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An intro to Cross Country (XC) - Sophie Barnard

Just like the Summer League, Cross Country (XC) is a chance to come together as a club and work as a team. If you've never done XC before, come along to the early fixtures and try it out. The weather is often dry and mild, so a great way to have a go and trail shoes or even light trainers (NOT super-shoes) will be fine at first.

The courses are usually 5-8k but it's really important to remember that you can run at your own pace and make XC what ever you want it to be. All levels and ages take part for all sorts of training and competitive reasons.

Do you want to go hard and race? Whatever your pace there will be people to race against. Or you can fit it in to a training plan. Try a 2-4k warm up and cool down around the fields with moderate-hard effort in the race to give an excellent training run. Or just enjoy the course by jogging and chatting your way round with a friend. What ever you decide to do, hills, mud and changing surfaces are great for strength and stamina. More importantly, you will have taken part.

In the local London and Middlesex races you'll recognise club vests and runners from the Summer League but in the Chiltern League races, you'll come across a new group of clubs and runners.

Not to be outdone by other clubs, we have a huge gazebo for changing, sheltering and sharing recovery cake and hot drinks! There's still a lot of running around to do, finding the best places to watch and cheer the other races. And finally a pub stop before going home.

If you decide you like XC it's definitely worth getting spikes (a wormhole of nerdy spike chat awaits) because as autumn gives way to winter, the muddy races will challenge you in a whole new way. But if you've been to the early fixtures, you'll be a seasoned pro by then.

2023/24 Fixtures: (more TBC)

  • 14th October: Keysoe Equestrian Centre (near Bedford)

  • 4th November: Liddiard Trophy, Fryent Park

  • 11th November: Teardrop Lakes, Milton Keynes

  • 2nd December: Stopsley Common, Luton

  • 13th January: Cassiobury Park, Watford

  • 10th February: Horspath, Oxford

Kit list:
  • Hoops vest

  • Trail shoes/spikes

  • Hoops bobble hat

  • Dry socks and warm layers to change into

  • Old towel for drying wet feet

  • Plastic bag for wet/muddy kit

  • Snacks and a hot drink

It's stating the obvious, but running in mud is slippery and it's hard on your ankles and lower calves so get going with your ankle strength! Here are a few exercises that you can do while waiting for the kettle to boil or brushing your teeth. Do one or two of them for a minute or two every day: Heel raises and dips off a step Stand on the edge of the step. Go up onto tip toes and then lower your heels to below the level of the step. Start using both legs together and progress to single leg. 3 sets of 10 reps or to fatigue. Stork balance Stand on one leg with your eyes closed. You'll wobble about, but all the tiny movements in your foot and ankle are working the muscles and developing balance. Even if you have to put your foot down for a moment, keep going until you've done about 30 seconds. Change to the other leg. You'll improve very quickly so try it often.

Ankle alphabets

Sitting or standing, write the alphabet in the air with your feet.


Small hops but make sure your whole foot is coming off the ground. Alternate 10 on each side for 3 sets. Build up to 3 sets of 30 on each side.

For more info or if you have any questions then feel free to ask myself (Sophie), the XC Captains - Susan, Sam, Mark or Bill - or join the XC WhatsApp group, details of which are in the newsletter.

See you in the mud, you'll love it!


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