By: Sydney Ayers
I don’t know about you but my race schedule tends to be hit-or-miss. Sure I usually have one or two races on the calendar but more often than not, I drop into a local race here and there because I want to shake up my training, do a different kind of speed workout or participate in a race with friends. That being the case, I am not a fan of the gimmicky runs involving paint, mud or some sort of fitness challenge because they don’t progress my running or racing. And I am not alone in that thinking.
According to Running USA, race finisher totals skyrocketed during the last two decades growing from about 5 million finishers in 1990 to more than 19 million finishers in 2013. This number was bolstered in part by the introduction of color, mud, paint and obstacle course races. Yet as the luster and novelty of these “un-run” events has worn off, so too has the number of people participating in them declined.
That said, there still were more than 17 million race finishers in 2015. That’s a lot of feet on the street, trail and course!
One category that is coming on strong is adult cross country. These races have great appeal for a number of reasons. First off, many are run at the uber accessible 5K distance – the most popular race distance of all according Running USA. Second, they aren’t run on the same courses as every other road race in town. Many feature single-track trail, wide dirt path and the occasional water crossing yet nothing is so technical that it becomes intimidating for an everyday runner. That variation in terrain can be a game-changer mentally and physically for many road racers.
Finally, there is the team component. Our West Side Best Side cross country races feature a run five/score three format. For those of you who didn’t run cross country in high school, that means the top three runners on each team of up to five people earn a score by virtue of their finish place. The team with the lowest score wins. We don’t even keep time and tell our racers, if they want their time, they need to wear a Garmin. Plus creative team names like Belmar Brews, Bros and Babes, Where’s Da Beer? or Slow and Sexy Wins the Race, take the fun factor to 11. The vibe is cool, causal and completely authentic.
So if you are looking for something different but don’t want to stray too far from a traditional 5K, you may want to consider entering an adult cross country race. It’s the perfect way to test out your skills on the trail and enjoy the camaraderie of your teammates in a fun, non-threatening environment.