Running in circles
Last Monday night at Speedygeoff's group dinner the subject of running on the track came up. One of the ladies said "I don't like the track – all that running in circles. I'd rather be out on the trails". At the time, I didn't quite know what to say.
I love trail running, but I also love the track. You might have noticed that I've only listed my track PBs on this blog. They mean the most to me. Here are my ancient non-track PBs: 36:25 for 10k road, 53:33 for the 14k City to Surf, 81:38 for the half marathon, 1:48:57 for the Cotter 15 mile and 3:11:02 for the marathon.
The track PBs mean the most because I can compare my modest achievements with those of the best distance runners in the world. They've all raced on the track – Paula Radcliffe, Meseret Defar, Benita Johnson, Haile Gebrselassie and Craig Mottram. Even marathon runners such as Steve Moneghetti and Kerryn McCann. I can remember 'racing' Rob de Castella at the old Bruce Stadium many years ago in a 3000 metre event. I was lapped twice. The 400 metre tracks in Canberra or Wollongong are just as fast as the ones in Rieti or Hengelo. No two marathon courses are the same.
The other good thing about the track is how training on it can help you to run faster. A 400 metre track is a great venue for speedwork (especially if you can find a good grass one). It's nice and safe. You don't have to worry about cars, bikes, dogs or falling branches. When you arrive at the track you are thinking about doing purposeful fast training. You run exact distances and can relate the time that you've run for those distances to your race goal time.
You can do your speedwork at venues other than a track if you don't have access to a good one. A flat smooth gravel trail for instance, or a large well grassed park, or a quiet bikepath can work well – that's if you really do hate running in circles.