Cross Country – everything you need to know!

Cross country is often described as the “marmite of running” people either love it or hate. Many may
have been put off during their schooling when sometimes it was used as a punishment! It should be
noted that cross country does provide most things runners should need to improve both racing and training.

The origins of cross country running go back to the 19th century; it was more of a game where a
runner set off leaving a trail and was chased by a pack of runners. This was referred to as either
“hare and hounds” or “a paper chase”. English schools started competing in cross country races in
1837. A national championship was established on December 7, 1867 which was held on Wimbledon
Common. Cross country was an Olympic discipline in 1912, 1920 and 1924.

Winter season cross country racing is on the increase and is very popular with elite endurance
runners who consider this excellent preparation when training for spring marathons and half
marathons. There are many benefits of cross country both from a psychological and physiological
perspective. Cross country runners are generally more versatile and robust as they learn to cope
with uneven, varied surfaces and terrains as well as inclement weather conditions often experienced
during the winter months.

Traditional cross country courses can include woodland, heathland, fields, hills, obstacles etc. and
sometimes the courses are narrow in parts runners will be in single file. For major competitions
World Athletics has set standards such as the course should be a minimum of 5 metres wide to
enable athletes to pass one another safely. Typical distances for cross country events tend to vary
from 6km to 10km.

The only special equipment required for cross country running is the appropriate shoes. The choice
is between spikes and trail/cross country shoes. Spikes work well if the surface is guaranteed to be
without any macadam areas. Otherwise a trail/cross country shoe which has a sole with rubber lugs
may be the better option. These will provide sufficient grip on soft surfaces to avoid slipping and are
able to cope adequately with hard surfaces.

As many cross-country courses are softer, slippery and uneven hence, it requires a slightly different
running technique i.e. using a shorter stride length. This needs greater leg speed which is made
more difficult as there is less elastic return provided by the soft surfaces. On such surfaces much
energy is lost in compressing the ground underneath; which means runners bend their legs slightly
more at the knees and ankles which in turn uses more energy in straightening them.

In summary, cross-country provides tough physical training, working over a wide range of speeds
covering various surfaces and terrains. More muscles are used running off-road ensuring an
excellent workout for all the connective tissues in the lower body; core strength is also improved. A
cross country race provides an excellent opportunity for a threshold run with a strength endurance
work out included for free. Cross country is something all runners should try. It may be hard but the
reward is it will make you strong and the enjoyment is there to be experienced. And of course there
is something to be said about the sheer joy of being outdoors in beautiful countryside during the colder
months when we are often a little cooped up!

Finally, cross country is about racing, your time does not matter, just try and get the best possible position you can and enjoy the team spirit.

Southern Cross Country League and Hampshire League Cross Country

Hart Road Runners is committed to providing members with ample opportunities to participate in
cross country racing.

The planned calendar of events for the 2023/2024 Cross Country season are as follows:

Southern Cross Country League – SCCL Provisional Schedule

29th October 2023 host club Basingstoke venue Benyon’s Enclosure
26th November 2023 host club Farnham Runners venue Alice Holt
17th December 2023 host club Hart Road Runners venue Lord Wandsworth College
21st January 2024 host club Alton Runners venue Chawton House, Alton
18th February 2024 host club Farnham Runners venue Bourne Woods, Farnham
3rd March 2023 host club Fareham Running Club venue Holywell Estate

Hampshire League Cross Country – HLCC Provisional Schedule

HRR men race in Division 1

28th October 2023: Wellesley Woodlands Aldershot
11th November 2023: Popham Airfield Basingstoke
13th January 2024: Prospect Park Reading
10th February 2024: King’s Park Bournemouth

All you need to know about the 2 different Cross Country Leagues

Firstly, all members are invited to participate in either or both of these cross country leagues. As the
club pay an annual membership subscription to HLCC and SCCL, there is no cost to members to
participate in these races. SCCL races take place on a Sunday morning and HLCC on a Saturday

Southern Cross Country League – SCCL

The SCCL is run as traditional cross country and aimed at ordinary club runners as it excludes very
fast runners. The ethos of the league is “inclusive with friendly competition” and this is provided by
the 24 Hampshire based clubs who participate. There are 5-6 races (typical distance 8km, ladies and
men compete in the same race) in the season which runs from October; all races are held on Sunday
mornings starting between 10:00am & 11:00am. There is no requirement to register in advance and race entry is free.
Courses are well marked and marshalled, so no chance of getting lost.

