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Home » Cross Country News

CROSS COUNTRY: Cross Country 101

June 15, 2014
Cleveland High School



How far do runners run?

In most races:

  • Freshmen boys and JV girls run a 3K (1.9 miles).
  • JV boys, and Varsity boys and girls run a 5K (3.1 miles).

During practice, we run 3 to 12 miles depending on the ability and needs of each runner. Even for Varsity runners most long runs during practice are 8 miles or less. JV runners run less than that. We usually alternate a hard work out with an easy one. Runners must be able to run 3 miles without stopping before going out on long runs that involve crossing streets. This is for safety reasons. If we allow runners to walk during a long run, the group becomes too spread out to supervise. If you are just starting out, start practicing with the team at Cleveland Field (one block north of Powell Blvd. on SE 31st) while we gather for warm-ups. Join up with other team members in your same situation and run on the track for a while. Walk as needed until you build up your stamina. There is nothing odd about starting out this way. Everyone will be supportive of you. It's really no big deal either way.

Once you are able to run 12 laps (3 miles) without walking, let your coach know.


How is a race scored?

The top five runners on a team count for points. For example in a JV race if our runners come in 2, 4, 7, 9, and 13, our score would total 35 points. The team with the lowest score wins. If a score is tied, the best sixth finisher for a team counts as well. Even a runner who is seventh on a team can have a big effect on a score when he/she finishes ahead of another team's fifth runner. Last year several of our teams finished with a score of 15--the best score possible. In one race, the first nine finishers were all Cleveland runners. Cross country is definitely a team sport in which everyone is important, not just the top runners.


How do runners train?

On hard days, we push ourselves just a little more than we did before. In addition to long runs, we run hill repeats, shorter interval runs, and tempo runs in which we train our bodies to better handle lactic acid build up. You will be amazed how quickly your body will adapt and get stronger. Once you're in shape, you feel better all the time.

There is a lot of variety to training and we make it fun with various games we bring into play. Keep in mind that every other day is an easy day and on those days you can socialize with your friends on the team while running an easy workout. In addition to running we do dynamic drills that are actually a lot of fun too. To prevent getting running injuries, it's important to strengthen the core (ab work etc.) and improve balance and form. Your coaches will help you with this as well as show you helpful stretches to do. It's important that runners recover from hard workouts by going easy on easy days and getting the rest they need.


What about nutrition?

Runners take care to consume the best fuel (i.e. food) in order to give their bodies the best chance to win their races. Filling up on vegetables, whole grains and healthy protein is ideal. There is no need for meat in a runner's diet. Smart runners rarely eat junk food, especially deep fried junk food. Even so, they can eat desserts and they don't have to watch calories or be stressed out about food. For hydration, energy drinks are discouraged. Healthy food and plenty of water are all that is needed.


What about shoes and other equipment?

Runners should go to a running specialty store to have an expert watch their stride and give them choices of the best training shoes for them. (On Portland's east side Pace Setter, Portland Running Co., and Foot Traffic are all recommended.) Ask the sales person about shoes that are light, less structured and that give the runner a sense of the ground underneath their feet. It's important that runners don't go from a heavy training shoe right to a ultra light shoe or go barefoot. This transition takes a minimum of several months. The sales person will help you find shoes that help you along in this transition. Cross country runners don't need to buy spikes until they improve into the higher ranks of competition. Many of our races include pavement, which eliminates the need for a spiked shoe.

The beauty of being a runner is that you don't need a lot of fancy equipment. Make sure that you're wearing wicking materials, and you're good to go.


How do I deal with running injuries? 

First off, if you have an injury, tell your coach so he can help you deal with it. Don't wait to tell him. As a rule of thumb there are two main kinds of injuries: ones that allow you to keep running and ones that don't. If you can run without limping and without increasing your pain, usually a runner simply needs to cut back on mileage, run on soft surfaces, and ice the injury several times a day. More serious injuries require a specialist to help you heal. It's usually wise to make an appointment at the first sign of an injury, because it often takes a week or two before a doctor can see you.


What are the biggest road blocks for runners?

  • Lack of sleep
  • An inability to deal with an addiction to media.

Most teens need 10 hours of sleep but few get that much rest. Sleep is when your body recovers from running and rebuilds a stronger body. Your body secretes natural human growth hormone during this time, and that is crucial to any sport. A recent Stanford study confirms that athletes who get more sleep perform significantly better. Why don't we sleep more? The homework load is a factor, but most of us need to acknowledge an addiction to media. We stay up watching a screen, texting, etc., and it is hard to stop. To really get better as a runner, we need to use media in moderation and be able to stop in time to give our body a chance to get ample sleep. It may seem funny to call media use an addiction, but it really is and not just teens need to learn to deal with it. Note: It's a lot easier to be happy when you're not tired.


Are there special concerns for female runners? Yes. Female runners need to be more aware of their surroundings when they run to ensure their safety; this is often remedied by running with a group rather than alone. Female runners should also make sure they have the right iron levels, too, by eating leafy greens and supplements as needed .


What's the FUN part of being a Cross Country athlete? 

  • It's the one sport in which you get to talk and joke around for the majority of practice. On easy practices and long runs that's about all we do.
  • The team is huge, so there's always someone to connect with.
  • We have great parties and potlucks. We have mid-season parties, an awesome Halloween party plus fun extras after Saturday workouts. 
  • The Silver Falls camp is fun throughout the four days culminating in an incredibly special initiation ceremony.


What's the BEST part of being on a Cross Country team?

  • You get to amaze yourself by doing something incredible. (This happens for just about every runner on our team.)
  • You learn that you can be tougher and stronger than you ever imagined.
  • You learn to break up difficult stretches into manageable mini-problems.
  • During a long run, it's not unusual to be your most creative self and to be able to look at yourself and any problems you may have in a new light.
  • You develop a life-long love of running, one of life's best antidepressants.

The weather is usually great, too!


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