While for many, the winter is not the time to talk about track workouts, I have recently received a few questions about what I think about hitting the oval, so I felt I would share my viewpoint. Here it is: I stand by track workouts for every racing distance. Period.
My lifestyle these days is different from most of my friends. However, a few years ago I had a normal office job. I commuted to work alone. Once there (as the first one in the office), I would go to my corner office and work. The company I worked for had very few employees. I rarely ate lunch out of the office, using my lunch hour to work out and almost always carrying my lunch. (The latter saves so much money that it is ridiculous. People wonder how I could afford to run 52 marathons in one year. I swear that little money-saver alone paid for half of it.) I would then commute back home alone. So I rarely actually saw other humans during the workday.
At the track, however, even though there is little talking going on (if you are talking you are not working out hard enough) there is still interaction. Being with other runners, learning about their races, hearing the inevitable litany of injuries, (some real, most imagined) is the juice that helps many of us get over what can often be a solo sport.
My life has changed since my office days. Until race weekend, I see even less people than I used to with the office job. I enjoy running most of my miles alone. Or perhaps I have realized that when I have time to run I will be running alone and therefore have adapted. Regardless, I thoroughly look forward to the simple social aspect of hitting the track and being amongst others who are pursuing similar goals.
But more important than the social aspect, is the exact science of the track. There are definite splits. No needing to guess how far you have run. You know it. Every lap is 400 meters. There is no way around it. No stoplights exist to give you a break, there is no traffic to avoid (impolite walkers in lane one notwithstanding) and a soft forgiving surface rests at your feet. Exactitude, I like to call it. Too tired to do miles? Well, push hard on some 800s. Looking to blow some gunk out of the gaskets? Let it all fly on some 200s. Do as many as you want, as hard as you want of any distance. You are never far from your gear, water or anything else you may need in case you absolutely must stop.
The track gives you a chance to run fast. Everyone likes to run fast. No one actually wishes to run slower. And there is something about the track that makes it okay to actually want to be as fast as you can. You are not showing anyone up by blowing past them on the track. It is just fine to want to chug away as hard as you can. No one thinks you an elitist because you have the need for speed.
Moreover, runners of all distances whom I have spoken to, worked with, and run alongside swear by track workouts as a way to increase their strength, speed and enjoyment for the sport. You don’t need to actually ever run a single race on a track (although I highly suggest you do) to get benefits from what these track workouts will do for you. Often I have heard about “training like a miler to run a fast marathon.”
The benefits of this little, often orange, oval are nearly limitless. It should definitely be an arrow in any runner’s quiver.