*Disclaimer* Please note that all of the below are my personal tips. Although I’m not a qualified running coach, I have first-hand experience of cross country running.
I thought that as it’s the cross country season, I’d share some of my personal hints and tips. Although my niggly knee means that I’m avoiding the mud this season, I’ve been lucky enough to participate in a range of cross country races in the past. While I’m far from being a cross country running ‘expert’, I have learnt a lot along the way.
1. Take several pairs of running shoes with you. You probably won’t know the exact terrain and conditions of the course until the day of the race. Courses vary from day to day depending on how much rain there’s been. One day it might be 15mm spikes, another day trail shoes or even road shoes. If In doubt ask! Once you’ve decided which shoes to wear, do your laces up really tightly, if you don’t they will probably come off. For extra shoe security gaffer tape can be used to hold your shoes on your feet. This has the added bonus of preventing the laces getting covered in mud.
2. Take loads of clothes with you for before and after you’ve raced. If it’s cold gloves and a hat are a must! Don’t use your favourite/most expensive running bag, it will probably get muddy. I used to carry all of my gear in a black bin bag. I may have looked a bit daft but my clothes generally stayed dry and mud free while I was running. Remember that changing facilities will probably be limited or in some cases nonexistent.
3. Wear black or dark coloured socks! I once wore my ‘lucky’ white compression socks. I didn’t make the same mistake a second time.
4. Always wear short shorts. Legs are a lot easier to wash than running capris and running tights. Baby wipes are brilliant at getting rid of the large chunks of mud on your legs, arms, face etc…
5. Take loads of food and drinks for afterwards. Cakes and other homemade snacks seem to be really popular. When it was really cold, I used to take a thermos flask filled with me. There are no goody bags at cross country races and food and drink facilities are often nonexistent.
6. Wear your GPS watch if you want to but don’t get too hung-up on pace and time. In my experience, cross country courses are generally challenging with large hills and middy sections. Your pace will be a lot slower than it is on the road. Also, don’t spend too much time comparing your times across different courses. Each course is unique and you can only really compare your time on the same course. Even then, if conditions are different, it can be relatively meaningless. Race against others!
7. Wash your shoes as soon as you can when you get home. I used to hose off the majority of the mud outside, and then use a bowl of soapy water and an old toothbrush. I would then give my shoes a final rinse in the shower. Once my shoes were clean, I would remove the spikes and put Vaseline in the spike holes. Never let your spikes go rusty, they can be really difficult to remove. I may have learnt this the hard way.
8. Finally, try to smile and have fun. Cross country running is challenging but it is also great fun!
Do you have any cross country running hints and tips to add to my quick guide?
Do you enjoy cross country running or do you avoid the mud?