Milesplit Effect on XC Course Design, Athletes

oncearunner

New member
Milesplit is fun, but I am curious about everyone's observations about the trend in XC courses in Ohio since sites like Milesplit began ranking and sorting runners, and then basing their features on the athletes at the top of the list. It seems as though XC courses traditionally were built to be challenging, and course designers were proud to roll out courses that would tax runners in a way that a track cannot. Teams would flock to meets that were tough, in hopes that it would harden the team for future championship races. Of course I'm generalizing....

But what I see now is course designers purposely building courses to be fast. Sometimes artificially fast - with the grass mowed tight and low, sometimes rolled hard, no hills or sharp turns, and occasionally measured in creative ways. Meets like Centerville (terrifically flat and fast, several sections on the track), Midwest Meet of Champions (Hilliard - site of Kreft's 14:36), and on and on are great meets, but they seem to be set up to produce "Milesplit worthy" times. Teams seek out these courses so runners - in pursuit of Milesplit glory - can post a good time (versus beating someone in a competition), and teams can rise in Milesplit rankings, win the virtual meets, and get pub. Of course I'm generalizing...

Do you all see the same? I lament XC turning into a series of time trials - a sport in which times trump racing. Too often I see kids checking their watches as they cross the line, as opposed to digging deep to beat someone a few steps ahead. Bums me out. Of course I'm generalizing...
 

JAVMAN83

Active member
There very well maybe some of what you mention going on in course design. However, remember this: the WEATHER can and does have a huge impact on performances, both individualistically and team-wise. I've seen the Centerville course an absolute mud pit that sucked off the shoes of competitors. I was staffing the 2006 NCAA Division III nationals held at Voice of America in Mason when it had rained most of the previous 2 weeks. There were spots on the course with standing water 8-12" deep. Talk about slowing them down! There was more than one email that complained bitterly about the conditions of the course. Those typically came from coaches whose teams didn't fair as well under adverse conditions. Go figure that :)

For every fast course out there, poor weather can quickly even the playing field.
 

madman

Active member
There are many pieces to the puzzle. Having a State Meet course that lacks any real hills is another piece. At the end of the season you need to be efficient running 5k at your goal pace. You could be dominant on hills, in mud, rain, etc. but lose your advantage when conditions aren't tough.

Different people are motivated by different things. For some it's about the time. For some it's the hardware. For some it's about the place. For some it's about the satisfaction of giving a great effort. I don't think it's realistic to expect everyone to be motivated by the same thing. Even on great teams your best runners are motivated to different degrees by different things.

Years ago, before milesplit, there were plenty of XC nuts that would follow results carefully from one week to the next and could determine how much faster one course was than another with some degree of accuracy. They did a decent job of ranking teams based on this, too.

For awhile milesplit tried to establish course rankings, as if they were static. That might work in states where weather produces conditions that are relatively consistent. That's not close to the situation here in Ohio.

I appreciate the energy that milesplit puts into XC, Indoor Track, and Outdoor Track, but I am also concerned that the emphasis on unadjusted times is causing meet directors to modify courses, coaches to avoid tougher meets, etc.

Teams that run great on challenging courses will do great at National Trails Raceway, but I think it's to their advantage to get on similar (fast) courses at least a couple times, especially over the 2nd half of the season.

Situations like Berkshire's Earlybird the last couple years only serve to remind us not to put too much stock in XC times. Should courses run on roads, improved trails, tracks, etc. all be included in the same list at Milesplit? Probably not, but there's no way to draw the fine lines necessary to discern what to include and what to omit.

It's the responsibility of each coach to balance the emphasis on times, overall place, place within the team, time differentials within the team, etc. There's probably more art than science to this since human emotions are involved. I don't think there's ever a good excuse to be looking at a watch as you're finishing, but I do think time can be an imporant outcome to know with the proper context.
 
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Mr. Slippery

Well-known member
My .02 contribution is that flat courses are easier than ever to find. Look at all the new HSs that have been built in the last 20 years. They're building them out rather than up. You take state money, and you have to build to certain specs which include items such as so much acreage per student. You end up with many large campuses that are surrounded by athletic fields and parking lots which, by their nature, are flat. There's enough land to have your XC course, so maybe your course moves out of the local park where there was a hill, some sharp turns, or whatever to challenge a runner. Incidentally, I started hearing the term "track on grass" a few years before I ever heard about milesplit.
 

psycho_dad

Active member
I come from a 3 generation Cross Country Family. 3 generations of D1 college runners. So far 8 of us have run in college with 7 being at the D1 level. 4 of us placed top 3 or better in the state of Ohio. 6 team state champions in Ohio so far and one in Indiana. My daughter ran against one of her cousins at the Mid East cross county championship. My son ran against his cousin at NTN. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. As a family, we can talk Cross Country and Track & Field. I've come to realize that we are not the important type family. We will participate in and talk CC until the day we die. We are hooked. It's all about making it easy for the family with one kid that does it for 3 or 4 years and that's the end. I can't stand some of the things about the sport now compared to when I ran or even 15 years ago when my kids ran. But, I'm here every day and at the meets every weekend and can't get enough. I hang with parents that have watched their kid run at the state meet and still don't fully understand how a CC meet is scored. The easiest thing in the world to understand. The kids seem to love the sport and participation seems to grow and grow. I think they would love it more if they ran the courses I ran, but that's in the past. My only real gripe anymore is that the state meet should be held at a much better place. I is literally the worst venue / course we go to all season.

I enjoy girls cc as much as boys. I love watching kids improve no matter where they start or finish. I pour through stats and look at this and that every day. I do not look at Milesplit. Don't have a subscription. I do think it would be even better if there were more courses like CVNP, but there aren't. Things will probably circle back around.

I ran 15:15 once in HS. When my kids started running I was talking to the meet manager of the meet where I ran that time. They no longer ran at the same place even though the course was available. Too slow a course. Coaches didn't like that the grass was so high in places and that part of the course was on the side of a hill with uneven footing. The funny thing is that I could only remember one time I ever ran in HS and that wasn't it. My dad had gone through and put a stat book together of my brothers and me. All our sports. So 20 years after the fact, I learned what my PR was. Every kid knows that now. It keeps them interested and that's good.
 
My .02 contribution is that flat courses are easier than ever to find. Look at all the new HSs that have been built in the last 20 years. They're building them out rather than up. You take state money, and you have to build to certain specs which include items such as so much acreage per student. You end up with many large campuses that are surrounded by athletic fields and parking lots which, by their nature, are flat. There's enough land to have your XC course, so maybe your course moves out of the local park where there was a hill, some sharp turns, or whatever to challenge a runner. Incidentally, I started hearing the term "track on grass" a few years before I ever heard about milesplit.
Good point. I don't know about other area but Toledo Metro parks a couple years ago made a change and will no longer allow CC races to be run in any other their parks. So some of the best locations for a "true" CC course is off limits.
 

ccrunner609

Active member
We live in a world were every coach has a training chart, Daniels pace charts, a garmin watch that tracks pace and speed. Kids are raised to compete against the clock. "Dont worry about all the other runners little Johnny, just get your PR" . All the while, Johny is getting 100th place and really isnt competing against others.
 
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