Train Like a Harrier
8 cross-country workouts to improve your trail times
Photo by Oscar Rethwill.
There’s nothing quite like the start of a cross-country race—morning frost on the grass, 200 runners anxiously awaiting the starter’s gun and the crackling of spikes on patches of pavement between dirt trails and grass fields. Unlike their track and road counterparts, the challenge of a cross-country race lies more in the sheer grit of competition than in maintenance of a steady pace.
Cross-country runners are often referred to as “harriers,” referring to a breed of hounds that is specifically bred for hunting hares. Below are eight cross-country workouts to help you train as a harrier and get faster on the trails. Because cross country is more about maintaining an even effort than a specific pace, these exercises can help you better tune into your body’s cues and feedback. Whether you’ve ever run XC competitively or not, these workouts will boost your speed, stamina and confidence when venturing off-road.
Complete these workouts on gentle, non-technical trails to reap the cardiovascular benefits without worrying too much about your footing while still enjoying a forgiving training surface. Precede each workout with an adequate warm-up and follow it with a cool-down. Start slowly and increase speed steadily until you reach workout pace.