Dear cross country runner,

You run a lot. Good for you. I really do mean that. I used to be in your shoes. Although my cross country running days are a thing of the past, I’m reminded of it almost every day. I made some of my best friends in cross country, and as a runner, I’m sure you understand why. Before you hang up your running shoes and hibernate until the snow melts, let me share a few lessons I learned.

Cross country is tough, no doubt about it. Running is your warm up, your work out, and your cool down. Other sports may look at you in confusion or maybe laugh because while they’re out on the field facing an opponent and practicing plays, you’re just running. You know the saying, “My sport is your sports punishment,” but there’s definitely a sense of pride you have about running. You run because you like a challenge. And cross country is challenging both mentally and physically. But your determination and hard work will do you so well in your future, guaranteed.

Good things don’t come easy. You know your PR like you know your birthday. It’s a blessing and a curse because you’re proud of it, but you also want more. And to shave an extra few seconds off the clock, you have to work for it. So you practice early, in the heat, in the snow, and when there’s a million other things you’d rather be doing. But you know it’s all worth it when you’re running into the chute and you see that clock showing your personal best. That’s all the reward you need.

You share a unique bond with the people you run with. They’ve endured those killer work outs with you, whether it was timed 1k’s, hills, or your typical long run. They’ve been by your side (and sometimes probably a few strides ahead of you) the entire time. Whether you practiced before the sunrise, in the heat, or in the snow, your teammates have been with you the whole time. As a former cross country runner myself, I know how important teammates are.

Most importantly, cross country taught me how to be a real teammate. You may not be throwing a ball to your teammates for the winning point, but you could not run miles and miles every day without them by your side. A nod or shout of encouragement at mile 2 is what keeps you going. You know that they are giving 100 percent and that inspires you to give more and keep going. Running might be a lonely sport, but cross country is the furthest thing from lonely.

So before you celebrate that the season is over or that your running career has come to an end, take a moment to remember all the good things cross country has given you. It doesn’t matter if you finished first or last, you pushed yourself. Congratulations!


A former runner