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Blogger Keith Uhlig explains why cross-country is the greatest sport in the world

Sep. 4, 2013
 
Keith Uhlig/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

Five unbiased and completely rational reasons why cross-country is the greatest sport in the World, probably the Universe.

5. Superman and Spider-Man get all the press. But The Flash is the most interesting of all superheroes. He certainly ran cross-country in high school.

4. Itís the best spectator sport. I know what youíre thinking: ďReally? Cross-country is boring. A bunch of people stampede into the woods and 17 minutes later come running out, huffing and puffing. Whatís interesting about that?Ē Itís infinitely interesting, because youíre not watching one athletic contest, youíre watching hundreds of them. Why, just last night, I was at a cross-country meet and the two very last runners were sprinting for the finish line as if they were competing for first. It was a beautiful.

The other advantage of being a spectator is that it engages you physically and intellectually. Cross-country fans need to develop a strategy to maximize their contact with the athletes. Last night I was sprinting through the woods, up hills and on trails to see the runners multiple times. That was fun, and I didnít feel guilty about eating a cookie that was offered to me after the race.

Finally, other spectators are friendly, and often they bring cookies. Sometimes they will offer you a cookie if you look at the cookies longingly.

3. Cross-country running makes you smarter. Numerous and highly-credible studies have linked increased intellectual capacity to regular aerobic exercise, which is what cross-country running is. Justin Rhodes, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois speculated in Scientific American that exercise increases circulation of blood, which carries more nourishing oxygen to your brain.

Look, there are a lot of really, really smart people who participate in all kinds of other sports. And letís set aside the frightening damage to the brain that likely comes from repeated blows to the head incurred in sports such as football and hockey, it's not a joking matter.

Instead, letís just point out one thing: When was the last time a cross-country runner was so stupid as to shoot himself in the thigh while partying in a New York night club? (Plaxico Burress, your life would have taken a better turn if you just ran a 5k once in while.)

2. Itís the simplest sport in the World, probably the Universe. There are no fancy rules to confuse officials, athletes or spectators. You run as fast as you can. Easy. However, within that elegant simplicity is an infinite number of choices and strategies. For instance, a runner may decide to go all out the first mile and build up a solid lead. Will she burn out? Itís fun to see what will happen.

On the other hand, most other sports get bogged down intricate bureaucracies that require policing, government and debates. They employ systems that reward liars and cheats. A cross-country runner can be a liar, but it wonít do him much good when the starting gun goes off. She can be a cheat, but itís way more difficult to do than spitting on a little ball. All of which leads to Ö

The Number 1 reason why cross-country is the greatest sport in the World, probably the Universe...

Itís the most democratic of all sports. It doesnít matter if you are rich or poor, big or small, man or woman, black or white, you can compete. And the best on that day wins. There are no doubts, no arguments. The easiest job in the world? A referee at an XC meet. Canít say that about football, can you? Need I remind you about the Packers ďlossĒ against Seattle just under a year ago?

Keith Uhligís blog veers toward outdoor silent sports, running, biking, kayaking, etc., but also can be about eating cheese, growing up and living in central Wisconsin and life in general. You can reach Keith at kuhlig@wausau.gannett.com.

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