Running tracks can seem like daunting places, with elite, sometimes professional, athletes flying around at sub 60 second laps. Top runners train on tracks for a reason – it’s the quickest place to run. But tracks aren’t built for just a few quick runners to run on; they’re built for all runners to benefit from an enhanced training experience. That said, tracks are often booked out for an hour or two at a time for club sessions, so check in advance before you visit your local track – and then get ready to receive these benefits:
Doing laps of the same 400 metre circuit is quite boring, particularly as you won’t be able to wear headphones, so it takes a lot of mental toughness to get to the end of a long session. The more you use an attribute, like mental toughness, the stronger it becomes. And the sense of euphoria you feel as you come towards the end of a tough track session is worth the effort.
You’ll Run Faster
Also worth the effort is the impact it will have on your race times. Even if you generally only race marathon distance upwards, doing sessions like 10x800m can drastically increase your speed over a long race. A running track is flat and its synthetic surface is specifically designed for fast running, so you’ll find you complete your reps at a faster pace than you would on a concrete path.
You’ll Learn To Pace
Running the same lap over and over again will increase your ability to pace accurately, which will help you during races.
Your Technique Will Improve
The track’s surface is slightly bouncy so you’ll naturally pick your knees up a bit higher. If you invest in some spikes (track running shoes) for your track sessions, your technique will improve still further, as the spikes will force you to push forward off the front of your feet.
Get On The Train
If you can get in a group training session, you’ll find you can run times you never thought you were capable of by training in a group of runners. Just sit in, or at the back of the pack and focus purely on keeping your legs turning over quickly with a good stride length and you be amazed at the times you’ll achieve.
Camaraderie And Inspiration
Even if you’re not training in a group you can still chat to runners in between reps (if you have enough breath!) You’ll be inspired by watching some seriously fast running up close and it’s always good to watch elite runners’ techniques.
Running tracks usually have their own lists of rules, which they’ll make clear to you on the way in, but here are some generic ones to be aware of:
1) You should move off the track in between reps and never stand still in lanes 1 or 2 (the inside lanes). People fly around running tracks very quickly, often without making much noise!
2) Don’t stop suddenly on the track. Pull into the infield ASAP at the end of your rep.
3) Never warm up or warm down on the inside two lanes.
4) Always run around the track anti-clockwise.
5) Don’t wear earphones on the track; you need to be able to hear people coming.
6) If the track is frosty or icy (and they will ice over at a warmer temperature than non-synthetic surfaces,) don’t try and run on it in normal running shoes – you will need to wear spikes.
7) However, make sure you remove your spikes before going into the track building (even if it’s just for a quick wee) as the spikes will damage the floor. Walking on concrete in spikes will blunt them too.
The synthetic rubber of a running track is the ideal surface for quick running
The surface will improve your technique as your knees will naturally bounce a little higher
If you invest in some running spikes your technique will improve further as you learn to claw the track with the front of your foot
Running the same 400m lap over and over will improve your pacing and your mental toughness too
Watching elite runners train is inspirational and you can learn a lot by watching their technique up close
Check the website of your local track for its track rules and its availability for use by members of the public