Running at a track can be a great way to get in interval workouts or timed trials without traffic or distractions. But if you're going to properly log your workouts, it's important to know the distance around each lane.
In 1912, the International Amateur Athletic Federation (now World Athletics) was formed by representatives from 17 countries and has established standards for sporting events, including the distance around a running track.
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Thanks to these specifications, most running tracks are built with the same standard widths and lengths.
Modern Track Designs
Running tracks built today are designed to be in compliance with guidelines established by World Athletics. The measuring line, which is 20 to 30 centimeters from the inside of the track, measures 400 meters, making lane 1 (the inside lane) 400 meters.
There are several variations on how curves and straightaways are arranged, with some designs having two equal curves and two equal straightaways that are 84.4 meters in length while other designs have straightaways up to 100 meters in length.
The Distances Around Each Lane
Because the distance around the track in lane 1 (the inside lane) is 400 meters, the distance around the track for the other lanes can be calculated by knowing the lane width and a few other measurements. The formula, L = 2S + 2pi(R + (n-1)w), can be used to calculate the distances around the track for the various lanes. In this formula L equals the lane distance, S equals the length of the straightaway, R is the radius of the turn, n is the lane number and w is the width of the lane.
World Athletics has standardized track lane widths at 1.22 meters, so here's how that formula is applied for each lane, plus the equivalent distances in feet and miles.
Running Track Lane Distances
If you're going to a local track to workout, common track etiquette leaves lane 1 and often lane 2 open for the fastest runners. If you're using using the outer lanes, that extra distance can add up quickly: Four times around the track in lane 4 is almost 1700 meters, 100 meters more than the distance in lane 1.
Running in lane 8? Four laps will add up to almost 1815 meters, or 215 meters further than if you'd ran in lane 1.
Types of Running Tracks
Running tracks can be located indoor or outdoor and the surfaces can be made of compacted dirt or synthetic substances. The compacted dirt track is the least expensive, but the most dangerous, because when the surface becomes wet pockets of mud form and the running surface becomes slippery.
There are several types of synthetic track surfaces which provide a running surface of exceptional durability, uniformity and safety. Synthetic tracks are always safe, though they're more susceptible to damage from improper use.
If you're heading to a local school with a synthetic track, there may be rules that you can run only on the outside lanes in order to maintain the first two lanes for student athletes.