Running on the road can be demanding on the legs but the softer underfoot conditions experienced on cross country can help build fitness without the extra strain.
“The grass absorbs the shock on the legs and is better for your body than the road or track,” explains John. “So running cross country might also save on your doctor and physio bills.”
8 – Enjoy a guilt-free afternoon tea
A little bit like fish with chips, cross country goes together with afternoon tea. The social element following a cross country run is one of the highlights for many with the mountains of food on offer to be embraced. John recalls the joy of eating a post-race hot vegetable soup while for Camille the opportunity to enjoy a treat is too good to pass.
“There was cakes, brownies, biscuits, I didn’t only look forward to the sandwiches,” she adds with a laugh.
9 – Take on a challenge
Many of us in 2020 have been forced to press the re-set button on our lives as we tackle the fallout of a global pandemic. Yet life under lockdown gave many of us the opportunity to devote more time to exercise with many of us running for the first time in years.
So why not build on that enhanced running fitness and build more confidence by entering a local cross country race?
10 – Enter the New Zealand Championships
All Athletics NZ members have the option to enter the New Zealand Cross Country Championships which take place on August 29 at Chisholm Park Golf Links.
To compete in the 117-year-old event will give you the chance to rub shoulders with New Zealand’s finest cross country exponents, compete on the national stage and also experience some warm Southern hospitality.
Keep an eye on the Athletics NZ website for more details on the NZ Cross Country Championships entry process.