Track running is something every runner has to experience at some point in their training program. Some people love this training and some loathe it. However racing track has some definit perks and can help with your form and speed.
Since track is already part of your training program, adding in a few track races to your “goal” race strategy is easy to do. In North America you can start racing as a master once you turn 30 years old. If you are 30 years and younger you can find open twilight meets hosted by your local universities. However, to compete in the World Master Championships you have to be over the age of 35. Every province has their own masters association, here in Ontario we have Ontario Masters Athletics. In the states you fall under the USA masters team with local groups that address the masters category specifically.
So why would you want to get off the road for a couple weekends a year and hit some track races?
- There is no such thing as a taper. Well depending on how serious you want to get with it, there can be a small taper week, but compared to a half marathon or marathon taper week, it’s not going to feel like a taper.
- You don’t need to take a week of recovery after you race on the track. You never exceed distances beyond the 10,000m (outdoor track) and 5,000m (indoor track). You can opt to just run 800m and 1500m or just focus on your 3000m. These are all good distances to race to consistently gauge your current level of fitness throughout your training program. By keeping the distances short, you eliminate disrupting your weekly mileage training for your big “A” goal race.
- Your running form will ultimately improve. The track allows for pot hole and dog walker free training and racing. You can focus 100% on your running economy and form. Improving your form over a shorter distance of racing or training will ultimately pay off over the 21.1 and 42.2 km distances.
- FREE education. At any given track event you are likely to run with athletes in their 50’s to 80’s who have seen and done it all. spend a few minutes warming up with them and just listen. Whether they are telling you stories of yesterday or sharing training techniques you will have something to add to your arsenal of racing and training. Some of the athletes you get to run beside have raced at the national level and even in the Olympics. Don’t let this scare you off though. They may be 60 and still able to kick your butt in a 1500m, however you should feel less crushed by this and more inspired that life isn’t over when you grow up.
- You race against your own age group! This is something that is harder for road runners to grasp. You are often put into heats of 8-10 maybe and everyone can be different ages. You don’t have to go out and compete against everyone! The most important thing is you are competing against yourself, secondly you compete within your age group. Everyone’s ages are stuck to their backs so when someone who isn’t in your age group passes you, you know if you have to follow or not. In Championships this is more important since you win medals for placing in your age group.
Overall, the track community can be a great place to spend some time trying something new. Personally the track has fixed so many issues I had while running on the road. For example, I used to run in stability shoes as I was an over pronator. Once I started to put some emphasis on my track game, my form improved dramatically and I quickly became a neutral runner. This was the best thing that came out of track running for me. It also was a time for me focus on small goals inside my larger goals that often became overwhelming.
Many think by taking up track you need to invest in track spikes and new equipment. With how technology has improved when it comes to making tracks, racing flats often times your regular road shoes work fine. To get started you will be more comfortable in what you are already wearing. Once you decide it’s something you want to do more of, then you can consider racing in spikes down the road.
Indoor track starts in January and there are a few things you need to get started. If you’re a master runner you will need a master’s racing license. It’s essentially a membership fee that allows the race directors to keep their cost down and cover off your individual insurance fee. Each province or state will have a membership site to order your own membership number. Ontario Masters Athletics puts their membership on sale December 1st and the cost is only $35 for the early bird pricing. Wait until the season opens and you will be paying $50. Click the link for Canadian Master Athletics for more information about master athletics in your area.