HomeSportsAthleticsWhat Is Cross Country? | Know its History, Rules, Distance, Point System...

What Is Cross Country? | Know its History, Rules, Distance, Point System & Equipment Used

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Cross-country running is very unique and quite a fascinating sport to play and witness as well. In simpler language cross country running is a kind of race where runners or players have to run a race through a course that includes grass, mud, woodlands, hills, flat ground, and water. Before the race got its professional status, the race was conducted in natural terrain. But in the modern era, most of the obstacles are artificial.

The cross-country race or cross-country running comes under the Athletics category.
The sport is played as individual sports and team sports. Individual runners are judged by the time taken to finish the race and teams are judged by a particular point scoring method. In this blog, we will see its history, rules, distance, start, finish, point system, and equipment used for cross-country running.

History of Cross Country Running

History of Cross Country running- KreedOn
Image Source- Wikipedia
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As discussed earlier, before the event got its professional status, it was conducted on open-air courses over surfaces such as grass, woodland trails, and earth.
The Crick Run in England in 1838 is the first recorded instance of an organized cross-country competition. It took more than 70 years to spread across Europe. In the 19th century, sports started getting recognition.

In 1903, the first International Cross Country Championships took place. Since then the sport got traction and has been doing well since the first international competition.

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In 1973, the inaugural IAAF World Cross Country Championships was held which is the highest level of competition for this particular sport. It has been included as one of the events of modern pentathlon competitions since the 1912 Olympics.


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Cross Country Race Course

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As mentioned earlier, the cross-country race can be through the natural environment or an artificial one. Well, the artificial ones aren’t 100% manmade. They use the natural ground and natural locations, but with some tweaks and some additional barriers. For example, a very narrow natural trail will be made a little bit wider by the race management team.
The sport is all about running and overcoming various obstacles which are mostly on flat surfaces. The race does not include activities like climbing over high barriers, through deep ditches, or fighting through the underbrush, as do military-style assault courses.

Though the surface and environment will be natural, the race management will make the path slightly wider and will mark the borders of the race track so spectators will not come in the way of competitors. There will be clear markings about directions and all to prevent races from treading off the race track.

Cross Country Rules

This race is quite different from other races and so are the rules.

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Cross Country Distance

As per international standards, the cross-country race track is between 1750 and 2000 meters. It depends on the type of competition and how many laps or loops of the race track are needed to complete the race. Senior men and women compete on a 10-kilometer course. Junior men compete on an 8-kilometer course and junior women compete on a 6-kilometer course.
In the United States, college men typically compete on 8 km or 10 km courses, while college women race for 5 km or 6 km. High school students typically race on 3 km or 5 km courses.

How does a Cross-Country race start?

These kinds of races are started in mass. That means all the competitors will start running simultaneously. The athletes who are in the first row from the starting line will have a few feet of advantage over the ones who are starting the race from behind the starting line. But with the number of people participating in this event, it is impossible to arrange all of them in the first row.
If it is a team race, the team will have its box called a bull box (which is behind the starting line) from which they will start the proceedings.

How does a Cross-Country race finish?

The last part of the cross country race has a straight walkway which is called a Chute. This Chute is used to keep athletes in a single file to finish the race.

For modern and big races, the athlete’s finish time is detected by modern technology like RFID or using electronic chips fitted to their clothing or shoes. For the races which can’t afford such technology, they use a manual method where they use four officials in two pairs. One pair calculates the number of athletes finishing the race while the other pair records the finish time of each athlete. In the end, the lists are joined which gives the final result.


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How points are calculated for the Cross-Country race?

For individual cross country races, the one who finishes in the least time wins the race. Things go a little bit tricky in team events. To make your team eligible for the race, or rather to end the race within the rules, at least 5 members of the team should cross the finish line. If the team finishes with less number of races, it is considered that they have not completed the race as per the rules. So no points to them and they get disqualified.

A team with the least number of points wins the race. Within a team, one who finishes the first gets a single point, two for 2nd, 3 for 3rd, and so on. Only the first five runners in for a team are counted towards that team’s score; the points for these runners are summed, and the teams are ranked based on the total, with the lowest being the best.
The lowest possible score in a five-to-score match is 15 (1+2+3+4+5).

Equipment used for Cross Country race

Athletes can wear shorts, vests, or a singlet. Full sleeves are allowed during lower temperatures. The most common footwear are cross country spikes, lightweight racing shoes with a rubber sole and five or more metal spikes screwed into the forefoot part of the sole.
The runners can wear spiked shoes or racing flats depending on the terrain and other conditions. Under grassy, muddy, or other slippery conditions, runners generally wear spiked shoes. But if the terrain is paved nicely, gravel or a dirt road, runners will prefer the racing flats.


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Saurabh Sameer Karmarkar
Saurabh’s love for Test cricket has no limits. He indulges himself in listening to experts talking about Test cricket. Saurabh absolutely loves the way Aussies play the game. He is quite new to football, but football fever has taken complete control of him. He is an ardent Bayern Munich fan. Saurabh loves to write about sports. Other than sports, he is a voracious reader, a fitness freak, loves physics, loves to stay away from social media, and a Mechanical Engineer too!

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