On Track

I have written before about some of my favorite places to run – the infamous Heartbreak Hill, bucolic Central Park Reservoir, awe-inspiring Diamond Head. I want to write about a different type of running place today: the track. While not my favorite place to run in the same way as these other special places, I still regularly find myself heading back to the track for a variety of reasons.

1. It is kind on the legs. The sponginess of a track surface can’t be beat and is a nice switch-up from the hard pavement that is my regular running surface. It also is a very even surface, which is gentler on the legs and particularly helpful if when recovering from an injury. Two summers ago, I sprained my ankle playing soccer (on hard, unforgiving astroturf – the anti-track) and when I started running again, I headed straight for the track. Did all my running there until I had my full strength back and I credit the track with helping me get back to regular runs more quickly and without re-injury.

2. It is really easy to do speedwork. Having the distance increments mapped out for me makes it easier to do fartleks or other speedwork. Plus, there are no cars, stop signs, cyclists or other impediments to running all out.

3. It is très easy to calculate distance. Even for the math-challenged. No need to MapmyRun here!

4. It can get a little boring – ok, a lot boring – but I can also really get into a zone because of the lack of changing scenery. Plus, I figure that when I run 6 miles on a track, I am building up some kind of tolerance to boredom that will help on longer runs. (That said, I do run with headphones, and can’t imagine running that far on a track without them.)

5. I can bring my kids. I sometimes find myself itching for a run while the kids are home with no sitter in sight – especially during summer vacation. I can grab a bag of balls & Frisbees, bring the kids and still get a good run in while they run themselves or play games. Accompanying me on my track runs is how my oldest, M, got interested in running.

6. They are pretty much everywhere. I love to go for runs on vacation. In some places, it is easy to figure out a good route to run, and I love nothing more than running a new route in a new place. Sometimes, though, it just isn’t feasible. Maybe there are no safe roads to run on. Maybe the terrain is crazy. Maybe I’ll be running in the semi-dark ( fine enough when I’m familiar with my route, not so much in a new place). Maybe I just can’t figure out a solid route that won’t leave me lost and looking for a payphone (good old days) or cell reception. Whatever the reason, if there is a high school nearby, there is usually a track. When all else fails, I have usually been able to find a track wherever I have traveled – at least in the US – and have been able to get a few good runs in on every vacation.

So, that is my pitch for the lowly track. No, it isn’t going to inspire a pictorial essay. No, I will not be regaling my grandchildren, ages and ages hence, of the times I ran by myself on a track at dusk. Nor will I daydream about these tracks like I do about Diamondhead. Nonetheless, I’m mighty grateful that they are around.

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