Don’t get stuck in a road racing rut.
The sport of track and field, or ‘athletics’ as it is known to most of the world, has roots that go back to 776 BC—the first year of the Ancient Olympic Games. There is something incredibly pure and primal about competing on the track. So why do many distance runners run away from the track instead of to it? Perhaps it is because the track does not lie—it’s a purely objective environment with nowhere to hide, and the results are as clear as black and white. While racing on roads or trails can offer a multitude of good excuses such as hilly terrain, or poorly measured distances, when one does not achieve their goal time in a race, the track provides none.
There are several articles floating around the web that suggest rational reasoning against training on the track–mostly due to risk of developing an overuse injury–and for the most part, I would agree. That being said, if your local track is dirt or grass, you are in luck! These surfaces are more forgiving, so as long as you switch directions to minimize muscle imbalances, these tracks can be a great resource for shorter repeats.
This article is not about training on the track, however, but rather about the benefits of racing on an indoor or outdoor oval. A common misconception is that you must train on the track to race on the track. Rest assured, if you can run straight for 100 meters, turn left, then repeat, you will be fine.
Next time you start a new training phase and begin selecting goal races, consider lacing up for a local all-comer’s track meet. A good place to start is by checking in with your local specialty running store or running club.
Over the following pages, explore a few of the reasons why breaking out of your road racing rut and competing on the track can do you good. And remember: run fast, turn left!