Cross country running is a sport in which teams and individuals run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain such as dirt or grass. The course, typically 3–12 kilometers (1.9–7.5 miles) long, may include surfaces of grass and earth, pass through woodlands and open country, and include hills, flat ground, and sometimes gravel road and minor obstacles. Cross country running is both an individual and a team sport, and runners are judged on individual times and teams by a points-scoring method. Both men and women of all ages compete in cross country, which usually takes place during autumn and winter and can include weather conditions of rain, sleet, snow, or hail, and a wide range of temperatures. Cross country running is one of the disciplines under the umbrella sport of athletics and is a far-reaching sport in Canada and the United States.

Cross Country, in the context of running, refers to a sport in which teams or individuals run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain. These courses may include grass, mud, woodlands, hills, flat ground, and sometimes gravel roads. It differs from road running and track running primarily due to the varying terrain and often more challenging course conditions.

History and Origin: Cross Country originated in England in the early 19th century as a variant of the sport of steeplechase in horse racing. It was initially called "Hare and Hounds" or "Paper Chase" and involved running across fields and streams, following a trail marked by paper scraps. Over time, it evolved into a competitive sport, popular in schools, colleges, and at professional levels, especially in Europe and North America.


  1. Distances: The length of Cross Country races varies, typically ranging from 5k to 12k for adults, with shorter distances for junior and high-school level runners.
  2. Teams and Scoring: Races often involve teams, with each team's score calculated by adding the finishing positions of its top runners. The team with the lowest total score wins.
  3. Individual Competitions: Alongside team competitions, individual runners can also compete for placements and titles.


  1. Natural Terrain: Courses are marked on natural landscapes, and runners may encounter varying surfaces like grass, mud, and trails.
  2. Variable Conditions: Weather can significantly impact course conditions, making the terrain more challenging.
  3. Obstacles: Runners may face natural obstacles like hills, dips, and water features.


  1. Endurance Training: Building a strong aerobic base is crucial due to the varying pace and longer distances.
  2. Strength Training: Runners benefit from strength training, focusing on leg and core strength to handle uneven terrain.
  3. Hill Workouts: Specific training on hills prepares runners for the elevation changes common in Cross Country courses.


  1. Shoes: Specialized Cross Country shoes with spikes or studs provide better grip and stability on soft or slippery terrain.
  2. Appropriate Apparel: Lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing is recommended due to the range of weather conditions.

Cross Country vs. Track and Road Running: Cross Country is distinct from track and road running due to its variable and often challenging terrain. The sport requires a different strategy, emphasizing adaptability to changing conditions and pacing over irregular ground, compared to the consistent surfaces of track and road races.

International Competitions: The sport is featured in major international competitions, including the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, attracting elite runners from around the world.

Cross Country is a dynamic and challenging form of running that tests endurance, strength, and agility. It offers a unique experience compared to other forms of running, emphasizing the ability to adapt to varied terrains and conditions. The sport fosters a strong sense of team spirit and camaraderie, making it a popular choice in schools and clubs, as well as at professional levels.


In cross country running, there are several types of races, each with its own characteristics and rules. Here are the different types of cross country races:

  1. Open Races: These are traditional cross country races where runners compete over natural terrain such as dirt, grass, and hills. They can vary in distance and difficulty, and are open to runners of all ages and abilities.
  2. Invitational Races: These are larger races hosted by one or more schools or organizations. They provide better competition and larger fields of competitors. Some invitationals will use a grade-level format, and the races are scored independently.
  3. Championship Races: These races are typically more serious and are divided by grade and gender. In high school, the races are far-reaching and tend to be the main talent pool, especially at the senior level, for university or national-level runners.
  4. Masters Races: These races are for older, more experienced runners. They are often held as part of larger events and provide an opportunity for older runners to compete against their peers.
  5. National and International Races: These are high-level competitions that bring together the best runners from a particular country or from around the world. They include events such as the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, and the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

Each type of race has its own unique characteristics and is designed to provide a competitive and enjoyable experience for runners of all levels.