Cross Country running is pure. There’s not the stress that comes with racing over fixed distances and chasing times or PBs. It’s just back-to-basics racing with no other goal than to beat as many people to the finish line as possible. What’s more, there’s a huge amount of variety – flat, hilly, muddy, firm, twisty, short, long – and different runners are suited to different courses, so there should be something for everyone. It’s also over relatively quickly – less than an hour in most cases – so you get a real buzz from the intensity.
A typical season starts in mid to late October, running right the way through to late February or early March.
Either will be fine on most courses, especially earlier in the season when it’s not so wet and muddy. But on particularly muddy courses, and as you start to seek out more performance gains, spikes are your best bet.
Spikes come in different lengths 9mm, 12mm and 15mm. These are relatively cheap and easy to change over.
Most track running is done through athletics clubs but there is an increasing number of general running clubs that are now booking out the track for club sessions. Most runners head to the track for speedwork, thanks to the flat surface and lack of obstacles. Speed work helps you build strength and efficiency, so you’ll be a more powerful runner on and off the oval track.
Most tracks are made from rubber. The rubber track surface makes the ground feel like a springboard, ultimately giving energy back to runners to use towards increasing their speed. “It’s also significantly more forgiving on your muscles and joints than running on hard surfaces” like the pavement or even a treadmill.
The 400-meter distance around the oval also makes it easy to set up speed workouts, which allows you to dial into the moment. “Instead of focusing on where you’re going, you can think about your stride, your efficiency, and your overall speed.
Track running spikes differ from cross country spikes even though the shoes are slightly different, most runners can safely wear track spikes during cross-country. The most important difference is in cushioning: Cross-country spikes generally have more forefoot and rearfoot cushioning than track spikes.
Most tracks only allow spikes that are no longer than 6mm.
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