You can’t expect to be successful if you don’t have a plan when you toe the line. 

1) Don’t go out fast! They don’t hand out the medals at the first turn. Smart runners move up during a race. They don’t fade.

2) Run an even pace. For example – Don’t try to run a six minute first mile, if your average mile pace is eight minutes. 

3) Run the hills smart. Use hills to pass people. Do this at the top of a hill, and at the bottom. But once you go by them, you have to take command and don’t allow them the opportunity to come back at you.

4) Know the course. Know where you are going. At SHS we always travel to courses in advance to learn them. There is a reason for this – Knowing the course is crucial !

5) Be ready physically and mentally. Running hard in practice is only half the battle. GET PROPER REST,  maintain a good diet and get some carbs into your system 2 days before the meet. Don’t sit around and be nervous before meets. If you have trained, then you are ready for the competition.

In summary:

Don’t blast off the start line: It will do you no good. You will burn off a ton of energy and get no pay off at the finish line.  Maybe you go out in the first 400 meters about ten seconds faster than your race pace. That might cost you 30 seconds at the finish line.

Pacing yourself:  It is easy to run the first part fast because you have a lot of energy. After the first part of the race (approx a mile into it), you feel winded and naturally slow down. You need to consciously make an effort to pick up the pace.


Running the hills smart involves using them to your advantage. Hills are obstacles for other runners, not you. Go up a hill smooth and steady. When you get towards the top, pick up the pace. This way you get more bang for your buck. When you sprint up the hill and slow down at the top, you wasted a whole lot of energy. You won’t improve your time this way. Stay steady up the hill, and switch gears at the top. 

Down hills can work to your advantage too. The key is extending the hill. Near the bottom of a hill really stretch out your stride. Get on your toes and go fast! Use the hills momentum to keep running fast on flat ground. You won’t burn up much energy, and you’ll pass a lot of people.

You should rehearse your race strategy in your mind. Do this at night when you are about to go to sleep. Think about what you are going to do. When will you move up? Who will you be running with? How will you feel? Think positive thoughts. Your mind can be trained just like your body. You will almost be able to do things automatically come race day.

Mentally rehearse a race strategy so you aren’t just out there running. It is easier to make decisions in a race if you already thought about what might happen.

Follow this positive thought and you will be a successful XC runner: “Always yes”

When you think to yourself, “should I go with this runner now? Should I pick up the pace? Should I start my kick?” The answer is, “always yes.”  Be confident and aggressive. If your opponent sees that in you, it gives you a huge race advantage. 

You have to stay positive, even when you are feeling the pain during a tough race. If you want to go faster, the answer is always the same during the middle or towards the end of a race. Yes, it’s time to give it your all.