Most people consider running as one of the purest forms of exercise that offer plenty of health benefits without special equipment.
In athletics sport, it involves various events, but cross country running and track running are two of the most popular.
For most people, they consider these two sports as one but with different names that require the athlete to run to win the competition.
Professional athletes, though, know better and understand that there are specific differences between cross country vs track running.
To avoid confusion and for you to know which is better for you, let's learn more about these two types of running events.
History of Cross Country and Track Running
Track and field, in general, were established earlier than cross country, even if it was prohibited and had to be promoted again.
However, the cross country race became popular first compared to track running though both are well-loved and played by most athletes.
Here's a short overview of each of their rich history:
Cross Country Running
Officially, cross country running competitions began in 1837 by some English schools with a national championship organized on December 7, 1867, in London.
This first cross country championship was a non-exclusive event where anyone is allowed to join and compete.
The problem was since it was the first organized event, many errors caused misfortunes to a lot of participants like getting lost in the open course due to lack of markings.
Also, the competition began at five in the afternoon, adding to the difficulty of the players navigating the three and a half miles of muddy and hilly terrain.
Track running together with other field activities was first associated with religious events exclusive for men. It was considered one of the oldest types of sports in history.
From 776 BC, these popular events lasted for 11 centuries until the Christian emperor banned the games in 394 AD.
England started to develop the sport as a new event in the 19th century, where English students meet to push and promote the game.
It was in 1849 when the Royal Military Academy arranged the first modern track and field competition.
It was only in the 1860s, though, when it became popular, and the new Amateur Athletic Club organized the first English championships for men.
The sport became well-known in the USA after the New York Athletic Club came into existence in 1868.
The game of track-and-field became an international sport in 1896 during the first Olympic Games in modern times.
The International Athletic Amateur Federation, established in 1913, is represented by participants from 16 countries.
It was tasked to create general guidelines for the sport and other official duties.
Female runners are not heard of until delegates from six countries decided to form an athletic federation exclusive to women in 1921.
They officially joined the International Athletic Amateur Federation in 1936.
Overview of the Two Sports
The general information about these two sports based on athletes and sports advocates' points of view will allow us to understand the games' nature better.
The sport of cross country running is a long-distance race held over open fields in winter or autumn months.
Competitors in this sport should have a fit body, a sound mind, and excellent stamina to endure the competition's challenges.
Most athletes say that cross country training is more intense and takes a lot longer to excel.
Track running is more identified as a speed competition where runners need to compete as individual players and finish a specified distance on a flat surface.
An individual player can compete in multiple races with varying distances and categories on the same day.
Training for this sport is more focused on the player’s speed and stamina since the race track does not change.
Cross Country vs Track Running
Now that you have a clear understanding of the two sports, you might already have an idea of which one to choose.
That said, here are their key differences and our recommendations for each category.
This information will help you decide better or ensure you're really choosing the right one.
The courses for each race are physically different from one another, which helps determine the kind of training the players need.
A cross country race course is set up in natural surroundings with uneven and challenging landscapes, such as grass, dirt, mud, or snow.
It offers an element of surprise as the course structure regularly changes every year, depending on the location and the season.
Track running competitions are always done on flat surfaces, whether outdoors or indoors.
The design of the race track remains the same in whatever season the competition is scheduled.
In this category, we believe that track running courses are better than cross country terrains since the players know what to expect on the competition day.
The scoring system for each competition has a lot of differences since these sports have a very different set of rules.
Cross country runners compete as a team composed of four to five members each.
Each player receives a point based on what position they get on the finish line.
These individual scores are then added to determine each team's total points, and the group with the lowest score wins the competition.
The team with less than the required number of players will not qualify in the competition.
In track running competitions, each players' score is recorded based on how fast they have completed a specific distance.
The player with the fastest recorded time in completing the race is the winner for that particular distance.
Technically, all runners start as an individual player before joining a team and competing as a group.
For this category, we consider track as the best choice for the sole reason that a player needs training, whether they are competing as part of a team or not.
Each sport showcases different events and a completely different set of guidelines.
A cross country event is a one-time race per scheduled competition and usually played as a team.
It generally takes a whole year to prepare for a single event, which typically takes place every winter or fall.
Track running consists of different events with various distances that can be played by a single runner.
Contestants from one team are still considered as an individual competitor and will win as such.
We will choose track racing for this category just because individual achievements make a lot of difference to an athlete’s self-esteem.
We have chosen track running in three of the four points of comparison that we have listed above.
That is because this sport is more focused on the individual player’s progress and development. An excellent player is an advantage to the team’s success.
Pros and Cons
Cross Country Running
- Develops strength and endurance
- Trains the mind to focus
- Fixed race distance
- Needs longer training
- Unpredictable racecourse
- Can be played indoors
- Varied distances
- Several events in a year
- Hard to monitor distance
- One won’t sense the team’s closeness on events
Cross country and track running are both more than just jogging or sprinting, but are two different sports in many aspects.
For newbies, we would highly suggest track running since the cross country race is more intense.
Still, choosing between cross country vs track really depends on your preference.
Remember though that whether you want to train and compete for both or excel in one only, what to wear in each sport, especially your footwear, is vital for your comfort and safety.