Final Thoughts

It has been a great opportunity to write about my passion for running and to share my observations and experiences with others. The last time I posted, I mentioned indoor track. I ended up doing track, and grew in my relationships with my teammates. I continued hydrating, stretching, and icing, as I advised you to do as well. Thanks to putting the work in and to dedication of the coaches, I have improved on my 5K time for track.

I originally started this blog as a companion to a website I created for a class. Now that the school year and track season are coming to a close, I have written my final post.

I’d love to hear what you liked about my blog and any critique you have. Please share any stories about your track experiences in the comments!


Cross Country Season, complete. Indoor Track- Should I?

Reasons why you should consider doing indoor/winter track:

-train at a consistent time every day

-by committing to the team, you will regularly practice

-always have someone to run with

-continue to improve your time

-opportunity for a slightly different approach to running

-different coaches you will learn from

-the physical activity will help you manage your stress

-increase in flexibility as a result of all the stretching and warming up you do for track

You may have an activity that you really want to participate in that conflicts with track and you can only do one. If you want to choose the other activity, go for it!

With regard to extra curricular activities in general, if you see something you might like to try, and your schedule isn’t already jam-packed, pursue those interests. My freshman year of high school, before I started running, I was in the spring musical- I had a great experience and really enjoyed it.

I definitely noticed the difference the lack of physical activity had on concentration when working on homework, and after drama practices I would feel a little sluggish. The following year, I chose to run  indoor track instead of doing the musical, but this doesn’t have to be your decision, too.

Indoor track: form a foundation for what you would run in outdoor track

Without a doubt, I recommend you do outdoor track in the spring. My coaches in both high school and college told me my cross country times improved more consistently as a result of my doing outdoor track, and that this is the case for many cross country runners. If you do distance, several of the track workouts may be the same. On the distance team, you will still have at least two days per week where you do a distance run someplace not on the track. If you do winter track and outdoor track, you will improve continuously.

The choice is up to you. If you want, ask upperclassmen who did both cross country and track why they chose to do so, and ask them what you consider when doing track. Often the term “time commitment” comes to mind. Know what you’re getting in to before making a final decision.

Who do you know that runs track as well as cross country? Have you asked them why they chose to do both? 

Evaluating My Own Cross Country Season

In my last post I included a few non-traditional ways of evaluating your cross country season. I recently concluded my cross country season when I participated in my university’s conference championships. It was a big deal for me because it was my final cross country race in college and as a member of a team. True, I may end up running a 5K, perhaps a half marathon, in my distant future and don’t know it yet; for now, I’m pretty sure this is my last time running as a member of a cross country team.

Through my cross country career in college, I have :

  • made the mental adjustment in pacing between a 5K and a 6K (the women’s race for college cross country)
  • been on the roster but not raced for one season due to 2 stress fractures and shin splints
  • participated in only one race for one season due to shin splints
  • formed great relationships with individual teammates

This past season was my first season since my freshman year of college that I got to fully participate in practice from the week before school started to the very end of the season. The relationships with my female teammates I’ve been running cross country with since freshman year grew deeper, because I finally got to practice with them and, as a result, got to improve my times and mental toughness by sticking together in a pack during practice and races.

I improved my time 6K time since freshman year by whole minutes, not just seconds. This is a result of consistently putting effort into the practices and doing my rehab exercises for my injuries (without which my injuries would not have gotten better), and a number of commitments I made over time.

Commitments to:

  • warming up and stretching before and after practice, as well as the day of a meet (since high school)
  • doing rehab exercises 6 days a week
    • even on days when the athletic training room isn’t open or when not practicing with the team (since sophomore year of college)
  • doing what I know I personally need to do the day before a race and the day of (since high school, as formed in me by my coach)
    • i.e. packing my bag and laying out my uniform the night before, making sure I eat  good breakfast and in plenty of time before my race
  • Icing my shins after every practice (sophomore year of college)
    • this is where most of my injuries have been located
  • Having a positive attitude during difficult practices even if they don’t go my way (sophomore year of high school)

I realized some of these commitments and habits when I had the chance to not do them (i.e. skipping exercises one day, or worrying about being able to keep up during a workout) when practicing with a teammate who was running cross country for the first time. These commitments have also extended to my work ethic outside of cross country and have developed my self-identity. Looking back, I’m really glad I decided to try the sport and that I continued it as long as I did.

Have you noticed any positive changes in yourself, as a result of being a member of your cross country team? How do your relationships on your cross country team relate to the types of relationships you have with teammates on other teams you’ve played for?

End of the Cross Country Season

Buckeye Local High School and  and Indian Creek High School cross country teams both had their respective final meets of the season on October 18, according to

Reflection on This Season:

I think it’s a good idea to look back at what you accomplished this year for cross country, what you did well, what you are proud of.

There will be plenty of time to think about what you could improve in the future, but for this post I would like you to focus on your accomplishments of the season.

Perhaps this is your first year doing cross country. If it is, congrats on completing your first season! If this is your second, third or fourth season, I am very happy for you. There is merit to such a commitment, year after year.

