Ready to run: Cross country builds muscles, confidence, friendships


Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2006

During the fall, there are numerous high school sports a student can participate in. There are team sports — football or volleyball — and individual sports — swimming and cross country running.

I’m not good at swimming or volleyball and I don’t know much about football, but I am a cross country runner and I think it is a fantastic sport to participate in during the fall.

If you want to get into shape for a winter sport or to just get in better shape over all, spend the last nice days before winter outside without wearing a helmet and pads, or want to get to know different people before school starts, then cross country could be the sport for you.

The season starts at the end of July and you gradually begin to go on harder and harder runs. You don’t just automatically start practice and have to run 6 miles. You just run for a certain amount of time, usually about 20 minutes or less and then you’re done for the day. Eventually, the coach will bump the time up to 30-, 40- and 45-minute runs on trails with a variety challenges, such as big hills or a long distance, according to what the team will be working on that day.

Sometimes the runs are shorter if the coach, Kent Peterson, has us do arm and abdominal strengthening exercises, which include push-ups and sit-ups, just to list a few. That is what makes cross country running such a good sport for getting in shape — you end up working out all your muscles nearly every day.

The sports that are in the fall seem to be the only ones that aren’t affected by the long winter and snow like track and soccer are in the spring. Cross country begins when it is still warm and sunny and ends before it gets really cold. That leaves the perfect window of time for the runners to enjoy the final weeks of summer and finish up the season before it gets too chilly. Only in cross country do you get to go outside and run around in the woods, eat berries and watch the leaves slowly change from the bright green of summer to the beautiful orange and yellow of fall.

Since the season starts before the school year does, you will get to know the people on your team before school starts. There is plenty of time to talk to new people and get to know them at practice, making it easy to make friends. Nearly everyone is friendly and no one judges you on how you dress or look or run. It is all about running and having fun.

You don’t have to be big, tall, strong, or even fast to be a cross country runner, you just need strong determination and the will to do your personal best. It doesn’t matter whether a runner comes in first place or 91st , they still come sprinting across the finish line with the same determination as the person ahead or behind them. That is what matters in this sport, doing your best and enjoying every minute of it.

For one of my classes I have to put together a movie using video clips and pictures of the running season from different races. I get to watch people giving their all to run 3.1 miles as fast as they can. If you were to ask many runners before or during a race why they ran, all they would be able to tell you is how much they hate it and that they wonder why they are running themselves.

But if you talk to a runner once they crossed the finish line why they do what they do they many may tell you it’s because of what they just did. There is no feeling in the world that can quite relate to stumbling half dead across the finish line and realizing you just ran a 5-kilometer race and sprinted the last 100-meters of the race to beat the person ahead of you. They may even tell you they run because they want that feeling of accomplishment.

Cross country builds confidence, muscles and friendships. It is a good way to get in shape and enjoy the warm weather before it is replaced with the months of snow and ice. I am a runner and cross country is my sport. I have run more than 200 miles during the running season. I like to run for fun. I think cross country is an awesome sport.

Mallory Millay is junior at Skyview High School.

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