Essential Rules for the Track

If you’re new to running tracks, there are some basic track etiquette rules that may be helpful to you. Track etiquette is not written in stone, though, so be prepared for some degree of variation on different tracks. If there are any signs posted as you enter, be sure to read them as there may be some specific rules pertaining to that track.First, check the hours of use for your local track. Some tracks are closed to the public during school hours if associated with a school. Other sports clubs may use the track or the infield for their practices, so be certain you are not in conflict with other athletes.

On most tracks you will run in a counter-clockwise direction, unless otherwise posted. Some tracks may alternate the run direction based on the day of the week, so go with the flow.

The lanes of the track are somewhat like a highway. The inside lane is for the fastest runner, and each subsequent lane indicates a slower pace. For example, a runner who runs four minute Ks would take the outside lane, a walker would take the inside lane, and a runner who runs 5 minute Ks would be in a middle lane.

This spacing is all relative to who is present on the track on any given day, so observe the pace of other runners first, then place yourself accordingly. If in doubt, err on the conservative side and take an inner lane until you have a good feel for your abilities and that of the other runners.

Also, leave your music and headphones at home. When on the track, it is essential to hear what is going on around you at all times to be very aware of your surroundings. Should another runner want to pass you, you may hear “Track!” or “On your left!” from behind you. This means they are going to pass you, so be prepared to let them go by.

On the track, passing is usually done on your right, just like the highway. You may need to step into another lane to let them go by, so it’s necessary to be aware of who is around you so you don’t cut someone off.

Avoid standing on the track. Have your watch set and ready to go before stepping on for your run. Once on the track, be prepared to take off in just a few seconds, and always look both ways before getting on or off the track to avoid impeding other runners.

Do not run more than two runners abreast at a time. Large packs on the track can be dangerous and block other runners.  If you are running in a group, the group should break into smaller segments and stagger their start times for intervals to avoid blocking other runners and taking up too many lanes for the same pace.
Always warm up before your track workout. Plan to spend about 20 to 30 minutes running at a very easy pace beforehand to make sure you are thoroughly warmed up before doing speedwork. You can do a warmup on the track by using the inner lane or run easy off the track on surrounding roads. Stretching should be done off the track as well.In no time, you should feel right at home.

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