Not a Runner? No Problem. Try Cross Country Anyway


Running is filled with pain. It is said no pain, no gain, and in cross country, this phrase has never been more true. Faced with the challenges of massive hills and uncontrolled conditions, racing can become endless pain. Being trapped at the bottom of a hill is pure torture. Painfully pushing up the hill gains you progress. As a result, you race faster. 

But, is the gain worth the pain? 

Absolutely, every time.

After finishing your biggest challenge yet, there is nothing better than a celebration with your teammates who raced and shared that same pain. 

My cross country running experiences have shown that you don’t have to be the fastest runner on the team to have fun or get something out of participating. From team dinners and race days to traditions and other fun events, cross country is a sport that everyone can and should participate in at one point or another.


Team get-togethers have always been highlights of my cross country experience. Every night before a meet, our team will all eat a big pasta dinner. Loading up on carbs and chugging chocolate milk can make for a lot of fun. Personally, these dinners are enjoyable for socializing and eating good food with the team.

Of course, it’s important to reward yourself when you accomplish your goals. So, we always go out to Culver’s after a meet. 

We cram into the biggest corner booth and chow down on burgers and custard. Enjoying that delicious taste of food along with the taste of being done with your race is an awesome moment to share with your friends. .

Lots of silly things happen while we eat, as well. Once, my teammate ate a nine-patty burger. The struggle was real for him, but it was pure entertainment to the rest of us watching. 

These team dinners have always led to us hanging out outside of practice, further increasing our friendships.


I am always excited—but at the same time very scared—for race days.

The main reason I run five or six days a week is to get faster for race day. Also, running builds my cardiovascular endurance, which pays off when I play other sports with my friends. All of the workouts and long runs build up power for race day.

I know that my hard work will always pay off but at the cost of pushing myself through lots of pain in a race. I hate to feel that pain that makes you want to quit. There is a sensation inside of you that you feel halfway through a race that makes you think, “What am I doing?” It is easy to give up and just run the rest of the race easy, but I have learned that pushing beyond that pain can take you to new boundaries that make you faster.

Sometimes I wonder why I “embrace the suck,” as those in the running community like to say, but at the end of the day, I just want to go fast.

The best part of feeling pain in a race is that everyone else does, too—no matter their skill level. As a cross country team member, you are able to share that pain with your teammates, and it is always a good feeling to know you are not alone.

Cross county is also unique in that you compete as a team, but at the end of the day, races are all about improving your own time. Individual goals give you something to work toward. Perhaps the best part of cross country is the support and cheers that you hear when racing your absolute hardest. When you feel dead in a race, nothing is better than to hear friends and family shout your name and push you on. It is an indescribable extra push from hearing cheers all around.

Being on a cross country team is about being supportive of your teammates and just giving your best effort. You only fail in running if you don’t try your hardest. Team culture has taught me those values and efforts.

Some people are impressed by basketball players who score 20 points in a game or football players who score the winning touchdown, but I love it when I tell people I run and they look at me like I’m crazy. They can’t believe I would push myself through something like that.


I have always been a big fan of the team traditions that we have in cross country.

We play a lot of ultimate frisbee, which can be an adventure as not all runners are coordinated. Even though some of us are not the best, games can get competitive quickly.

Also, once a season, we split into groups and compete in wacky relays against each other. We dress up in themes and compete in mile, 800-, and 400-meter races. It can be a lot of fun and sometimes tricky when the costume is restricting your movement. Some of the memorable teams have been businessmen, minions, superheroes, robbers, and Romans.

If we make it to the state meet, we always go as a team to cheer or compete. I  have had a lot of fun rooming with friends. Traditionally all athletes not competing at the race play a football game the day before the meet. The teams are underclassmen vs. upperclassmen, and the coaches get involved sometimes, too. These games get pretty heated because we will brag about it over the rest of the state trip.

Watching the state meet is a good place to build motivation for future cross country seasons. Seeing the best runners in the state race is always a neat experience.

In addition, the bus rides to state and other meets are always memorable. This past season we crammed as many of us as we could into the bathroom of a coach bus.



Cross country is not about being the best; it’s about giving it your best effort. Pushing yourself to your limits is painful but also rewarding. And best of all, you can share all those efforts and emotions with teammates as you train, compete, and celebrate together.

My cross country experiences have taught me values and how to persevere. Whether you consider yourself fast, slow, or not even a runner at all, cross country is a great opportunity for everyone. Come out and give it a try. You will be surprised just how fun running can be.