Those who think cross country runners always have easy, flat and straight ahead terrain to traverse during races, that’s so far from the case. Level stretches certainly exist on each course, but there are plenty of tricky spots to negotiate.
There is one such short uphill section in the final mile of the high-school course at Burke Lake Park. It’s about a 20-yard all-dirt drainage rut with no grass, many rocks (some loose) and tree roots jutting up a few inches that can easily be tripped over.
In the fall, slippery dry or wet leaves fall and collect in that locale, as well, causing other issues for runners. It’s one of those short sections of the 2.98-mile trek that is kind of a tip-toe area, where runners have to pay much attention so not to fall or trip and break their momentum.
During the yardage where the harriers run through the woods on the course, there are other tree roots to skip over along with hanging tree limbs to avoid. The course includes a couple of hard-surface asphalt areas and steep and potentially slippery uphill and downhill grassy sections, one each located at the start and finish.
There also is the dilemma of crossing a railroad track. Do runners jump completely over, or step once in the middle instead, careful not to stumble over one of the two rails or step awkwardly around one of the ties.
There are water hazards on many set ups, usually just shoe-top shallow and narrow creeks to stride through, that is when the weather has been dry. Since cross country is run in all conditions, sometimes those streams can become ankle or shin deep with a swift current.
The course at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville has a very sharp and narrow curve to the left, maybe only 150 yards from the finish. That might not seem like a big deal, but tired runners late in races much prefer to keep moving straight ahead.