There is a difference between running cross country and running track. The scenery changes. With track, you just run in circles. Cross country runners get a variety of terrains, such as rocky trails, grassy plains, or tall forests. A 400 meter oval of astroturf is nothing compared to the beauty of a mountain run.
Distance running is something special. You breathe differently. Running up a hill requires a completely different breathing patterm than running on a flat road. Steps start at the back of the heel and finish by rolling off the front of the toes. Sprinters just don't understand... Cross country is not about who can reach the finish the fastest, its about who can endure the longest. Track stars don't make good marathon runners.
Cross country is the only sport where everyone says "good job!" Running down a street or even during a race, every single person you run by will give you a smile or fumble out those two encouraging words. Somehow, these little gestures keep a person going even if they feel wiped out by their overwhelming workout.
Running cross country was the highlight of my high school career. My experiences were not limited to races, but extended far beyond into a community where I felt encouraged to excel in every aspect of my life. My freshman year, I was obviously a pretty slow runner.. I remember my very first day of summer practice! After 10 minutes of running, I could not feel my quads because I was so sore. Each year I improved, soon becoming the Boys Cross Country Captain my senior year.
The race that I am most proud of was my very last run with my high school cross country team. League finals, senior year, was being held at Mt. Sac. The course consisted of four parts: a one mile "valley loop", the "switchbacks", "poop-out" hill and "reservoir" hill. All of Southern California would agree, this is one of the most difficult courses around. I was more mentally prepared for this run than any other. I knew the course. I could feel each hill, each rock, each turn, each footstep. I ran like I had never run before. Before then, I had never broken 19 minutes at sac. That day I ran a 17:53! I cried at the finish line. It was my reward for four years of running. That made it all worth it.
For our banquet at the end of the season, each runner votes for the P.R.I.D.E. awards. These are the most valuable awards that a runner can get because they are voted upon by his or her fellow teammates.Performance -- This is one of the fastest runners. They always finish races in the first pack, and are usually upperclassmen.
Reliability -- This runner is a person you can count on to finish a race strong. They may not the fastest, but finish very high on the list and are very valuable runners.
Improvement -- The improvement award goes to the person who has come the farthest during the season. They may have been just a beginner and have turned to following the varsity pack.
Dedication -- This person has the most respect for Cross Country, and has fallen in love with the sport. They are always encouraging their fellow teammates.
Effort -- A runner who is constantly working hard to improve and become the best runner that they can possibly be gets this award. They always begin a race with finishing strong in mind.
My sophmore year, my peers voted me for the improvement award. My junior year, they voted me the effort award. My senior year, my fellow runners voted for me for the dedication award. To this day, I proudly display those trophies on my shelf at home. :)
Running is a way of life.