How Many Miles Is a College Cross Country Race?

In most places, the standard distance for a college cross country race, for boys and girls, is 3.1 miles, which equates to 5 kilometers, or 5k. The 5k is a standard distance, but some states have shorter official races for female cross country runners, who complete for only 4 kilometers or a 2.5-mile run. States with different running courses for boys and girls include Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Although some athletes and officials do not contest the discrepancy in race distances for boys and girls, others raise issues concerning the different distances. Some players and coaches argue the differences fall under a Title IX violation; Title IX is designed to ensure equality among all male and female athletes.

In some states, such as Connecticut, pressure from coaches sparked a transition to the standard 5k college race distance for athletes of both genders. Female athletes in Connecticut ran a 2.5-mile race, but the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference made the race distance a universal 3.1 miles in 2008. States must receive approval from coaches’ associations before initiating an official distance change. While coaches in some states show enthusiasm for making the 5k a standard distance, others say that doing so will discourage weaker athletes from running in cross country races, which in turn may hurt smaller teams as their team numbers fall.