Will Cross Country Running Hurt My Ability to Run the 400m and 800m?

by Gabrielle
(Columbus, Ohio, USA)

I am a 14 yr old female freshman. My passion and gift is the 400m and 800m where I ran high school times last year in junior high. I am also running cross country competitively with a time of 20:54 in 5k.

I run different than other cross country girls, I can run and be far ahead for 1.5 miles, then the other 1.5 miles I run on sheer gut, except the last 400m I sprint like I am on track. It's the only way I can run the 3 miles.

I was told, that the cross country running will hurt my ability to run the 400m and 800m track, which are the races I really want to accelerate, because my body gets used to long distance and takes away the speed for my 400 and 800.

Is that true?

How can I integrate cross country to improve my track running or does it hurt my track running when I run cross country?

running tips
Answer by Dominique:

Hi there,
Thanks for your question about combining cross country running with running 400m and 800m.

I can see both advantages and disadvantages in combining these distances.

If you are doing 400m and 800m one part of the year and the 5k's another part of the year then I think doing both of them could be very beneficial.

A good 800m performance relies on aerobic capacity a whole lot. 400m little less so, but for the 800m aerobic capacity is a key ingredient. Speed is important, but you need a strong aerobic base in order to be able to keep that speed for the whole time.

So, running 5k races and training for them will be helpful. For 5k training you would focus a bit more on running longer distances and running slower. This will come in useful when you then start focusing on your 800m and 400m races.

In longer distance running you see the same thing. Many people do 10k race training one part of the year and then transition to half marathon or marathon training the second part of the year.

The 10k training will provide a runner with more speed based training, which will come in helpful when doing a marathon. And the marathon will provide a runner with more endurance type training, which will come in helpful when doing a 10k. So, both types of training "feed" of each other and you can see many runners who improve their times year after year on both distances with this approach.

It becomes a lot more complicated when you are doing 400m, 800m and 5k races all as part of the same training plan. If that's the case, then it would be wiser to just focus on either short or longer races, in your case the shorter races. You can still do 5k races and just treat them as a tough work out, but you can't optimize your running training plan for both 400m/800m and the 5k that easily.

I hope this provides some ideas about what to do.
Kind regards,

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