Many people have the general misconception that cross-country racing and indoor running is the same thing. These are two different sports disciplines that have only one thing in common: running. On the other hand, there are tens of contrasts between running on an outdoor track and jogging in an indoor environment. The obvious one is that one takes place outside, while the other is reserved to interior venues. The other differences between the two are listed below:

Track length

Many runners prefer cross country tracks to indoor races because the length varies from one circuit to the other. An outdoor track can be as long as 5k, and it implies constant advancing movement, which has been proven to motivate long-distance runners. Indoor running has the athlete run in circles on a track that is rarely longer than 800m, and which forces the runner to concentrate on maintaining his lane throughout the race.

Track difficulties

Indoor races have no obstacles on the track. The runner has to cover the entire length of the circuit by running on a flat surface that has been specifically built for this sport. Regarding endurance, this exercise inflicts more upon the athlete’s ability to overcome repetition, than on his muscular prowess and agility.

Cross country running is an entirely different discipline. Over the entire length of the race, the runner is presented with a variety of obstacles that include hurdles, sudden changes in terrain height and even natural elements of vegetation. More than that, the surface can vary severely between grass patches, sandy strips, and rocky areas. Therefore, when it comes to endurance, the athlete is challenged both mentally and physically. He has to adapt fast to continuous track changes and to prove his ability to overcome the unexpected hurdles.

Season importance

Outdoor races depend heavily on the season and the weather conditions present at the time of the contest. Runners are required to have different types of equipment ready, to adapt to possible rain, snow or severe heat. Also, in some extreme cases, entire tournaments are canceled to protect athletes from injuries.

When it comes to indoor tracks, the weather conditions have minimal importance. As long as the athletes can make it in time for the race, it matters less if there is a blizzard raging outside the venue walls. Very few indoor running events are canceled because of the weather, and most of them are due to natural hazards like typhoons, hurricanes or tsunamis.

The number of runners

Another thing that tests the endurance of athletes taking part in racing contests is the number of participants. On indoor tracks, only a limited number of athletes can compete at the same time. This figure is usually connected to how many lanes are present on the track. This minor inconvenient prevents racers from testing their abilities against a large number of contestants at the same time. Cross country races have a high number of runners that line up at the start. Some circuits gather hundreds of contestants who get to challenge their limits of endurance against a large crowd of racers.