Friday, November 9, 2012

Apparently I Have Not Gushed About the Track in a Few Weeks

So y'know. I'm due.

Seriously. I could do track workouts every day of the week if it made any kind of sense as far as distance running goes. For mysterious reasons I can only guess at, it is also WAY easier on my body than the same number of miles on concrete at an "easy" pace. Go figure.

Kezar Stadium can get a little nutso this time of year if you're there too late in the evening. When I worked from home it was no problem for me to go during the day when there at most four or five other people there, but these days the best I can do is going straight from work, which usually puts me on the track at about 5:30.


On a normal day I can whip out a 6-7 mile session in about an hour & be home by 7:00. This past Tuesday I was stalling, though, because emotionally speaking I felt certain that the less time I spent watching election returns & biting my fingernails, the better off all of us would be. I was probably actually out there until a little past seven, and by the time I left I swear there must have been fifty people out there. Or maybe a hundred. Hell, I don't know; I'm kind of like a bird in that after a certain point it's just, y'know, a lot.

I tried to take a photograph to document the insanity, but it turns out that dark doesn't photograph that well at night.

Seriously. It was like a million billion people.

There are like nine running groups that work out there on Tuesday nights, from a kids' track & field group to the SF Road Runners Club to a group of speedy, sinewy old dudes in short shorts to the nigh immortal Impalas. A few are always there when I arrive, and the rest usually seem to trickle in around six. At that point things are still pretty manageable, though I occasionally have to get creative about which lanes I'm in at different points on the track. By seven, doing my easy cool down laps kind of felt like being on the freeway with people who don't know how to drive.

But still! Running at the track is AWESOME and you should totally try it some time if you haven't. The surface is a nice break from the impact of pavement, there are no lights / dogs / pedestrians (besides other runners) to deal with, and you can go fast without worrying about tripping on or running into something.

I understand that you may still have some questions / reservations about track running. I will now put them to rest.

Isn't the track for speedy people? I don't think I'm fast enough to run on the track.

The track is indeed a great place to run fast without worrying about footing or unpredictable pedestrians. BUT, there are also plenty of people who go to the track to walk or just do some easy jogging. Heck, some people don't even run! They just do lazy crunches and get yelled at by their trainer on the infield. Not that it matters, but is HIGHLY unlikely that you will be the slowest person out there.

Aren't there a bunch of secret customs and rituals about track running? I am afraid I will make some kind of horrible track faux pas & someone will yell at me / laugh me off the track.

Probably not as many as you think. If it's fairly empty, you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you look out for other runners. But here are a few general guidelines:

  • It's traditional to run counter-clockwise, but if it's not too crowded & you take care to make sure you're not barreling straight at another runner, running clockwise is totally acceptable (and can help prevent overuse injuries on the inside leg, according to some). If it's crowded, it's simplest & safest to stick to counter-clockwise.
  • Track lanes are like freeway lanes -- if you want to go fast, stick to the inside lanes, and if you want to take it easy or walk, stick to the outside lanes. This helps make sure that no one gets run over or has to suddenly dart into other lanes to avoid a collision.
  • As with a busy street, it's important to pay attention & be aware of other bodies around you. If you need to cross the track, don't run out in front of people, even if you think you can beat them; wait until you have plenty of time & space. Look around you before you jump into another lane, and avoid sudden stops. If you need to stop for some reason, step off the track to give others space.
  • On a similar note, keep the track itself clear for walking and running. Keep standing / chatting / stretching on the grass or sidelines.

See? Simple! (Also, it's worth noting that there are definitely fast & experienced runners who are still somehow incapable of doing these things sometimes, and no one's yelling at them about it.)

Even doing speed work, I am not exactly cheetah-like. Won't all the Impalas and sinewy dudes laugh and make fun of me?

No, because they are too busy doing their own thing. No one at the track gives two shits how fast or slow anyone else is going, as long they're paying attention to others around them & not doing anything dangerous.

Isn't it boring to run on the track? Don't you get sick of going in circles?

I would imagine that running on a track is a little like running on a treadmill in some respects. Yes, making loop after loop at the same pace probably gets kind of mind-numbing after a certain point. (Though this baddass makes it look easy!) Most of what I do at the track is interval work, which breaks it up in such a way that it never gets boring, and actually seems to go by pretty quickly.

So if I have a point in here somewhere, the point is COME TO THE TRACK WITH ME!! RUN HARD WITH ME!! If you are hesitant about the track and/or speed work, I will make you love it (or at least not hate it). Word.

Track face. Or something. I guess what I'm saying here is that no one rocks 300 repeats the way I rock 300 repeats. Or sweaty eyeliner.


  1. I can't believe that so many people use that track every night. Is that the only track in your area? There are are about 5 tracks close to my house and none of them are ever busy. The busiest one usually only has 4-5 other people on it when I am there.

    1. It's crazy! I don't think it's every night and it varies some by the time of year, but I feel like Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday in the fall it gets especially packed.

  2. The track always makes me nervous. I should find a good track and get over that, I suppose :P

    I do most of my speed stuff in my flat, empty neighborhood. I love your enthusiasm for the track!

  3. I sadly don't share your body's love for track workouts, but I might share your brain's! My body/legs/feet hate track, but I secretly love it and am happy to be doing it again. My tri group is one of the ones making things nuts there on Wednesday nights, but they're almost wrapped for the season. (Just in time for me to start doing track again! Of course.)

  4. I might just take you up on that track invitation one night!! I've never ever run on a track. Do I get starting blocks and a medal at the end??

    1. I can't promise starting blocks, but I would *totally* fashion you a "my first track workout" medal!