Track & XC

With the state meet on the horizon, it’s probably sacrilegious to think about track, but I can’t help myself! As we tune up for the state meet, we hit the track for some speed workouts. These workouts provide me some good insight to which runners have some raw speed vs. those who are more endurance grinders. It lets me know who has the speed to run 400’s and 800’s on the track, and all track coaches know you can never have enough middle distance runners.

Speaking of track and XC, these are great sports that benefit each other. To be clear, they are similar, but definitely not the same sport. Some prefer XC, others prefer racing on the track. But regardless of which you lean towards, there are many benefits to doing both.

For those who prefer the long grind of 3 mile XC races, the repetitive laps on the track can be excruciating. Somehow, running the 3200 on the track seems way longer than any 3 mile xc race. And then move that race indoors and that only exacerbates the perceived length. Despite the monotony of track running, these distance runners need track season the most. Speed is usually their weakness, and there’s nothing better than an entire track season of speed work.

Other runners favor the speed of track and do their best to get through the distance of xc. For them, 3 miles is a heck of a long way to push yourself in race. They would much prefer the speed and intensity of a 2 minute 800m race. But xc offers them a bounty of physical and mental benefits as well. Despite its need for speed, the 800 still requires a substantial aerobic endurance base to be successful. XC provides this in spades for these speedy runners. Maybe even more importantly, a season of xc provides these runners with a stronger mental resolve. These runners gain the mental toughness it takes to race a 3 mile race, grind out long tempo runs, and repeat 1000’s. They learn that they can push themselves farther than expected. This year, we even had several sprinters join the xc team, and I couldn’t have been more proud. This was a huge leap of faith for them, as running distance is way out of their comfort zone. But they have come a long way and made great progress. I’m also really excited to see how they will fair this coming track season after all their hard work this fall. Along with their physical and mental gains, the best aspect of their choice to run xc, is the fact they got to train and compete as part of a team.

So weather you are an xc distance purist, or a track speedster, competing in each sport offers valuable benefits and makes for a well rounded runner.


3 thoughts on “Track & XC

  1. Hi Coach Raak! I’m curious whether it makes sense for the x-country runner to focus on 400/800/1600 competition during the indoor season to build speed in advance of outdoor track season. Is this a good way to prepare for 3200 PR’s? Thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great question! I prefer to focus on building aerobic endurance first and then sharpening speed later. But, I also like to limit the number of 3200m races, as they can really wear a runner down…especially indoors. So, for 3200m runners, we usually train long, and race short for much of the indoor season. Plus, I like varying events up and having all my distance runners run a variety of events throughout the season. I like runners to race shorter than goal event for speed training, and longer than goal event so their goal event distance doesn’t seem as long. This means finding a way to “race” 3 miles, which can be interesting! It would be a great idea to sit down with coach and plan out certain “big” meets to focus on and run the 3200 there.


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