Track Etiquette: 10 Rules For Runners & Walkers
Running on a track can be one of the most effective forms of speed workouts as a runner. And if you follow a training plan, you’ll likely see track workouts or intervals in your plan. They’re one of the most important workouts to run faster!
There are so many benefits to running on a track: a softer surface is more forgiving on your joints, you don’t have to worry about cars, and it’s easy to track your mileage if you don’t have a GPS watch (at most tracks, one lap is 400 meters). Plus, the flat surface makes it easier to nail your speed workouts than running through neighborhoods or in a city, especially if it’s hilly like my city. Now, granted there are times you need a surface with more varying terrain (especially if you’re training for a hilly race like the Boston Marathon or Mistletoe Half), but sometimes, running fast is the main goal of a workout. And that’s where a track can come in handy.
If you’re a frequent track runner, you know that there’s also a fun energy on a track. I love it, especially when I see the same runners consistently. There are also lots of walkers at the track who enjoy the safety and/or flat surface.
But, the track can get crowded and as the weather gets REALLY warm, more and more people move their workouts to the outdoors. Some people go to the track to walk, others to do specific running workouts and others do bodyweight workouts and HIIT style workouts on the track. And when you get a lot of people doing different workouts in one spot, it’s important to be self aware so everyone can workout happy and safely.
If you aren’t familiar with track etiquette, there are some ground rules you’ll want to get familiar with so you can respect other track-goers. That’s what I’m sharing today!
Before using any track, be sure to look at the posted rules if they have them. Some tracks are actually owned by schools, so be mindful of going during school hours or immediately after since many will use the track for practices. And remember, some tracks aren’t open to the public, e.g. at some private universities. So, read the rules at any track before you lace up and run. All of the below are general rules of thumb – some tracks may have other guidelines.
Also, don’t leave your gear on the track! Our track is next to tennis courts and the tennis players often leave their bags in the middle of the track and/or they’ll congregate on the track. It’s unsafe for runners as they could trip or run into someone coming around a bend – not to mention annoying for everyone else using the track.
The innermost lane is reserved for runners. If you’re at the track to walk, or even if you’re warming up or cooling down, move to the outer lanes.
Keep moving, or move off the track to the side. Since there are lots of times where you’ll have more than one person per lane, don’t stop abruptly and cause a traffic jam. Work your way to the outside lanes and then stop once you’re off.
Like I mentioned above, the innermost lanes are for faster runners. If there’s a really fast runner there to train, the courteous thing to do is to give them that lane. Everyone will be happier that way, I promise! If you’re a slower runner, stay towards the inside lanes, but make sure the faster runners are more inside than you are. Think of the track like a highway, with the slower lanes on the outside and the faster passing lanes inside.
Most tracks are run counter clockwise, but some will switch depending on the day of the week so read the signage or go with what everyone else is doing.
Always follow the flow of traffic, and never run against anyone.
Using the term “track” while passing is the generic term for “runner coming through!” and if you’re going to pass someone, saying something loud enough for them to hear is considerate. Even “excuse me” works just fine since most people may not know what “track!” means.
If you’re moving faster than someone, always pass on the right. And check to make sure you have at least 2-3 strides between the runners in front and behind you. When you’re working on moving back into the inside, be careful so you don’t cut anyone off.
Since you’re sharing a track with others, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. It’s wise to leave your headphones at home if you can, or play your music at a very low volume.
Many tracks can feel somewhat isolated, so if you’re there alone and/or it’s dark, be very mindful of your surroundings. There have been a couple incidents in the early mornings at our local track, and as a result, I don’t run there in the early mornings anymore. If you have to go very early or very late, take a friend if at all possible. (Here are other tips for staying safe when running in the dark.)
It’s important to note that indoor tracks generally have different rules– they may switch if you go counterclockwise or clockwise so check the signs.
As mentioned above, make sure you’re extra cognizant when on indoor tracks.
Okay, now you’re off and running!
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