You shouldn’t need to be reminded to be happy if you improved your time, no matter whether it is by 4 or 5 minutes (if you’re a rookie), or by 10 seconds that you’ve been trying to shave off your time for 2 years (if you’re a veteran) -that feels amazing and empowering all by itself. However, there are other improvements besides a lifetime personal record.

Some things to think about:

  • How did you improve over the course of the season, from the first cross country meet to your final meet?
    • My high school cross country coach would regularly type up this kind of comparison. Each week in an email we would receive a document with each person’s times for each of the races for that season (or records of that meet and course in past years, as well as the average mile split.
  • Did you work your way up to running with a slightly faster runner on the team?
  • Did you help lead your pack, which you hadn’t done before?
  • Did you learn to pace evenly, so that there was only a few seconds difference in each of your miles in a race?
  • Did you improve the strength of your kick at the end of your races?
  • Did you increase your contribution to the team by coming to practice with an attitude of being “ready to work” and by encouraging other runners?
  • Did you prepare for the season more effectively, by your summer running, doing stretching, getting sleep and eating proper fuel for an athlete?

There are time improvements,  there are self-maintenance improvements, and there are leadership improvements. All of these count and you should pat yourself on the back for that.


After being proud of yourself and acknowledging your achievements this season, I encourage you to think of your teammates, and ask yourself, “Is there anyone on my team who did a good job pushing himself the entire race without giving up, or whose hard work training over the summer paid off and she was one of the top 3 runners this year?” If you can, let them know that you noticed the effort your teammate contributed and that you admire it in them. You could instead write them a note on an index card then hand it to them to read when you’re not around.

In such a demanding and mentally challenging sport as cross country, everyone deserves to be recognized and receive praise for the hard work they put in –both you, and everyone else on your team.

Though you may not see your improvement on the list above, you accomplished something by running this season. Not everyone has what it takes to run cross country, but by being a member of a team for this sport, it shows you have courage – to push yourself and persevere through hard workouts – and dedication –to consistently put effort into your training and to commit yourself as a member of the cross country team.

Are there any achievements this season you didn’t realize until now?

Who on your team performed well this season but rarely gets recognized for their hard work? Will you congratulate them?

What NOT to Eat Before a Race

Here’s what I’ve learned over time while running cross country:

  • Different people race differently. Different people also eat before races differently.
  • I would recommend eating 2 hours before your race. Although I do have teammates who eat their breakfast 1 hour before racing, I personally avoid that at all costs.

Often this means waking up 15 minutes earlier to allow time for digestion.

What NOT to eat before a race (this is in references to races in the mornings):

  • Milk, dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Meat products (i.e bacon)
  • Candy (you should know that)
  • Desserts

I would recommend a combination of two categories:

Some sort of bread or carbohydrates:

  • Granola bars
  • Protein bars
  • Belveeta biscuits (link)
  • Bagel with peanut butter
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter
    • Cream cheese: I’m not sure how I feel about it on race day: I personally have never dared to try it. It might just be a psychological reason, rather than how my body responds to it.
  • A handful or 3 of Quaker Oatmeal Squares,
  • Crackling oat bran…
  • Just don’t put milk on it

Fruit and/ or raw vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Bananas (I would discourage eating one within 2 hours of your race)
  • Red and green grapes
  • Sugar snap peas or baby carrots, raw

Remember to drink water! Hydrate the day before and the morning of your race, starting as soon as you get up.

  • Be sure to bring a water bottle with you in your bag before you leave your house.
    • Drink some water for the second to last hour before your race, and then don’t drink any more after that, except for maybe a couple swallows.

As I said before, I have to finish eating breakfast at least 2 hours before my race. Also, the final hour before my race is when my team does a group warm-up, so I would have to be done eating before then anyway. Experiment a little and see what works for you.

What do you prefer to eat before a race? How did you choose that?

My Thoughts on Stretching

I could talk for hours about stretching.

Some runners will indefinitely get injured if they don’t stretch; some find they run better if they stretch before running, others never stretch and seem unaffected by this fact.

I know there are debates for and against stretching before running. Stretching before running is what works for me, and I’ve been running cross country for 6 years (for my high school and college cross country teams). I have gotten injured a couple times (shin-related).

On my high school team, it depended on whether the team would do a workout (i.e. tempo run, intervals, 1000s in a field- anything for which the coaches needed to give the runners their paces) or a distance run. On hard workout days, we would spend about 45 minutes to an hour warming up and stretching.

On distance run days, when the team didn’t warm up, I would arrive to practice 10 minutes early and do some stretches up until practice started. We would always stretch after the workout as a team, no matter whether it was a hard workout or a distance run.

Ever since high school (I got injured more than once there), I have stretched before and after running, as much as I can. It is somewhat of a duty and a responsibility. I say to myself, if I stretch, the workout will be easier. If I stretch, I won’t get injured. If I stretch, I will heal faster. I have learned by now that I have to stretch every day in order for it to make any difference. I also learned the hard way that I have to warm up first for most of the stretches to work properly.

