Track vs. Cross Country


Hayley Nicole Veen, Staff Writer

Track vs Cross Country

Track and Cross Country are very similar; Most people would say track and cross country are both just running sports. However, Track and Cross Country do have some key differences. Such differences include the sports’ season and environment, the uniform, and the type of races done in the sport.

Many runners known to do cross country also do track, and just as much the opposite. This is because these running seasons don’t overlap much. Cross country is often placed in the fall, and sometimes winter. The runners of all ages will take races with natural terrain. This leads to a wide range of temperatures. While track often is set in spring, there can be indoor tracks made for winter. Track has less surprises in the races and instead is almost always a consistent, flat ground. So while cross country and track have the opportunity to overlap a little in the winter, runners more often find a schedule to do both and stay fit throughout the year.

Uniforms are more about what team or place the racer is from rather than track or cross country. Both are minimal without anything less aerodynamic. Often these uniforms are sleeveless and light weight. Lots of the time there are two-pieces with shorts as well. The only main difference is the spikes on the bottom of the shoes. Spikes give runners better traction in both; However, Cross country and long distance track spikes have more cushion and flexibility on the heel and are more comfortable for longer periods of time. However, these shoes aren’t much different otherwise.

While cross country has a variety of races, there are many more track races available to runners. Cross country often sorts the races by age. Middle school runners often do 3.2 kilometers or 2 mile races, high school runs for 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles, and adults can run 3.1-6.2 mile races. Marathons are 26.2 and half marathons track at 13.1, however these can be done on a variety of terrain and are not necessarily cross country or track. Speaking of track, track races have a much bigger variety of races to choose from. Ranging from short to middle to long distances races; Runners can run on a typical track, relay, or jump over hurdles. Short distance races are 100 meters, 200 meters, and 400 meters and also home to hurdles and relays. Middle distance goes from 800 meters, 1500 meters to a mile dash. Long distance stretches 3,000, 5,000, and 10,000 meter races. Relays often include 4 people running over the same distance and hurdles often fit in the .914 of a meter to 3.5 miles. 

On top of races track and field also includes other events like throws and jumps. Throws include using g-force to fling something, and throwing various sharp or heavy objects as far as possible. The long jump is horizontal and the high jump is vertical of course. A triple jump includes hopping on one foot, jumping and landing on the other foot before leaping as far as possible into sand. The oddest ‘jump’ is the pole vault. First runners run with a pole about 10 ft to 17 ft and 5 in long, sometimes more than twice the pole vaulter’s height. The pole is then planted into the box before the runner bends the pole to catapult themselves over a dangerously high bar. Typically athletes have 3 chances to avoid death or injury and make it over the bar.

From ridiculously dangerous and insane to a fitness plan, cross country and track and field have many similarities but some differences as well. Cross country is more straightforward in typically more stamina races while track has much more variety in events. Both have similar uniforms except for the spikes and run of different terrain, typically in different seasons. While both are enjoyable running sports for the most part, there are meaningful differences to notice in a running career.