Track Running Etiquette for Beginners

Natalie Cecconi
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Why Run on a Track

For me, the track is like home. I love to run a track and I love to run fast.

I’m not alone in appreciating the value in running on the track. Most middle and long-distance athletes find that doing their track work on a 400-meter or a 200-meter oval makes it easier to go faster and for longer periods of time.

One obvious perk of running on the track is that there is no traffic. The track doesn’t move. It’s always there ready and waiting for you so you can get your work done in peace.

But this list doesn’t end here. There’s also the element of camaraderie and running with friends. You can do what you do and have someone with you.

It’s great for taking turns showing off a new stride or hurdle technique, cheering and exchanging stories. It makes a time where it might otherwise be lonely, fun.

Intervals

Track running etiquette is slightly different from running on the road. While you follow the same running principles, there are still a few rules to follow to avoid disruptions when running on a public track with others.

When lining up at the start, you will notice that everyone runs at different speeds. But as soon as the gun fires for the first race, all the runners run at the same speed. This allows more races to be run within the time allowed for track meets.

Running etiquette dictates two types of intervals depending on what type of race is scheduled for that day. You should be familiar with these.

If runners are racing on the same day, then the fastest runner will be on the inside lane. When you are running in one of these lanes, you should move out and pass the runner who is running in front of you. And then, if you want to run at your own pace, pull to the outside of the lane to let faster runners pass.

If runners are not racing on the same day, then the fastest runner should be on the outside lane of the oval. If you are running laps at your own pace with others who are not in a race, then you should stay in the inner lanes.

Measured Distance

Track and field races are measured in meters, and record marks are often made up of three components..

Track surfaces, which vary, can make your 1,500 significantly different than the 1,500 of the previous Olympic champion. With that in mind, the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association determined a standardized 1,500-meter distance that is not dependent on the site's specific conditions.

Using the same starting line and pacing strategy, the association has identified a standard 1,500 that is performed under the same conditions at every race.

To perform the standardized 1,500, start on the infield at the start line, start at the crack of the gun, and finish on the infield at the finish line. This results in a 1,500 that measures exactly 1,500 meters.

For the metric-calibrated 1,500 as marked by USATF, start on the infield at the start line, start at the crack of the gun, and finish on the infield at the finish line. This results in a 1,500 that measures exactly 1,500 meters.

This is the distance for events that are measured in meters.

If you are competing in a race that is measured in yards, start on the infield, start at the crack of the gun, and finish on the infield.

Pace

If you’re a newcomer to track running, it’s possible that you are getting confused by some of the terms used. Pace running and striding are two of them. To further confuse things, many people refer to them more or less interchangeably.

So what exactly are pace running and striding and how are they different?

Pace Running

Pace running is simply running a set distance or time for a specific number of repetitions. In this type of training, you will run at a steady pace without any changes in speed. It’s also called interval training.

Stride Running

The purpose of stride training is to teach your body to run efficiently. It’s pretty much like interval training but the key difference is that in between each repetition, there is a short rest period. This will help you gain strength in your legs and become more efficient at running.

Stride running is complete once you have finished the set number of repetitions. Your speed in this type of training should be varying back and forth from slightly faster than warm-up pace to full-out speed.

Combination

In certain track workouts, you may be called upon to do both stride and pace running. This would be at the coach’s discretion based on the goals for that session.

Gear and Water

Before you head out for your run, set your gear out so you can start your run right when you’re ready. Ideally this means at least an hour before your run.

You will need the following items:

Your running shoes and socks

Shoes for running on the track: These are the shoes you run on the track with. Many tracks require certain shoes, so check beforehand what they require.

Water bottle wrapped in a sock: Carry water with you to the track (and back) and store it in a tied-off sock. It will keep the water cooler longer and help keep you hydrated.

There are lots of things that are better to keep at home on track day.

These include:

  • The morning paper and magazines
  • Crazy outfits

Running partner: You run alone at the track.

You should also keep other items with you during your track workouts. These include:

  • Healthy snack
  • Sanitizing hand gel or soap
  • Track schedules
  • Enough money for food or post-workout protein shakes

How Far is One Lap?

If you know how many laps are on a typical 400-meter track, you can figure out how far one lap is so you can pace yourself throughout your next 400-meter track workout.

A standard track has four lanes. Each lane is about eight and a half meters long, to give you an exact measurement of 91.446875 meters.

You can use a 100-meter track to figure out the distance of one lap “ it’s 100 meters away.

Most 400-meter tracks in the United States are 400 meters. This is about 402.6 yards.

We can convert yards into meters by multiplying them by 0.9144. If we multiply 402.6 by 0.9144, we get 390.888.

This means that 400 meters is 390.888 meters. One lap is nearly 391 meters.

Proper Track Etiquette and Tips

The track is a different world. In St. Louis, there are no lanes. You pass where you can, and you depend on the others around you to be courteous and respectful. There are a few unspoken rules that can help a lot new runners. Learning these will help a lot of people make their beginning track running experience a good one.

The first thing to remember is to get out of the way. Track runners are in intervals or working. They do not have time to stop for you. They are focused on their workout and trying to hit their goal times. Just as you wouldn’t throw a fit if someone came around an outside curve in front of you while running a road race, don’t get frustrated if someone does it here. It’s just part of how it works. Get used to it.

Stay to the outside of the track. If you are inside of the lane, you block the runners coming around curves. If a runner inside the lane speeds up, move outside of the lane. If you don’t, you can cause a wreck.

When you are in the inside lane, figure out where the next bend is. You may need to get outside early when you are passing the person on the inside.

How do you observe Track Running Etiquette when you run your first Track Session?

