Let’s Talk about Track Etiquette

Photo of perfectly shaded track on a hot summer day.

This morning’s workout was a little tempo run at the local high school track.  It was one of those perfect mornings – already hot enough that my muscles were warmed up before I started, but just this side of too hot. (And too-hot is definitely bound to happen later today.)  Running at the track has a special appeal to me (as long as I don’t overdo it).  Every time I’m there, I’m reminded, whether consciously or subconsciously, of being in the 7th grade.  In 7th grade, you see, I ran on the track team for the first time, and it was then that I learned the proper etiquette of running on the track.

If I had never had the experience of being coached by runners familiar with the track, I may never have learned these lessons.  Thus, when I arrive at the track to do a workout, and I find someone flagrantly disregarding track etiquette, I try to remind myself that within their context for what constitutes appropriate behavior, they probably believe they are being very reasonable.  Hence, instead of silently berating them, I decided to post a few track etiquette tips.  Maybe someone will find them and one fewer person will be doing crunches in lane one the next time I plan to run intervals.


Supposing I had never run track, I may have based my strategy for lane selection on the way it works at the swimming pool.  You show up to swim laps… there is already someone in lanes one and two, so you choose lane 3.  Well, it doesn’t work that way on the track!  You don’t just have to pick a lane and stay there.  The fastest runners are permitted the innermost lanes.  If you are not the fastest runner on the track, then you should move out of the way, while the faster runner passes you to the inside.  You can then move back into the inside lane afterwards.  In other words, lane selection can be fluid.

Now, in my case, I don’t need the inside lane.  My workouts are not so precise that it makes a difference whether I’m running precisely 400 m or a hair more each time around.  But someone’s workout might be that precise, and who are we to get in the way?  It’s just the nice thing to do.


Today I had a pleasant interaction with a fellow runner.  Post-workout we nodded to each other, commented on the lovely weather and wished each other a nice day.  Pleasant greetings are the best!  Abstaining from greeting another runner while you’re in the middle of your hard interval is also acceptable.  Maybe when you’re recovering you’ll nod at one another.  Shouting from outside the fence, “WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT CARDIO, YEAH!” is hilarious, but I believe considered to be poor etiquette.  Just saying… not sure everyone can pull that off with the right amount of non-creepy finesse.  Usually it just borders on creepy and makes you glad you didn’t go to the track alone.


You have the entire infield.  Yet, I’ve still seen people lying down in the middle of the track to do their core routine.  Or as was the case today, one person was using the entirety of lane one to do side squats around the track.  If you MUST use the track for this, try lane 8!  There was plenty of room!!


Ok, whatever, it’s their track.  So yeah, when they’re in the middle of a soccer game, and the parents are filling the stands… Maybe that’s not your time to run at the track.  Similarly, our track is often reserved for the Special Olympics practice on weeknights.  They’ve clearly made arrangements to use the track, and we are just extra people in their way.  So yeah, if they want to walk around in lane one, that’s their time to do it.  And unless we want to build a private track in our own backyards, I suppose we’ll just have to accept this arrangement.


Happy Father’s Day,  Runners 🙂  I hope everyone treats you with impeccable etiquette today.


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