Our team captain for SCCL this season is Hannah Hall

How the team scoring works

There is no limit to the number of members who may run for a Club in each race.
As you cross the finish line you receive a token with your gender finish position. Scoring system is very easy
top 4 female finishers and top 4 males finishers’ positions are summed
together to provide a club score. The clubs scores are then ranked with lowest score at the top, etc.
There is often a misconception here that the club should just send a team of 4 men and 4 ladies as
this is the best way to maximise the chances of a good result.

This assumption is absolutely wrong, just think about it. Team members who are “non-scorers” play
a key and vital role and contribute in a very positive manner to improve the clubs overall position. How is this
so? Easy, although not finishing as a scorer for our club you are likely to be finishing ahead of those
runners from other clubs who are scoring for their club. This means their finishing position is lower
and as such will increase the sum of their clubs’ points. It is true to say that in league cross country
“every runner counts”.

Rules for SCCL

(1) All runners must wear a club vest/tee shirt.

(2) The emphasis of this league is to provide the ordinary club member with the opportunity to
participate in a series of multi-terrain events. To this extent it excludes runners with a pace of 5:30
minute/mile for men and 6:00 minute/mile for women. This translates to race times of:

5 miles 27:30 men 30:00 women
10 Km 34:11 men 37:17 women
10 miles 55:00 men 60:00 women

Website and social media for SCCL



Twitter: @SCCLUK

Instagram: @southerncrosscountryleague

Hampshire League Cross Country – HLCC

This league is governed under the World Athletics rules with women running 6km and men 10km.
Courses are wider to enable athletes to pass each other safely and the surfaces are such that spikes
can be worn. All races are held on a Saturday and start with junior races from noon and finishing
with seniors (women at 13:35, men at 14:30). Clubs are ranked in 3 separate divisions in this league
but each race includes all runners irrespective of the clubs division. This league does not exclude any
runners. There is a misconception that this is an elitist league, it is not, as runners of all abilities
participate. All courses well marked and marshalled.

How the team scoring works

There is no limit to the number of members who may run for a Club in each race; the following
completing a scoring team:

Senior (Div. 1 & 2) Men 5 Women 3
Senior (Div3) Men 3 Women 3
Vets Men 3 Women 3

Vets are included with seniors to form a scoring team; in addition there is a score for the club’s Vet
team. The clubs scores’ are then ranked with lowest score at the top, etc. etc. Again as with the SCCL
“every runner counts”.

HLCC always provide individual results and take into account age category and as such use the
following bands for individual rankings:

Ladies: Senior, Vet35, Vet45, Vet55, Vet65
Men: Senior, Vet40, Vet50, Vet60, Vet70

As HLCC publish all individual results (including gun times) and include them on the Power of 10.
Each must provide HLCC with a list of runners including their UKA Affiliation number who plan to
participate in any race during the season. This should be completed before the first race of the
season. Members considering to participate will be asked for this information in due course.
Registering interest does not force anybody to participate.

Rules for HCCL

(1) All runners must wear a club vest/tee shirt.

(2) First claim status is in accordance with the England Athletics current rules i.e. if your first claim
club competes in the league, you must represent them. No competitor can compete as a team
member for two affiliated clubs of the League in any one season.

Running is an individual sport but cross country introduces a team perspective.
Why not come along and join team HRR in the SCCL and HLCC to experience the camaraderie of
team running.

In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. The
satisfaction should come from saying “I have participated and finished.”