As the sound of the pistol goes off and rings through the air, the runners take off, elbowing past one another trying to get an early lead. Cross Country is a five mile trek across a rocky terrain, full of hills, in 90-degree weather trying to finish with the best time, though the most difficult part isn’t actually the run.
Mental endurance is a big part of any sport, it makes the difference between first and second place. Having a positive mentality is especially necessary with Cross Country, as you only have yourself to motivate you. Veronica Seder, senior, knows that some of the best runners have a hard time running. Even the strongest, fastest, and focused runners have a tough time because they don’t have enough perseverance to keep motivated throughout the race.
“Cross Country is a difficult sport because it’s less about your physical strength, and more about your endurance. You can train, and train, and weightlift all you want and be the strongest person ever, but if you don’t have the mental endurance, then it’s going to make it even more difficult,” Seder said.
It is a sport that cares more about your mind and the thoughts running through it, rather than your body. It becomes a marathon race for your concentration. Alex Dichert, junior, knows cross country doesn’t just push you to your max physically, but also mentally.
“Cross Country pushes you to your limits, to see how good of an athlete you are mentally, to see how far you can go, how fast, if you can keep up with the workouts. It really shows what you’re made of,” Dichert said.
Though both Track and Cross Country require a fast run and level of persistence at the highest tier while also keeping a form that would help you have the fastest time, there are also many differences in the sports, in terms of distance, imagery, and overall feelings associated with each one, making it a strenuous and tiresome transition to make. Morgan Boone, sophomore, made the conversion from running through trees in heat to running around a track eight times in that same grueling heat. Running in itself is very hard, but doing it with the same course is more difficult.
“I’m a distance runner, so although Cross Country is hard, track is even harder because the longest run that they have is the two mile. So it’s more about how fast you are instead of how long you can run; both are hard, but track is hardest just because it’s the same, nothing different,” Boone said.
While Cross Country is exhausting for some long-distance runners, Track is as well. Having to run around the same circle countless times, seeing the same people and things, all while listening to coaches and parents yell to move faster can become mundane and overwhelming. This, making it even more important for Seder and other runners to keep focus on the task at hand and persist through the distractions and routine sights.
“Track is difficult for me because you are just running on a track the whole time. I do the two mile, just going around and ‘round and ‘round eight times makes it really hard for me because I like a change in scenery and enjoy running through different terrains. It helps keep my mind of off things, but as you’re just going around and ‘round and ‘round and you’re seeing the same things over and over again makes it really hard to keep that focus and not lose steam and get tired,” Seder said.
But the routine and unvarying course for the two mile run for track isn’t the only difficult thing about it. Having coaches seeing every move you make also puts a pessimistic view of track into the Cross Country runners’ heads. The challenge lies in sideline coaching for Dichert.
“Track is even more difficult because the coaches can see your form. And they see everything you do. So having them yell at you to run a certain way makes it very difficult,” Dichert said.
The five mile race across an unpaved path through trees and kicked up dirt in the Texas heat and humidity might seem like an unthinkable thought for the most people, but for a Cross Country athlete, its only the beginning.