Tracking etiquette will vary from country to country based, among other factors, on the popularity of the sport and whether it is an indoor or outdoor track. A few general rules, however, apply across the board. The first thing to think about is the requirement for foreign runners, especially those who are new to the sport, to observe advanced track running etiquette. In the United States, for example, visiting runners are expected to wear spikes as well as lane bands, which are given away free at all major road races by organizers and equipment companies. You can carry a pair of lane bands with you if you don’t know if they will be provided at the track you are running. It is also customary to observe silence in the warm up area, as well as at the start and finish line. Experienced runners know how to warm up without causing a disturbance to others. Consequently, novice runners should observe the etiquette of silence until they are familiar with the general layout of the track and the habits of others using the space.

Direction to Run

The direction to run in an oval track or any kind of track will depend on the type of sport being played. The basic rule is that there needs to be one direction for the scorers, officials and runners to run and one for athletes.

In disciplines such as athletic races, the direction to run is established at the beginning of the race. The instructions are normally given by the official of the race. These instructions must be obeyed. If you break this rule, you can be disqualified from the race. Another situation is if a race has set lanes. Athletes can’t run outside of these lanes. And as a result, can be disqualified.

In practice, start and finish areas will also be a “no running zone”. When you enter it, you need to slow down to a jog. And if you happen to be running toward it, you need to stop running and change to a jog. This is also where the athletes must line up in lanes before the race.

Running Lanes

The first rule of track running etiquette is to take good care of the facility. That means that you need to keep the area clear – don’t block the lanes and stay out of the way of other runners.

In addition, you should also be careful about your position on the track and your speed. Most tracks are not too wide so you’ll want to stay to the inside so that others can pass you easily.

Another thing you might notice is that there are times when a person will line up in the blocks, but will then pull back. Keep in mind that this person likely has been disqualified from the race and is just there to help clear the lane since the race always starts on the blocks. Also, she may be waiting behind you to break from the blocks since you’re following the trial.

If you go to a track that has multiple things happening at once, listen for the kiss-off time – that’s when the races start. It is loud, so you’ll know when it happens.

Having been a runner for many years now, I have found that running on the track is regarded as a form of therapy and as a way of getting in touch with your inner self.

What Not to Bring

The short answer to this question on track running etiquette is to bring nothing. Track running is a sport and athletes engaged in sports typically perform better when they’re free from distractions and the worry that they might lose something. As a beginner, it’s also a good idea to leave the fancy clothes, equipment and distractions at home.

There are some things that you will need to bring with you like proper running shoes, your I.D. and money for the vending machines.

But if you memorize these three things, you already know what not to bring to track workouts.

What follows is a complete list of things to leave at home or in your car during runs with the track crew.

What You Don’t Need

A. Fancy Clothing

Cute workout clothes, shoes, and accessories will stay at home. Wear comfortable, sweat-wicking clothing like you would on any other run you do in your neighborhood. tight-fitting clothing can be dangerous while running with the track group as it can limit your range of motion and slow you down.

B. Your MP3 Player

Distractions slow down runners and those determined to run fast on a track. You’ll do better if you just focus on your form and listening to the coach and your fellow crew members.

Follow the Rules

While track running is a good introduction to running for many people, it is not without its issues.

Track running etiquette can sometimes come off as counterintuitive, especially to beginning runners. It’s not uncommon for new runners to struggle with track protocols as they try to grasp the social norms of a sport that is always performed with others in a stadium setting.

You may wonder, what is the best way to share the track? How close to other runners should I stand? What side of the track should I run on? How should I interact with other runners around me?

There are a few track running etiquette tips you can follow to help avoid any confrontations or feelings of discourtesy.

Each race has many participants. What do you do if someone wants to break through and run in a different pace/rank?

These issues generally have a simple solution: have a conversation with the runner and politely ask him/her to step aside and let you work your way in.

Don’t hassle them, and you’ll get your way.

If a person runs as soon as you enter the stadium, don’t stress about it. They probably don’t understand track running etiquette either (or they may be a bit rude).

Posted Signs

The etiquette of track running may be different than other sports, but their rules are no less important. Like any other athlete, you want to have the best possible running experience, and you don’t want to be a burden or hinder anyone else from achieving their goals.

While it may seem complicated, running track etiquette can be broken down into simple guidance.

Follow the Signs

Most tracks (regardless of size) will post rules about running etiquette to remind everyone to be mindful of those around them. Please note that not following the signs at the track may result in an athlete being trespassed from the facility.

Don’t Run with the Pack

This refers to running on top of the track not in a lane.

Stay on the inside Lane in a Dual-Lane Track

Like a highway, there is a right lane and a left lane. If you are running inside the track (the lanes that are adjacent to the inside lane), stay in middle as to not impede traffic.

Go Slow on the Curve

This refers to the curve where the track makes a circular path.

Stay in Your Lane

If there are multiple lanes next to one another, stay in the lane you started in to allow others to pass by.

Tips

For beginner track runners, the thought of circling around some 400-meter track may be a little overwhelming, especially since track running is one of the most challenging outdoor sports.

There are several successful track runners out there who are willing to share their expertise with beginners. Here are some of their valuable tips for aspiring track runners.

You will need to incorporate running, sprinting, and even some of your training exercises into the basics.

Join a Track & Field Club

Whether you want to learn sprinting, distance running, or hurdling, joining a Track & Field club is a great way to learn the basics.

Although there are many significant differences between outdoor and indoor track & field, the primary difference is the surface.

In outdoor track running, the track is made of clay and it is fairly flat with some dips and rises.

Indoor track running, however, is performed on a track with maple wood surface and it is banked slightly in the turns.

Join your local track & field club to learn and become familiar with the differences between the two types of surfaces. You’ll also get to learn from experienced athletes who can help you with your training.

Ideally, a track & field club can help you learn the basics and become acquainted with the different track & field events.

Looking for track & field clubs in your area?