The Magic of Cross Ö.. By Ron Jackson
Ö This is a reprint of an article that appeared in the November 2008 issue of the online Magazine ĎTrackMom.comí
You know it still amazes me how transformative the sport of Cross Country can be. I know it is still considered by many just a sub-set of Track and Field and mostly reserved for those runners who canít or donít want to play soccer, football or basketball. They just seem to like running and all that the sport forebodes. To them distance is of little consequence, bad weather is for the feint of heart and sitting all day in the sun waiting to run a 100 meter dash is a pure waste of everybodyís time.
I say all of this as an individual who loves the Sprints & Middle Distances. I love the unforgiving nature of the events and I love the fact that you can get out exactly what you put in. But why Cross Country? What can I possibly gain from running a long, slow race? I am a sprinter and I love speed and all it portends. I donít have the patience for long, agonizing races that no one seems to care where I finish. Whatís in it for me? Well all I can say is that Cross Country, for the young runner, can be the most gracious and eloquent training tool that they may ever be exposed to. Gracious in that it assists in the development of the young body in ways that only pure running can. No weights, no daily limits on time or distance. As Jesse Owens used to say
ďI always loved running. It was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, as fast or as slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs."
Eloquent in that it expresses silently an achievement that only the real runner can appreciate. Running Cross Country removes the fear of distance from the track novice. Time becomes the only element of concern while on the track. Iím stronger, faster and better than I ever was. So bring on those puny races like the 400, 800 and 1500. I just ran 3000, 4000 or 5000 meters so what do I care. I know I will finish the race so the only question is the time. Those of you who have not prepared have to face questions of both time and distance.
So when they ask you what did you do this off season? You can tell them that you removed one of the elements of fear from your vocabulary. You no longer fear the distance. You know that you can finish whatever race you enter on the track. You now only need be concerned with your time. What a luxury.
I am not trying to convince anyone that Cross Country is anything but an experience that can and does pay huge dividends to those who partake. I used to be one of the skeptics but Iíve seen too many young runners make quantum leaps on the track after a season on the dirt and hills of Cross Country.† I now know that Cross Country is not only fun but it can really help prepare you for the track.