It’s mid-September and cross-country season is getting underway. Everyone loves fall running: the temperature is perfect, the marathons are exciting, and races are happening nearly every weekend. 

Many high school and collegiate distance runners compete at both track and field and cross-country. While it’s many of the same players competing at both events, the events themselves couldn’t be more different. 

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There are certain rituals and traditions associated with cross-country that are unique to the discipline. Below are six of the strangest and most wonderful among them. 

The Porta Potty Challenge

The Porta Potty Challenge is to fit as many cross-country runners as possible into a porta potty. You’re also supposed to walk out in a pretty cool manner that suggests, “nothing going on here.” The video above shows 40 runners exiting a porta potty, which is a very impressive feat. 

There are never enough porta potties 

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The porta potty challenge brings me to my next point: cross-country meets almost always take place in the middle of nowhere, usually at a ski hill, in a conservation area or at a golf course. There’s usually one field house for hundreds of runners, spectators, and volunteers, and always inadequate washrooms and facilities. 

This means there’s also a higher volume of people going to the washroom outside than at most other sporting events. 

You’re packing for one day but bringing your whole life

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Because the bulk of the shelter and food at a cross-country meet is self-provided, packing for cross-country feels like leaving the country for a lengthy trip. You fill your duffel bag with snacks, layers, blankets, rain gear, warm-weather gear, spikes, running shoes, running flats, books and electronics. You even need your passport for certain races. 

The moustaches 

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Everyone who’s run cross-country knows exactly what I’m talking about: the men’s team moustache. Men who participate in cross-country usually grow their version of a play-off beard. For those who aren’t quite as good at growing facial hair, hair dyes like ‘Just For Men’ are applied liberally. 

It’s muddy and snowy at the same time 

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Cross-country championships take place in November, which is fun, because it’s just warm enough that the ground hasn’t frozen, but cold enough to snow a bit. 

Your snot rocket skills improve 

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Tissues are a luxury not found at cross-country meets. Being a strong snot rocketer is a cultivated skill and the sign of a seasoned cold-weather runner. 

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