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Cross Country FAQ

For anyone thinking about taking up cross country running for the first time here are the answers to some frequently asked questions, but do ask if there is anything else that you would like to know:

Q: Why run in muddy fields when you can run on roads?
A: Because it’s fun! And although there will be some mud and hills these are not artificially created assault course style races of the type that some people pay an arm and a leg to enter. People come to cross country for many different reasons: for some, it is the main focus of the season but track runners also come to build up endurance during the winter, marathon and ultra runners can count a cross country race as the “tempo run” of their training schedule, parkrun regulars might want to try something a little more challenging (and a little more interesting).

Q: I am just a jogger, won’t the standard be too high for me?
A: No! People of all standards run in these races, even in something as prestigious as the English National Championships there is plenty of room for everyone at the back of the field.

Q: What distances are the races?
A: For seniors anything from 5 to 10 miles, although there is also a relay that we enter where each leg is just 2.5 miles. Races are of shorter distances for younger age groups. 

Q: How much does it cost?
A: We charge £3 per runner for our club championship races (£5 for non-members). All of the other races are free! (that is to say that the club pays the entry fees).

Q: What ages are these races for?

A: From 11 upwards. Races for juniors are run in two year age bands (under 13s, under 15s , etc.). There are also vets races for women over 35 and men over 40 run in ten year age bands.

Q: How do I enter?
A: For the club races we just take entries on the day. All of the other races need to be entered in advance, you will be pestered with emails from the relevant team manager inviting entries to fixtures as they come.

Q: How do I get to the races?
A: For the more local races most people generally make their own way, either by car or public transport depending on the venue, but if you need a lift it can usually be arranged. For those further afield there will be opportunities for car-sharing or for travelling by train as a group. The club has a minibus which is usually used to take the youngsters.

Q: Do I need to buy special shoes?
A: No, if you only have a pair of ordinary trainers you should not be put off running, and much of the time you will not be at a serious disadvantage. Having said that once you have tried it you might decide to buy something with better grip in muddy conditions, in which case you have two choices: “spikes” or “studs”. Spikes have the advantage of giving the best grip when it is very muddy, and since the spikes themselves are removable you can replace them as they wear down or even select the optimum spike length for the conditions. However, many courses these days include paths that can be quite compacted or may even have short stretches of tarmac, where spikes will give poor grip, will be uncomfortable and will wear down quickly. If you only wanted to invest in one pair of shoes I would recommend the more versatile studs. These have a rubber studded sole and may be sold as “trail shoes” of “fell shoes” depending on how deep the tread is.

Q: Is there training specifically for cross country?

A: During the winter we have occasional training days in Joydens Wood (near our clubhouse) but for the most part training is no different from that for more general distance running; for adults the groups at Sutcliffe Park run by Glynis Penny, Ron Allison and Clem Dixon, or the Wednesday evening sessions at the clubhouse; for juniors Mark Newell's group at Sutcliffe Park. 

Q: Do I need a club vest?
A: Yes. Our three club races are open to all and there is no dress code but for all of the other races, you will have been entered to run for the club and must wear a vest. Of course, if the weather is bad you can always wear your vest over something else, although you may need to be prepared for some sarcastic comments from the hardcore vests-only-whatever-the-weather contingent.

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