Work out the best race strategy for you. Know the course you’ll be racing on and do try to run at an even pace.

Doesn’t matter whether you’re a high-school runner, collegiate athlete, or a now-and-then racer, when fall approaches, thoughts naturally turn to cross-country running. It’s a time-honored tradition, and a great way to change up the regular routine of road training and racing.  Of course, the next step is: how can you improve your cross-country racing? Here are some tips that should help you along.

The first tip is to train during the summer. Since the summer’s drawing to a close, let’s assume you did that. Here’s what you gained: base-building; aerobic strength; and heat adaptation.

Learn how to run hills. Any cross-country runner knows that cross-country courses are full of hills. So, you need to learn how to use those. Chances are you can beat runners you normally can’t catch, if you learn no work the hills properly. Focus on flying down the hills and stay maintaining a steady pace going up. Run “through” the top of a hill, relax and get back into race pace.

Train on courses similar to what you’ll be competing on—if possible, run the actual course you’ll be racing on. It’s well known that training is very specific training pays off in running. The surfaces you encounter— grass, dirt, mud, rocky terrain, short steep hills— while training on a cross-country course will prepare you well for race day.

Work out the best race strategy for yourself. Know the course you’ll be racing on and do try to run at an even pace. In almost all high-school cross-country races, runners blast like rockets from the starting line. While this may position you well in the first quarter mile, it’s where you are at the finish line that counts. Everyone knows that scientifically, if you go out too fast, you’re going to fade. But not everyone knows that going out a bit conservatively allows you to pick it up in the last mile, and that’s where you get a psychological bonus: instead of slowing up and being passed by hoards of runners, you’re the one passing, and that spurs you to pick it up even more!

Get used to running in a pack and take advantage of it. The idea is to find runners of the same ability as yourself and hang with them. Trying to keep up with runners who are much faster is going to work against you, and similarly, falling back in with runners of a slower pace will drag you down. Look at other runner’s race times and choose those people with times like yours to hang with.

Incorporating even some of these tips should help you to be a better cross-country runner.

Upcoming races: Saturday, September 1, at 8:00 a.m. Oatmeal Festival 3.3-mile RUN for your OATS, 110 East Vaughan Street, Bertram, TX. Monday, September 3, at 7:30 a.m., Labor Day 5 Mile / 5K Whine Run at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards, 1741 Herbelin Rd, New Braunfels, TX. Friday, September 7 at 6:30 p.m., Zilker Relays at Zilker Park, downtown Austin. Saturday, September 8, at 8:00 a.m., Gruene 5K/10K at Gruene Hall1281 Gruene Rd, New Braunfels, TX.