What Is Cross Country Running?

CC or XC is an acronym for Cross country running, which is a running event where runners compete against each other in open-air tracks. It is a famous sport that occurs outdoors on rough terrain. In the USA, the sport is organized by different organizations during the fall or winter. Many athletes/participants take advantage of the sport to increase stamina and develop fitness. Cross country doesn’t need to be only for a group, but an individual can participate as well.

Cross country has been practiced for many years, and in the 19th century, the British established the first rules. It is a sport for all types of gender, and they are expected to run at least 4-12 km, but it varies. Distances are different according to age groups, and each event is different from the other.

There are two types of cross-country meets. One is competitions, which can be dual meets, state championships, or conference championships. The other is invitational, which are bigger meets that are open to individual runners or team members with no affiliation. In smaller meets, competition is held together to save time. Smaller meets are usually schools/colleges or mixing the genders.

The Rich History Of Cross Country Running

Rich History Of Cross Country Running

Cross-country is a sport that has emerged from Crick Run since 1838. In the early 19th century, cross country running was known as paper chasing. Britain described cross country running as having a few hares and hounds. The hares would be given a head start, leaving paper scrap tails.  The hounds follow the trails and catch up with the hares.

In 1876, England held the first official national championship in Rugby school. Unfortunately, the event was announced void because none of the athletes were at the designated course. All private schools in England practiced the sport.

The sport was introduced in the USA in 1878 by William. C. Vosburgh, mainly for training. It became a formal sport nine years later. The first international cross-country competition was between England and France in 1898.  

In 1903, Britain established the intercontinental championship, and in 1973, it was retitled World Cross Country championships. Different countries came together to register the event under the International Association of Athletes Federation (IAAF) in 1913. IAAF allowed women to participate in cross-country running in the 1960s.

Cross country running was part of the Olympics, but unfortunately, it got canceled after 1924 because it was considered an inappropriate summer sport. The sport is famous worldwide except in Asia.

The Cross Country Rules

The Cross Country Rules

As mentioned above, the rules were introduced much later.  All participants start from the same point, and the first one to finish the race is declared the winner. 

In some instances, if the participants fall or collide in the first 100 meters, the race is restarted.  In an international cross country competition, six participants represent their country, out of which mostly four will score. Based on an individual’s position, points are awarded after running past the finish line.  

The country with the lowest scores wins the race after adding the points. Most cross-country events are held where the roads are straight but do not have smooth curves, and participants cannot cross the road. The IAAF ensures that the course is not held in any dangerous area and has no deep ditches.


Teams come up with various strategies to win the race. There is no common formula to win the race. Some runners of the same country will run together, whereas others will run individually, and most participants keep a steady and efficient pace at the start. After a few meters, they increase their pace.


Most athletes/ participants face mental and physical challenges because they dedicate their bodies to the course, opponents, and surroundings. They must run through snow or mud and bear the temperature without special equipment or clothing.  

In most cases, participants run closely with their opponents or team members.

Some athletes also participate in other sports during the spring and summer. Road and long-distance running, mountain running, uphill and downhill cross country running takes place so as to be in shape and keep their energy and pace.

Difference Between Cross Country Running And Track Running

Cross country running is different from marathon or track running because, in cross country, participants run in the open country, whereas marathons take place either on the roads or paths.  The countryside includes grass, woods, and hills.

Cross-Training Tips

Here are a few tips for cross-training to improve running in cross-country events.

1. Buying The Right Shoes

It is imperative to wear the correct running shoes for cross country. Bearing in mind that cross-country courses are hilly, rough, grassy, slippery, and snowy, it is best to buy shoes that have high traction and mental spikes. Some shoes are manufactured especially for cross-country, and participants can invest in them.

2. Exercise On Hills

It is advised to participate on hills as the cross-country course can change, and the area can be uneven. It will help strengthen runners’ lungs and legs, preparing them for competition. Runners can run on uneven terrains such as parks and golf courses. It is better to practice outdoors in the hilly area instead of indoors on treadmills or flat tracks.

3. Do Not Focus On Pace 

As much as the pace is vital in cross country running, it is imperative not to keep track of it when practicing because running on uneven terrain will slow down the pace. With consistent practice, runners will know how to track their pace on hilly or uneven areas.

4. Maintain A Base

Cross-country running needs ample practice. It doesn’t make sense to practice ten days before the big event. Cross-country running needs consistency, and the participants need to be mentally prepared for the challenge.  

Most runners run all year, in all parts of the field (even or uneven). Another exercise they indulge in is vital for their stamina, especially cardio-based.

5. Train With A Team

Practice with a group of runners. Running with a team derives motivation helps in keeping track of time and records of the run. Another benefit of running with other members is sharing tips and observing new techniques.


Cross country is a great sport, and one needs to have a great physique to participate. It requires frequent training. There is no restriction to age group because children under five years participate in the event and run a short distance. 

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