How to Make Line Markings for a Running Track

Multiracial athletes practicing running on racetrack

Anyone familiar with running events held on a 400-meter oval track has likely noticed the white start-finish lines for the various races. Strict regulations govern the locations and precise width of the lines on a running track, as well as the separation between the staggered-start lines. Whether you're lining a tarmac surface with paint or a dirt track with chalk, the job requires a track plan that is recognized by the appropriate athletic organization or race sanctioning entity. Organize your crew, supplies and equipment at the infield area to mark the lines for a running track.

Running Lanes

Place the track plan on a card table in the infield area of the track. Designate an experienced crew member or foreman to interpret the plans and call out dimensions.

Mark locations for running lane lines that are 1.2 m apart across the width of the track at each straight section with 12-inch steel spikes. Drive the spikes at each end of the straight sections with a steel mallet. Fix a nylon string line tightly between the corresponding spikes at each end of the straights and at ground level.

Fill the hopper on a line marking machine with white line paint or white chalk. Set the dispenser nozzle to 50 mm wide. Align the tracking guide at the front of the machine with the center of the dispenser nozzle.

Mark the lanes using the tracking guide at the front of the machine to follow the nylon string lines. Pull up the steel spikes and coil the nylon line when the initial lane marks are complete.

Measure across the infield at the end of each straight section. Mark the center of the infield with steel spikes at each location.

Position the marking machine at one end of the inside running lane line. Fix a 1/4-inch braided nylon rope tightly between the corresponding spike at the center of the infield and the metal ring on the top of the machine.

Maintain consistent tension on the nylon rope as you mark the radius lines for the inside running lane from the end of each straight section to the beginning of the opposite straight section.

Reposition the machine at the end of the each running lane one at a time. Adjust the rope tightly between the spike at the center of the infield and the machine each time. Line each of the radius running marks at each end of the track with the same procedure

Start-Finish Lines

Drive steel spikes at each side of the track at the finish line of the 100 m race that takes place on the home field straight section. Drive the spikes just off the outer edges of the running surface.

Measure exactly 100 m along the straightaway from each spike and drive another pair of spikes for the starting line. Fix a string line tightly across the track at ground level between each pair of spikes.

Follow the string lines and mark the start-finish lines for the 100 m race with the marking machine.

Layout the staggered starting lines at the end of each straight section, starting at the second lane from the inside. Each starting line is 7.036 m ahead of the previous as you work across the track toward the outside lane.

Mark each of the staggered start lines at each lane with the marking machine.


If necessary, refer to the track plan and mark lines for the baton exchange boxes for a relay race.


Follow the spirit of the carpenter's adage of measuring twice and then cutting -- or in this case, marking the track -- once, to avoid making a mistake.