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1.5 Mile Cross Country - Race Tactics

Hi my son who just turned 13 is doing cross country for the first time this year. The first race he ran against 164 kids and won, same with the next race, just a few less kids. His first time was 8:45, and second was 8:44. The routes varied, one was somewhat hilly, the other fairly flat.

The next races he lost to two other teammates. Third race he got second, and fourth race third. He had beaten both of these boys in the first two races. Both routes fairly flat. His times were 9:00, and 8:57.

He has his district meet this Thursday, and he asked me what his strategy should be, I am just a long distance runner, and I am not familiar with shorter distance races.

He asked if he should start off faster and pull ahead as soon as possible or wait. He tried to wait to kick, but I though he waited to long, and it gave the two boys in front of him confidence, I personally don't think he had enough time to pass them.

He also said that when he did try and pass one of them, he bumped him hard of the trail. I have heard that that is pretty common in boys cross country, but if you have any suggetions for a good strategy for his last meet, I would sure appreciate it. Thanks!

running tips
Answer by Dominique:
Hi there,
Thank you for your question about your son's 1.5 mile cross country race tactics.

You are putting quite some pressure on me... :)

Not sure if I want to answer this one, what if he doesn't win that last meet...

Every race is different anyways, so it is hard to provide the perfect strategy.

What works for one race does not work for the other.

A lot is dependent on personal preferences.

My personal preference is to do the kick towards the end, but there are others who like to lead from the first moment.

None of the race tactics is without risk. Starting off too fast may lead your son to blow up towards the end of the race and waiting till the end can cause him to miss out on the win as well.

The general strategy should probably be roughly as follows:

  • Know the course. Know where it is easy to pass others and where not.

  • Know his strengths. Is he clearly better than others on uphill or downhill or..?

  • Be in the game. Being completely upfront has a big disadvantage in that you can't see what is happening behind you. But he obviously needs to be close to the leader in order to be able to make his move.

  • To repeat that last sentence: he needs to make sure he is in a position to make his move, i.e. not closed in in the pack. This may mean having to do little sprints now and then to not get closed in or to make himself a little broader (i.e. use his elbows) to make sure he keeps the spot he wants to be in. By the way, I am not an advocate of bumping people. You can protect yourself and your position, but not at all means, although I know it happens a lot.

  • In the end, this type of thing only comes with years and years of experience. Being able to "read a race" is tough, especially when you are running out of steam towards the end.

    Hope this helps.
    Kind regards,

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