Neighborhood tracks are the most convenient place to run for most. Whether you’re taking your first steps or wanting to improve your time, it’s easy to check your pace by timing each lap. Because I’ve spoken to many runners who mistakenly feel that they are not fast enough to run at the local oval, here are a few simple guidelines:
- What is the distance of a lap? Standard distance is 400 meters (@ .25 mile).
- In which direction should I run? In most cases, run counterclockwise. A few tracks alternate direction from day to day, so follow the direction of the other runners.
- What lane should I use when running slow or walking? The inside 3 lanes are reserved for faster runners and those doing speed workouts. Most runners should use the 2 outside lanes.
- How do I pass slower runners? Assuming a normal, counterclockwise pattern, move to the right to pass, with a smile.
- Is it OK for kids to ride bikes and skate on the track? This is not a good idea. Try to find another place near the track for these activities.
- Do I have to pay to use a track? Most tracks are free, but the hours of use may be restricted by the school.
- Can I run on the track with an iPod? This is up to you but be aware of your surroundings and possible threats or faster runners coming up behind you. Keep one ear uncovered.
- Do I need special shoes? No—you can use the same shoe for road, track or fitness trail—unless you are a competitor doing very fast speedwork.
- Are there any times that I should not use the track? If there is a track meet or organized track practice by the local team, find another running area. Some track teams allow recreational runners to use the outside lane during their workouts.
Repeats—These are the fast segments during a speed workout. Each repeat (usually about 3-5% of the distance of the goal event) is run slightly faster than goal race pace, followed by a rest interval of walking or slow jogging. Through a series of workouts, the number of repetitions gradually increases.
I always lose count of how many times I’ve run around the track! How can I keep track of it better? Office supply stores sell “counters” that keep track of the number of laps as you click each time you finish a lap. Another method: time yourself for the first 2 laps, for two laps in the middle and 2 laps at the end. Compute an average of the lap times. You can compute the number of laps by dividing the total time run by the average time per lap.
There are lots of fast-looking people at my track; I’m scared I’ll get in their way. The inside lanes are for faster runners. If you run in the outside lane, you will not get in their way.