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MASTERING THE TRACK: ESSENTIAL ETIQUETTE FOR TRACK WORKOUTS


Track workouts are an essential part of any triathlete's training plan. They offer a controlled environment to work on speed, intervals, and form. But with multiple runners sharing the space, it's important to be aware of track etiquette to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone, whether you're hammering out interval sessions or working on your race pace. 

Here's a guide to the essential rules of track etiquette that every triathlete should keep in mind:

1. Running Direction

  • Always run counterclockwise. This is the standard direction for track races and helps avoid collisions.

2. Lane Usage

  • Inner lanes usage: if doing a distance-based workout, feel free to use the inner lanes, but always be aware of faster runners behind you. When doing time-based workouts, try to stick to lanes 2-4, since the effort will be the same. 
  • Outer lanes usage: stick to outer lanes when jogging, resting or walking. And always signal when moving lanes. 
  • Stay in your assigned lane. This prevents collisions and ensures everyone has ample space.
  • Be mindful of others passing. If someone is approaching from behind, move to the outside lane to allow them to pass safely.
  • Communicate effectively. Use verbal cues like "on your left" or "passing" to alert others of your intention to pass. Always signal when entering or exiting the lane and please wait for groups to pass before entering the lanes. 

3. Passing Etiquette

  • Pass on the outside of big groups if inner lanes are not available. 
  • Accelerate slightly before passing to minimize disruption.
  • Once you have passed, move back to the inside lane promptly.
  • Don't cut off other runners. Be patient and wait for a safe opportunity to pass.

4. General Courtesy

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Keep your head up and scan ahead to avoid obstacles and other runners.
  • Yield to faster runners. If someone is approaching from behind, move to the outside lane to allow them to pass.
  • Don't walk or jog in the running lanes. Use the designated walking area or the outside lane if you need to slow down.
  • Pick up after yourself. Dispose of water bottles and other trash properly.
  • Be respectful of other users. Share the track space fairly and avoid hogging lanes.

5. Finding your pace group

Group workouts can be hard, especially when a lot of members attend every week. To make sure we offer the best experience for everyone, we split the group into sub-groups depending on the pace. If you are new to the workouts and are not sure of your group pace, we advise you to join a group at the "slower" end of your pace. If that group seems to be too slow, you are more than welcome to move between groups! We have created the below table as a guide to help you find your group. 

 Distance  Group 1  Group 2  Group 3  Group 4  Group 5
 1-mile  < 5:50-55/mi ~6:50-55/mi ~7:50-55/mi ~8:50-55/mi ~9:50-55/mi
 3K / 2 miles < 6:10-20/mi ~7:10-20/mi ~8:10-20/mi ~9:10-20/mi ~10:10-20/mi
 5K < 6:20-30/mi ~7:20-30/mi ~8:20-8:30/mi ~9:20-30/mi ~10:20-30/mi
 10K < 6:40-45/mi ~7:40-45/mi ~8:40-15/mi ~9:40-45/mi ~10:40-45/mi
 Half-Marathon  < 7:00/mi ~8:00/mi ~9:00/mi ~10:00/mi  ~11:00/mi

Okay cool, but what does it mean? Let's say, the workout of the day is based on 5K efforts and I know I can run a 5K at a pace of 8:00 min/mile. Then that day, the groups will be divided as follows: 

Group 1: anybody that runs 5K at 6:30 mins/mile or faster

Group 2: anybody that runs 5K between 6:30 and 7:30 mins/mile

Group 3: anybody that runs 5K between 7:30 and 8:30 mins/mile

Group 4: anybody that runs 5K between 8:30 and 9:30 mins/mile

Group 5: anybody that runs 5K at 9:30 mins/mile or slower

Based on the above, your ideal pace group would be group 3. Voilà! 


6. Understanding RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)

RPE is a very common scale used in sports, and you will be hearing that word from Mario A LOT! So what does it mean? RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion and is a subjective, real-time assessment of how hard you're working at any given time during a physical activity on a scale of 1-10. Checkout the table below to have an idea of what each level should feel like: 

PACE  RPE HOW IT SHOULD FEEL
RECOVERY 1-3 The effort here should be very relaxed, i.e. a step or two faster than walking or "stupid easy." Go as slow as you need to go without letting your form get sloppy.
EASY 3-4 Comfortable running at a conversational pace that helps to improve or maintain general aerobic endurance. At no point of an easy run should you ever feel like you're forcing it or running hard.
MARATHON 5-6 This is a steady effort: not easy running but not so hard either that you can't sustain it for a prolonged period of time. Aerobically, marathon effort should not be very challenging but heavy legs are to be expected the longer you go.
1/2 MARATHON 6-7 Comfortably uncomfortable running, i.e. this is somewhat hard work but you also know you have a couple more gears if you needed to tap into them. It takes some focus to maintain 1/2 marathon effort but your breathing is relatively relaxed. At this effort you can speak 2-3 sentences at a time before you need to catch your breath.
10K 7-8 You're working pretty hard here and never really get comfortable. Breathing becomes labored after just a few minutes and it's tough to spit out more than a sentence or two. You really need to focus in order to maintain this level of intensity for 3-6 minutes at a time.
5K 8-9 Now you're really working close to your limit. 5K effort isn't quite all-out sprinting but it takes real work and focus to maintan this level of intensity for 1-3 minutes at a time. Your breathing is labored at this effort level and it's hard to get out more than a few words before needing to catch your breath.

Additional Tips for a Smooth Track Experience:

  • Warm up and cool down off the track. This helps prevent injuries and reduces congestion on the track.
  • Be aware of your fitness level. Don't push yourself beyond your limits, especially if the track is crowded.
  • Be flexible. If the track is busy, be prepared to modify your workout or share a lane.
  • Most importantly, have fun! Track workouts can be a challenging but rewarding way to improve your running fitness.

By following these simple guidelines, you can contribute to a safe and enjoyable environment for all track users. Remember, good sportsmanship and courtesy go a long way towards creating a positive atmosphere for everyone.

Happy running!

Questions or concerns? Email our Run Director at run@ggtc.org

Golden Gate Triathlon Club is a 501(c)7 non-profit organization.

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