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5K Cross Country Running Times are Worse Despite Better Training

by Jerry

I am a sophomore high school cross country runner. As a freshman my best 5k time was 17:32. I did not train intensely the summer before my freshman year but this year I did.

I ran 30-35 mi/wk plus did intervals and tempo runs the 4 weeks before our first race.

Despite this, my first race I ran 19:05 and the second race 18:20. My slowest race the entire time last year was 18:02.

I just seem to be lacking energy and don't feel strong while running.

I don't get it. I eat properly, get plenty of sleep and otherwise feel fine. My parents took me to the doctor and everything is fine including basic blood tests.

I am getting frustrated.

No one, including my coach, seems to have a reasonable answer as to why I can't even match my times from last year let alone improve on them.

Might you have some answers and ideas about what I can do to get better?

cross country running, running tips
Answer by Dominique:

Hi there,
Thanks for your question about your cross country running.

Let's have a look at the positives first. Your first race this season you did in 19:05 and your second race you did in 18:20. That's an improvement.

And the running you have done sounds pretty solid. It should not be a reason for concern.

It is good that you have done the blood tests to ensure that you don't have a virus or illness that is stopping you from performing your best.

There are two thoughts I have on your current situation:

  • Less likely: it could be that after a period of base running you need some extra time doing the tempos and intervals to really reap the benefits. A lot of slow running helps build up your endurance, but it also takes away some of your speed (for a little while).

    Once you start doing tempo runs and intervals your body does take some time to adapt to the faster running. Your breakthrough race could be just around the corner.

  • More likely: what I of course can't assess is what is happening to your body. It is quite normal in your teenage years to have these ups and downs. Frustrating as it is at the moment, I am quite convinced that you will get over this.

    You may be growing a lot at the moment and that takes a whole lot of energy away from everything else you do. I played soccer during high school and I still remember that there were periods in which I lacked energy.

    There is a reason teenagers have to be kicked out of bed every morning; their bodies are changing and they need the extra sleep to recover.

  • So, in short, I think you are doing everything right and that there is no real reason for concern yet. Keep on doing the weekly tempo run, weekly interval run and the easy running as you do. If possible go to bed a bit earlier.

    And take it easy on yourself. Have confidence in that you are doing the right things at the moment. It may take a little while, but you will get over this and then you will smash that 17:32 time.

    Hope this helps.
    Best of luck.
    Kind regards,

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