Fast Start Practice as Part of a Long Run
Fast Start Practice as Part of a Long Run

Cross-Country Running: Learning to Withstand Fast Starts in a Cross-Country Running Race

Dick Moss, Editor

Cross-country starts are absolute mayhem—especially championships, where you might see as many as 200 runners sprinting to reach the first narrowing point in good position.

Many runners, used to a more leisurely start in hometown races, get swept along and quickly die, or start too slowly and never get into position to be competitive.

How can you train your runners for such fast starts? One way is to practice it during longer distance runs.

Long Run Start Practice
Your runners first perform a short warmup, so they're loose before they begin their run. Then, as a group, have them start their distance run at a fast, race-like sprint over a designated distance, for example, the length of your football field or a lap of the track. They then settle into a minute or two of their perceived race pace, after which they slow to their normal training pace and finish their run.

A progression will make these faster starts even more effective. The first week, place one pylon 100m from the start line, and another pylon an additional 100m down the course. Instruct your runners to sprint to the first pylon, run at race pace to the second, then settle down into their normal training pace for the rest of the run.

On each subsequent week, increase the distance to the two pylons. Your runners will soon become accustomed to fast starts and will develop the ability to recover as they slow to their normal racing pace.

1. Edward Derse and Skip Stolley, AAF/CIF Cross Country Coaching Manual, Amateur Athletic Foundation, 1994.
2. Jason Karp, 101 Developmental Concepts & Workouts for Cross Country Runners, Coaches Choice, 2010.

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