Cross Country- embracing the beast within
It's Autumn in Europe and that means one thing- its cross country season. Former England International and Let's Get Running Head Coach shares his tips on getting the most from your cross country racing;
I love cross country- it's a challenge like no other. Those who know me would describe me as mild mannered and patient, but when the gun goes off I go nuts. Cross country is all about the battle; adrenaline racing, mud flying, limbs tangling- it's incredible! To succeed you need to embrace and unleash the inner beast! Marathon and Half Marathon's are great, but a little boring; you set off at a pace and try to stick to it for as long as possible.....yawn!
It's really easy to get involved- check out your local club or cross country league for details of their fixtures. Don't pay loads of money to enter big sponsored events and try to experience proper grass roots competitions- you'll see 70 year old's rubbing shoulders with internationals and the atmosphere is electric.
My tips are;
Make sure you're warm and ready to go from the off.I usually jog for 15-20mins, do some dynamic mobility and then run c.2mins at roughly race effort about 15mins before the start. Your body then knows what to expect when the gun goes!
Get yourself out there but hold yourself back on the first lap.I never go to the front of a race early on. I don't worry about position either I know if I am within 10-15 secs of where I want to be I am in a great position to strike. I always, always plan to come through the field after half way- it feels so great to be passing people!
Don't overthink anything - just do it.Its not that long, and its way better to go for it and make a mistake or two. Be prepared to be decisive. You will need to put in short bursts to overtake, or to go hard to get a position at the corner. One thing with overtaking - don't waltz people, destroy them! Don't give them a chance to think- you are a machine, and they don't have a hope in hell of keeping up with you. Cross Country is about the thrill of the battle not times or positions.
Don't run up hills- run off the top of them.Everyone thinks they should push it up the hill but why? You can never make much ground on a climb, but you can make loads if you hit people when they least expect it. Running downhills is really important too- you can make huge gains by working past people downhill- lean down the hill and let your legs take you.
Enjoy it- Cross Country is the best.