Adventuring with Alia

Chronicles of a distance runner

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Cross country running

Remember that one cross country race that you executed perfectly? You trained the perfect amount and managed a taper with just the right balance of rest and active stimulation for your legs and lungs. You were able to go out hard, race with confidence and grace and tie it all together with a badass kick, not showing any signs of pain or weakness other than maybe a bit of a grimace for good measure. Afterward, you went around distributing and receiving enthusiastic high-fives and everyone was happy and no one puked or felt like fainting and it was the BEST DAY EVER.

No? Doesn’t sound familiar?

Well here’s something to think about: “perfect” cross country races? I don’t believe in them.

Cross country is painful in its entirety, gritty, and overall not very pretty. Just stand by the finishing chutes of a race and watch the vast majority of the field come stumbling through the line. That situation has got to be one of the most accurate portrayals of the phrase “blood, sweat and tears.” At times, cross country running seems closer to waging a personal war on any given course than running with perfect fitness.

Of course fitness is needed, but at the end of it all, true cross country tends to come down to a “survival of the toughest.” And that is one of the many reasons why I believe that it is as true to the core of running possible.


Too often, we get tied up in exact fitness. We attempt to equate all our workout splits down to the most minute details, factoring in all possible elements affecting performance on any given day at any given time. While diligence and attention to detail are undeniably pertinent aspects training, it becomes easy to get carried away and lose sight of the actual enjoyment of the sport.

Sometimes, we need something to shake us enough to remember why we’re out there in the first place: to kick ass.

As my HTS Elite teammates and I gear up for club cross country next weekend in Bend, OR, I’m trying to keep this in mind. I’m excited for my fitness coming back to me through some painful-cross country specific workouts, but more than anything I can’t wait to race as part of a badass team on a course that is more than rumored to be “true” cross country.

HTS Elite doing a cross country workoutHTS Elite during and after a hard cross county simulation on grass. Photos courtesy of Brad Hudson.