I know why it’s called cross-country running: every time I do it, it makes me cross.
For some it’s the highlight of the term. For others it’s the depths of despair. Cross-country running is an annual delight/trial (depending on your point of view) which always perfectly coincides with the weather turning from warm, sunny and autumnal to bitter, windy and wet.
Yes, every year the summer lasts just long enough until it’s time to go cross-country running. And then, just as the weather plunges into single-digit temperatures and heavy rain, the whole school is forced into completely inadequate clothing – shorts, t-shirts and flimsy running shoes – and out onto the field.
Yes, the field – which only the day before was as hard as concrete is now, suddenly, inexplicably, on the day of the cross-country run, the muddiest, boggiest, most treacherous space known to mankind.
But why? What’s the point?
It’s good for you!
Really? Forcing children to run around in circles, in the cold, in ineffective clothing, in the mud, risking injury, is good for them?
There is no other activity in a student’s schooling life where he or she has to do something along with the whole school at the same time for no apparent reason – with the possible exception of school assembly. Whole school netball? Nope. Whole school soccer? Nah… Not even everyone does maths or lunch at the same time…
Mostly when you forget your PE uniforms, teachers tell you to sit out of whatever fun game they’ve organised. But come cross-country time? Forget it. You will run in, young lady, young man, whatever you’re wearing…
Where did all this start? Well, for one thing cross-country running is easy to organise. Teachers love things that are easy to do – they can set it up and sit back and relax. Have you noticed how few, if any, teachers actually join in? Teachers plan a course (the longer the better), line everyone up and shout ‘go’. One or two might pretend to take photos, but pretty soon they fall into the habit of chatting to each other (usually over a coffee, wrapped up in their warm jackets) whilst pretending to watch the children run, walk and splutter one after the other…
So that’s all it is. It’s not character-building, it’s not really a fitness exercise (after all, how can one forced run in the freezing cold really be good for you?), it’s not fun, and you’re certainly not learning anything. All it is, is so teachers can have twenty minutes’ peace and quiet.
It’s time, students, to end this annual misery. I say ‘strike’. On your marks, get set, stop. Refuse to run. Make no movement. Don’t budge. Instead, turn the tables. Make the teachers taste their own cross-country medicine. ‘I will if you will,’ you should say. ‘I’ll do two laps of the field if you do.’
Then let’s see how keen the teachers are on cross-country running…
Article written by Ben Egerton
This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry
amongst your students:
Critical Thinking Challenges:
- Why do you think schools make their students take part in cross-country runs?
- Is it fair to insist that all students take part?
- What else do schools make all students do that are, possibly, not of use to everyone?
- Should students have to do things at school, or should students have greater say in what they can opt in or out of?
- Using an online mapping tool, design and plot a cross-country course that you’d like to run. Try and find an interesting route past local landmarks, on a range of different terrains, or up and down hills, or offer courses of different distances.
- What could you offer as an alternative to cross-country?
- Some might think that cross-country running would be more purposeful if it was linked to charity fundraising. Research into a charity or good cause of your choice and put together a proposal that you could present to your teacher or principal about how your school’s cross-country running could be used to raise money.
Have Your Say:
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