The Olympic Oval, built for the 2002 Winter Games, has a 442 meter track that runs on the outside of the speed skating track. I've been running there for the past few weeks – mostly to get out of the bad air. Our little bowl here in the Rockies has this nasty tendency toward temperature inversions which trap polluted air here in the valley. So far we've already had several days of “unhealthy” air – which means it’s bad enough just to breathe it normally. Think of the gunk going into the lungs of runners trying to get enough of the oxygen molecules floating among the particulates to keep the muscles moving. Ugh.
The Oval is about a 20 minute drive from my house. I guess it’s kind of selfish to add to the bad air just so I don’t have to run in it. I try not to think about that. Running on the track is pleasant. The air is always cool – thanks to the skating rink the track encircles. Just before they closed the track for the US Speed Skating Trials, I was able to watch several USA speed skaters at practice. They’re a lot faster than I am – just in case you were wondering.
Running on a track feels a little different than running on the roads or running on trails, but not so different that I feel I need to alter my technique in any way. What I found I did need to learn was track etiquette. I learned this the hard way – last Tuesday I was nearly knocked over by a much faster runner as we were both aiming for a break in the spectators at the same time. Technically, the spectators shouldn't have been on the track, so there’s no etiquette rule for dodging people who wanted a closer view of the speed skaters. Here, courtesy of Runners World, are the rules of the track. The full article can be found at http://www.runnersworld.com/workouts/track-running-101
1. On most tracks, run counterclockwise. If, like at the Olympic Oval, there are specific directions, follow them. At the oval we run clockwise on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before noon; all other days/times we run counterclockwise.
2. Run in the two outermost lanes – leaving the inner lanes for faster runners and runners doing speed work.
3. Pass other runners on the right. (It’s always a good idea to look before changing lanes)
4. If you use an iPod, keep one ear free so you are aware of your surroundings and other runners attempting to pass you.
And of course, yield to the Zamboni.