Oct | 15
Running Tips

Four Racing Tips I Should Have Taken from My Cross Country Coach

What advice does your coach give you for cross country races?

There are people who look back at some of their races and think “If only I had listened to my coach.”

I am one of those people. When I ran in high school between 2003 and 2007, I was young and I didn’t always take my coaches’ advice to heart. Then, when I competed in college for the next four years, I was at times stubborn and thought I knew all there was to know about racing.

I was lucky to have coaches who gave me good racing advice. Many times,  I just wasn’t smart enough take it.

Here are the four things they told me about racing cross country that I didn’t listen to, but should have:

1. Double-Check Your Double-Tie

It may seem silly, but I guarantee you that the day you don’t double-check that you’ve double-tied your laces before the start of a race will be the day they come untied. You’ll be the person who hobbles through the entire race hoping to keep your loose, danging shoe on your foot (that was me). Or even worse, you’ll be the person kicking down the final straightaway with only one shoe on. 

2. Control Your Start

Even in my senior year of collegiate cross country, I've still got my eyes down. Yikes!

Even in my senior year of collegiate cross country, I’ve still got my eyes down. Yikes!

Many young or new runners are unsure of how fast they should start a race. Trust me; I’ve been the guy who leads the race through the first 1,000 meters only to finish mid-pack after 5K.

My coaches always told me to control my start. That could mean starting slower than race pace at the start to better race the second and third miles, or it could also mean a fast start, so long as I was conscious of my speed.

It takes a while to find the balance of a good start, but until then, always control it. Try not to get carried away with pre-race jitters and anxious vibes at the start line.

3. Keep Your Eyes Up

For the first handful of races in my high school career, the only portion of the course I saw was the ground beneath my feet. I kept my eyes down the entire time.

My coaches, though, told me to keep my eyes up and look at the people I was trying to catch. I found that once I started doing that, I also started catching people. Something about seeing people running in front of me helped spark a competitive side of me that didn’t come out when my eyes were glued to the ground.

4. Take a Long Cool Down

Sometimes after a race, cooling down is the very last thing you want to do. Running a fast 5K is difficult enough without having to add on a few extra miles at the end of it, no matter how “easy” they are.

But seriously, take a long cool down- it’s worth it. I found out the hard way that a cool down can stave off some muscle tightness, and it also helps to feel fresh and ready for the next hard workout.


What pieces of advice does your coach give you for cross country races? Share them with us in the comments!

About Derek
I’m a runner, a writer, and a shoe lover who enjoys morning coffee, travel, singing in the car, and getting legitimately lost on trail runs. Three things I can’t live without: bubble tea, Fridays, and my Brooks PureFlow’s.
  1. Paul

    The best advice I’ve overheard at a race was, ‘if you lose your form, you lose your speed’. whenever I get tired i think of that statement and I try to stick to my form and run strong.

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