The new (September) issue of Running Times has an article by Marc Bloom. Marc is a long-time follower of HS running, and publisher of the Harrier, which covers the subject. He’s also the author of “God on the Starting Line,” which details his coaching of a New Jersey Catholic High School cross-country team, from the perspective of a Jewish coach.

His RT article is entitled “Muddy Footprints” (it’s not yet available on-line.) He provides “10 Reasons to Race Cross Country” and, bless him, notes the experience of “eating the dust of the 40- and 50-year-old youngsters” in the USATF XC Champs in Maryland last February. Here they are:

  • Run in the Footsteps of History
  • Run in the Natural Landscape
  • Run with Less Injury
  • Run for Fun, Fitness and Variety
  • Run Trails with Street Smarts
  • Run for Road-Racing Prowess
  • Run for Your Team
  • Run with a Pre-Boom Mindset
  • Run with Spikes if You Can
  • Run Without the Watch in Mind

Whenever I run a 5K at Van Cortlandt, there’s a spot — it’s about at the 1 1/4 mark — where I want to stop and, as Ryan Hall said he felt at Boston, find another career. Shortly before Blacktop. But I get over it and suck wind to the finish. My older legs can’t carry me down the hills — VCP has a number of uphills going out and major downhills coming home — as they used to so it’s frustrating to have people open up on me in the last mile.

And everyone suffers over the final 1/2 mile on the flats. But for the reasons articulated by Bloom, there is a purity and specialness about it.

There are three runs that I think all runners should do at least once. (This list does not include running a marathon.)

  • a Track Race
  • a Cross-Country Race
  • a Road Relay

I have spoken about running road relays, as well as about doing track races. But I think it’s worth flagging cross-country as well.

Here in the New York area, there are plenty of races, chiefly at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. It’s where you’ve likely run many an XC race if you ran for a high school in the area. Most accessible are the biweekly 5K races put on Thursday nights from May through August by my friends at the Van Cortlandt Track Club. NYRR has mostly-5K races come the fall, with a you-have-to-do-once Pete McArdle 15K (brutal is too kind), on Dec. 13 this year.

And the VCTC races: $5.

Will you finish last? First, as noted in my track post, DFL is nothing to sneeze at. Second, take a look at the results for the VCTC’s 2008 races. Third, and most important, who cares? A good time is had by all.