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Racing
October 08, 2015

How To Race Cross Country

Sarah Mac

Do you wake up on a crisp fall morning and think, ahh it smells like cross country season? This blog is for you. Do you wake up on a crisp fall morning, open Twitter, click on this link and then wonder what is cross country? And what does it smell like? This blog is also for you.

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Cross country races are off road, often through wild (read: muddy) conditions and are usually between 4 and 8 kilometers long. Competitors wear shoes called spikes. Which shape and length spike they twist into the bottom of the shoe depends on the course and conditions.

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On a cross country team, you have typically have 7 runners and 5 of these score. You want the lowest score. So if your runners place 2, 4, 8, 12 and 16, your score is 42. If another team ties you, you look to your 6th and 7th to break the tie.

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Cross country is painful in the best way. And a runner’s favorite part of the day is trading post race ‘battle stories’. Such as, “Holy nuggets, then I came down that hill and hurdled Cynthia who’d completely wiped out.” Or, “I blacked out the entire last 400 and then threw up on Cynthia’s spikes in the finish chute.”

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Pasta dinners are team building events the night before cross country races. And while carbing up before a 5k isn’t necessary it’s the perfect time to bond with your team about the race ahead and smack talk the other teams. Cross country excitement and dread is best enjoyed with friends and #allthecarbs.

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Now you might think, but I graduated. Isn’t this like a school sport? Dust off (or buy) those spikes and think again! You can race cross country as an adult! By choice!

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How to Find a Local Race
Your best bet is to use this search form on USATF or find your local USATF association. There will be some events not listed if they aren’t part of USATF

You’ll need a USATF membership to enter any of these races. It’s $30 for the entire year plus you get a sweet bumper sticker.

How to Make a Team
You can race unattached or with a team. To make a team:

  • Find 4 – 7 other friends. (5 people score, with max of 8 on a team OR if you’re a Masters Team 9 are accepted)
  • Sign up as a club
  • Get matching kits
  • Organize pre-race pasta dinner(s)
  • Race your shorts (or buns) off

Why not try cross country? It's a fall fave even more classic than PSL. 

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