In honor of championship cross-country season, I am going to take this moment and
1. Enlighten all of you to what it is like on the XC battle field for an 800m runner
2. Make the 800m runners feel a little better about their struggles. Or at least possibly more understood.
While all the distancers skip along on prerace chatting about their day, and goals, and boyfriends, and “How great is this course!?” 800ers are at the back of the pack wishing that an easy 7:30 pace was, in fact, easy. Newsflash distance freaks of nature! When your heart rate is 80 bpm on a tempo run, ours is 150 just walking to the locker room. Even the simplest movement revs up that anaerobic system.
It is a slight mind trip struggling to run 7:30 pace when you know you are going to have to drop sub 6 minuters the next day. But good news! 800ers do better at faster paces. Running a few minutes at 6 minute pace is in a lot of ways easier than running a few minutes at 8 minute pace! (Now, the rest of the minutes after the first “few minutes” in the race are a bit of a struggle.)
Plus! 800ers thrive under pressure. An easy run has zero pressure and zero reward. They don’t like to run just for the heck of it! 800ers want to see the fruits of their labor! This makes them much better racers compared to preracers. No guts not glory.
Or for 800ers: No glory? No guts.
During the warm up the distancers like to start out at a slow pace and go much longer than the prescribed 2 miles. I guess to make sure their body is good and warm.
800ers can’t go long because we will be good and tired. Plus, 800ers are ready to roll out the gate. The anxiety about the future inevitable pain is high. And anxious people run accidentally fast. Like a high school kid sprinting the first lap of a mile!
We’d prefer to run a few minutes hard until we get a little winded, do some drills, stride once, tie our shoes 3 times, do one more stride, pee, check for wardrobe malfunctions, and call it warmed up!
The Start Line
Distanters look so light on the start line—like gazelles. And they have high ponytails with ribbons. It’s like a fashion show for very dainty, very fit people.
An 800er’s thought: Why do I look like a linebacker? Am I gaining muscle? How am I going to get all this muscle 6k to the finish line?! I look like a cross dresser with my ribbon. Please let my buns stay on. Why are they doing so many strides?!
What an 800er feels like on the start line:
What an 800er feels like on the start line:
Distancers try hard to get to the front to avoid the hundreds of other distance runners also trying to get to the front.
800ers do not try to get to the front but accidentally do anyway. This is followed by panic and a “HOW THE F DID I GET UP HERE?!”
The Middle of the Race
This is where distancers are zoning out and trying to be patient. They are harnessing their excitement of the possibility of winning/PRing/making other people hurt. Plus they go wizzing past the dying 800ers. This gives them motivation and confidence.
This is also where 800er surrender to hurt. They question a lot of things: Why am I out here? Why aren’t we done yet? Why did I go out so fast? Are they really picking up the pace right now?! How can I get off this course without my teammates and coach knowing?
My college coach always said: 2 miles is where you should wake up and start picking off people.
I honestly have no clue what he is talking about. I was thinking more along the lines of “Coach says this is where everyone besides me wakes up and picks me off. Don’t get picked off!”
The End of the Race
Distancers get faster at the end of the race. It’s like the harder they breathe and the more lactic acid-y they are, the faster they can go.
At the end of a race 800ers think: OK! Half a mile left! I can run a half-mile faster than anyone out here! This is my time to shine.
And that is enough to motivate the 800er for approximately 150m. The next 600m are an all out shit show. Form goes to pieces. And there are thoughts of “WHOEVER SAID THAT FASTER PEOPLE HAVE A BETTER KICK IS A LIAR!”
That last 50m though, No one has a chance!
Distancers are quick to cool down for hours and talk about how fun that race was!
800ers have blood completely of acid. They are dizzy and hate anyone trying to make them do anything other than curl up in the fetal position. I’m looking at you race volunteer ushers. 800ers don’t even have the energy or focus to untie their shoes. No they do not want to cool down with you. They don’t want to cool down. Period.
MY ADVICE TO 800ERS:
Don't feel sorry for yourself. No one cares that you are an 800er, and that you are trying considerably harder than most people, and that you are wheezing, and that you went out too fast. Don't give yourself that excuse to give up.
Always remember your team. That is the single most powerful motivating factor. This isn't about you. It's about helping your teammates who desperately need you.
Embrace the hurt. It is going to hurt. You are going to feel terrible the last mile. Luckily how you feel doesn't determine how fast you run. You are tough. Prove it.
Cool downs. Go cool down. Your hamstrings will hate you if you don't cool down and then sit on the bus for a few hours.
Team bonding occurs in the XC practice van. Even if you can't keep up on workouts and runs, you are still a huge part of the team. Most team bonding occurs on the team van anyway.