I have run cross country for three years, and I still train for a couple of local marathons to this day. I have had plenty of ups and downs, from encountering bad weather to an ankle sprain and so forth. Some things are unpredictable in regards to how successful of a runner one can be, and other factors are solely based off of the runner’s goals and mental mind-set. There are a few tips that I recommend for a track or cross country athlete.
You must hydrate constantly. Many people think that by consuming a huge amount of liquids an hour before a race or competition will ensure that they are fully hydrated before an event. What actually happens is that the runner is forced to pee everything out right before, causing even more dehydration to take place. Yes, I know it’s difficult to get the eight recommended cups a day, but one needs to try and get somewhere close. Don’t wait until the day of the competition; hydrate throughout the week, even when you’re not thirsty. The rule of thumb is that if you don’t pee enough, you’re not drinking enough.
Understand that you are an athlete and not just a runner. There is a huge difference between the two because an athlete’s main goal is to win, while a runner could just do it for leisure. Mentally, an athlete needs to be on his or her game and ready to fight their opponent to the death. An exceptional runner will not do well in either track or cross country but an athlete will mentally have what it takes to outdo the other team.
Ever heard of drafting? Drafting is when an athlete runs immediately behind or beside of an opponent until the very last minute, where the athlete can sprint ahead to the finish. Usually this is done with an athlete who has the same running ability, making it easier to keep up with them. If an athlete learns how to pace off of others, this can ensure an easy win.
Take time off when needed. Do not try to push through an injury as I have tried to do several times in my career. By doing this, you can and most definitely will make it worse, causing you to sit out a chunk of the season. It doesn’t matter how bad the injury is at first — a bad fall, a bruised heal — sit down! Coaches would rather you recover in a few days than to stretch the injury out for weeks. Don’t worry. You will not get penalized for being injured, because it can happen to anyone.
These tips can help an athlete do well in the track or cross country arena. However, it is the full responsibility of the athlete to do what needs to be done in order to get faster, stronger, and athletically smarter. A sense of balance must be achieved between physical and mental capabilities — all depending on the runner’s actions. So drink up, think fast, think smart, and you will go very far.