I recently attended an England Athletics workshop led by AAC (Abingdon Athletics Club) coach Bernard Wilkins and one of the things he mentioned that struck a cord with me was the utmost importance of cross country racing for runners.
Why, I asked him. And his passionate answer focused mainly on the stability benefits, strengthening of leg muscles and trying to run a steady pace on uneven, challenging ground. Your legs simply work more than when you are running for the same time and pace on flat paved roads. It is about building strength, running economy and cardiovascular fitness at the same time.
I must say I have had such an inkling too recently. Less than two weeks since my first cross country race in five years, I am currently on a streak of a few enjoyable good runs, where I am feeling strong but loose and relaxed, at the same time. The pace has been good but most importantly I have been feeling strong in my own two feet, and better balanced as well.
My running mechanics had definitely been suffering since my long-term hamstring injury (which lasted the
better part of a year!) and it has been a long time since distance running felt this comfortable and promising.
Long may (this joyful streak) continue.