My orthopedists speculated that my shin splints may have resulted from my incredibly tight calf muscles (now I stretch them for 8 minutes daily). Each time I saw the orthopedist about a new injury, the orthopedist (different doctor each time) would stress to me that I should warm up and stretch before every run, to try to recover from the injury and then prevent future injury.

Now in college, my cross country coach, a biology professor, does not require the runners to stretch before practice, saying that there is no experimental evidence that stretching prevents injury. He does, however, emphasize warming up and cooling down on hard work out days. Even though I am not required by my coach to stretch, I make time to do it because I have learned that it is necessary for me personally. Orthopedists and the athletic trainer stress to me that I need to warm up and stretch out my muscles if I want my shin splints to get better.

My coach is well aware of the commonness of injuries in cross country runners, however, and he does incorporate injury prevention. At the end of distance runs, everyone does five 100 m. barefoot strides, an exercise we do to prevent shin injuries, and we do a couple other exercises on our own time.

What I do every day: I do some ankle strengthening exercises given to me by the athletic trainer as rehab for my shin splints. Then I ride the exercise bike for 5 minutes to warm up, then I stretch as much as I can before practice starts- I would prefer the stretching to last longer than 5 minutes, like I did in high school, but I do what I can with the time I have.

See my next article on my website for a list of stretches I recommend after a warm-up and after cool downs.

Do your coaches have you stretch before and/or after practice? Do you stretch even if the coach doesn’t require to you?

Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate!

As a runner, you know how important it is to hydrate. I’m sure it’s easy to remember it drink water only when you feel thirsty, but it’s important to drink water throughout the day.
I might even suggest checking the weather forecast –either on the newspaper, by googling your address and weather forecast, or whatever other way works for you- as long as there is a forecast involved.

If, for example, the forecast indicated that tomorrow there will be a high of 80 degrees, you might want to consider drinking more water than you usually drink. If the forecast is 90 degrees or above, you definitely should hydrate A LOT.

When I say “hydrate more than you usually do” I mean, drink about 3 more plastic water bottles (you know those 16.8 oz ones, or the size of bottle you get when you buy a case of bottled water) that day before practice.

The easiest way for me to remember is to drink a water bottle after each class. This way, you have a reminder of when it’s time to drink more water. It’s true, you will have to use the bathroom more often, but, you are a cross country runner- staying hydrated is what you do. Not only is it necessary –yourbody needs it—hydrating well results in a noticeable difference in how well you are able to perform your workout.

I have found that on a workout that I usually have difficulty keeping up with, though my pace was calculated for me by my coach (see my previous post), hydrating adequately meant the difference between being able to keep up with my pack, and struggling to hit my pace.

A word of caution: hydrate throughout the day, but as time gets closer to when your practice starts, taper off your water consumption. By then you should have drunk (yes, the past participle of the word drink) 48-64 oz of water (about 4 disposable water bottles, or two 32 oz Nalgene bottles). My personal experience: If I drink more than a few sips of water within 1 hour of starting practice, I get the uncomfortable sloshing of water in my stomach.

And teammates have told me they could hear the water when I ran on the days I did that.

At the very least, try to have three glasses of water per day (i.e. maybe one with each meal, or just whenever you think of it).

Readers, let me know if my post has encouraged you to be more conscious of how much water you drink per day.


Do you experience any discomfort when you drink too much water directly before a workout? Let me know in the comments!

In case you’re interested, here’s a link to a 32 oz Nalgene bottle- my water bottle of choice for cross country, or school or whatever.

What gets me excited about cross country practice

Different runners have different workouts they prefer. But every runner on a team must do the workouts assigned by the coach. So far this season, I have already had some workouts that were my favorite kind this season-my favorite is doing 1000 meter repeats- I get excited when I hear that my team will be doing 1000s.  I have found that the structure of each of the different workouts is similar to that of a workout I did for cross country in high school.

The purpose of certain cross country workouts target different aspects of cross country running. For example, tempo runs have to do with keeping a constant, steady pace, while 1000 meter repeats have to do with stamina, I think. For tempo runs, the pace is a little bit faster, and you have to hold the pace for a set time that is longer than the individual units of a set of 1000s, whereas with 1000s, you get some rest in between. For both tempo runs and 1000s, the pace is calculated for you by your coach or assistant coach, specifically based on your performance in past workouts and in races, so that the time you have to hit is just right for you or your running group. During a workout there may be some moments of doubt as to whether or not you can hit the pace you are given; however, the paces are calculated specifically for you. It is up to you and your teammates to find it in yourselves to get the workout done and hit your paces.

As a cross country runner, by now you probably know how significant the mental part of cross country is. As the saying goes, “running is a mental sport.”  It is a combination fulfilling your duty to complete the practices and rising to the challenge given to you (do the number of repetitions at the right pace for the number of times you were assigned). If the workouts I am describing sound unfamiliar, you will eventually do a workout something like these- perhaps later on in the season. Once you do  a couple tempo runs, a day of 1000s, my perspective on the workouts might make more sense.

What is your favorite kind of workout (i.e. intervals, tempo runs, 1000m repeats, etc.)?  Which workout is more challenging for you?

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