Cross Country Racing Breakdown
The start has to be agressive yet controlled. The goal is to not just get going, but to get into the position you want to be for the first mile. Going out too fast puts you into oxygen debt and you spend the entire first mile recovering from it. Go out to slow, and you have to spend extra energy in the first mile getting back to where you wanted to be in the first place.

As a rule of thumb, you start the race at a speed slightly above the pace you will race at. The best runners will get out the fastest because they have the highest racing speeds. Everyone else will be similar, but slower. After about 100 meters or so, you settle into your racing pace. You will be in slight oxygen debt, but if you warmed up correctly that should be dealt with quickly by your body and not pose a problem for you.
A cross country race can be broken down into 5 parts: (click links to scroll down)
If all has gone well in the start, you should be around the area where you wish to finish. For example, if you want to finish in the top 10, you need to be near that area of the race. The goal here is to be close to where you want to finish. During the last 2 miles is where you begin to move toward your ulitmate finish position. This gets a little more challening for newer runners, since they do not have a good feel of where they are in repect to the other racers. When in doubt, run at your pace for the first mile.

It is real tempting to go too fast right now, especially since you are not tired yet. Some courses are flat to start, then come the hills. It is one thing to push yourself to go a bit faster than the last race, but if you push too fast then you put yourself in oxygen debt and risk having a very poor second mile.
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I call this the Moving Mile. It is now time to start passing people and getting toward your final position you want to be in at the end. You now focus on the people in front of you and begin passing. I am not saying sprint past them. I am saying that you adjust your speed a bit to catch and pass people. As you make your pass, you then look for the next person. This keeps you focused on your racing and lessens the risk of entering the "Second Mile Fog"

What is the "Second Mile Fog"? It is when you either start to have your mind wonder or you begin to worry more about being tired. In either case, you lose focus and begin to slow down. To make matters worse, people start to pass you, which makes you feel even lower and you might slow down even more. You want to be the person doing the passing, not being the person being passed.

This is especially true if the second mile has an uphill climb. If you stay focused and keep pace, you will be amazed on how many runners you can pass who are in the "Second Mile Fog". Many will say that the true race does not being until the start of mile 2.

Avoid playing games with those who you are passing. Sometimes that person will do a short sprint to get back in front of you. Do not play that game. Just wait until they settle down and try your pass again. Remember to pass with authority. Do not just simply get a few steps in front of them and then slow down. No time for you to slow down: You have another person to pass up just ahead.
The Second Mile
The First Mile
The Start
The Third Mile
The Finish
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For the first half or so of the third mile, it is an extention of the second mile. You are staying focused on moving up toward your final position. No time to feel sorry about how tired you feel, and besides you competition could care less. This may sound mean, but you want to give your opponent the feeling that they will not be able to stay with you. It will not always work, but that is the general idea.
Back to the top
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When you watch a race, you may see athletes sprinting down to the finish line as if they are running the 100m dash. THAT SHOULD NOT BE YOU! If you have that much energy left, why didn't you use it in the middle of the race when it could have really made a difference.

The idea of the finish should begin when you have about 400-600m left in your race. It also depends on what type of runner you are.

You will probably start by trying the power finish. This is for people who have good endurance, but may lack natural sprint speed. The idea is to begin to pick up your pace bit by bit as you approach the line. For example, you start with 600m left, then pick it up a bit more at 400, then again at 200, and then one more time for the last 50 or so. The idea is to cause your opponent to make a decision: Do they go with you and risk not being able to keep up, or do they wait and hope to use their natural speed to catch you before the finish.

The speed finish is somewhat similar, but you wait until there is about 400 left or so. This is still not 100m sprint speed. It is for those who are naturaly fast and can hold a much faster pace. It is still done in parts, but the parts are shorter and the speed of each part is quicker than in the power finish.

When in doubt, remember our moto for finishing: "Let no opponent go unpassed!"
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