1. Safety. Unlike running on the streets, where you must remain alert to avoid collisions with other people, dogs, cyclists, or cars, a track is a safe and traffic free wonderland.
Also, unlike trail running, there are no mud, rocks, roots, or animals to cause problems.
For obvious reasons running a road or trail route may be more engaging and free; however, the track allows you safety and a mindless running opportunity.
2. Flat and Springy. A track, of course, is pancake flat, so you may enjoy a level surface as well as a nice springy pep in your step allowing a bit faster of a pace. The synthetic rubber of a track is easy on the joints and is less likely to aggregate or cause injury
3. Measured. As tracks are precisely measured, they provide a good opportunity to test your abilities and complete distance specific workouts.
Yes, it is possible to do speed workouts on the roads using your GPS watch, but it can be challenging to figure out exact distances with or without variables such as traffic.
4. Motivation(s). Often there are other athletes on the track or turf that are working on their craft and while in their company you can draw motivation. Sometimes you can get more out of yourself with the energy you feel from another athlete. You are all working there for the propose of achieving goals.
Another motivation that overcomes you is the act of going to a track. You know that when you step foot on the track you are in the mindset of performing at higher level an that THIS is your weekly QUALITY session you have planned for the day/week.
(adapted from the marathonhandbook.com)
Tracks are divided into lanes, with the inside lane (lane closest to the turf) designated as Lane 1.
Most collegiate have eight or nine lanes and most high school tracks only five or six lanes.
The most commonly found track is the 400 meter track. it is 400 meters around from the inside lane and running one tie around the track is called a lap.
Tracks have straight sections (called straightaways) and curved sections (called curves or turns), each of which is 100 meters. 2 straightaways plus 2 curves equals 400 meters.
As a mile is approximately 1609 meters, four laps around a track equates to roughly one miles. One lap is considered a quarter mile. (Lane 1 - 1 lap = 400 meters; Lane 1 - 2 laps = 800 meters; Lane 1 - 3 laps = 1200 meters; Lane 1 - 4 laps = 1600/1 mile).
Knowing these basic measurements makes it fairly easy to calculate distances and plan and run a workout.
Lanes outside of Lane 1 are progressively longer, which is why races stagger the runners to ensure everyone is racing the same distance.
You may notice lots of lines, arrows, curves, and numbers painted on the track. These markings are used during track meets and designate where runners should start and finish races of various distances to be sure the correct distance is covered or they may indicate where relay runners can exchange a baton or where hurdles should be placed.
Run Counterclockwise. This directional rule remains true for most tracks, regardless of whether or not a meet is going on.
Inner Lanes Faster/Outer Lanes Slower. In general, runners use the inside lanes and walkers use the outside lanes. If you are a slower runner but are doing a workout, the faster runner will pass you on your right hand side. You have just as much right to be there IF YOU ARE RUNNING.
It is, of course, always a good idea to assess who is on the track and see what they’re doing before deciding on a lane that seems likely to give you the best chance of not winding up in someone else’s path. We often will warm up clockwise on the outside lane before doing our session, counterclockwise in Lane 1.
Also, if the track is busy, try to stick to the lane you have chosen as a courtesy to the other runners, who will pick their lane based on an assumption you will stay in your lane.
Pay Attention/Use Common Sense. Be aware of others using the track. If you use headphones, be sure you can still hear what’s going on around you and would notice if someone coming up behind you saying, "passing on your right."