Long distance running at the collegiate level is a full year expedition.
At all points of the year, there are opportunities to race and compete. Whether it is Cross Country in the Fall, Indoor Track in the Winter or Outdoor Track in the Spring/Summer, there is something to compete in for distance runners.
For a runner in the position of myself, it almost seems like an endless cycle of training and transitioning between seasons with not much break in between. There is always something upon the horizon that is just in reach, and you are focusing on that and doing your best to prepare for it.
For whatever reason, cross country base season seems to bring this anticipation and excitement to me and many others to a whole new level. The preparation that goes into the months of July and August and the excitement that builds up towards the season captivates many upon many runners each year.
Those months used to build up mileage and bring yourself in a decent shape to begin the season, are some of the most unique months of the year. It's the only serious break that comes during the year and feels like the start of something new, a full reset on the running calendar.
As simple as the base season may be, it can very easily be messed up and ruined when taken with the wrong approach. Working too hard and doing too much too early can have serious consequences in the latter part of the season, when championships races are apparent. However, slacking off and ignoring your fitness will result in potentially not being ready and able to handle the stress that a collegiate cross country season may bring.
Very frequent and apparent are the athletes that come back as the September hero that end up being injured or burnt-out by October. Just as apparent are the athletes who come back out of shape who struggle in September and although may succeed in October/November, may not have reached their full potential for the season.
A perfect cross country base season is all about falling right in the middle of these two extremes. Coming into the season with enough fitness to build upon and work off of but not too much that means you won't last until it truly counts.
As someone who has been on either side of the spectrum when it comes to a cross country base season, it requires an extreme amount of discipline to get right. Having the insight to control yourself and not get carried away, but still willing to put the work in when it's all so far away.
With cross country being such a small section of the collegiate distance running schedule, it brings a different vibe than the other track seasons. For myself, this vibe is one that I enjoy the most and makes this part of the year my favourite. This base season for me and countless others, builds excitement and anticipation for my favourite time of year.
Many things are bound to happen during the season, for the good or for the worst. Base season is the start of this journey and sets the direction on how the season will unfold.
It certainly cannot make your season on its' own, but it certainly can ruin it.