What Are the Requirements for Running Track?
There are a number of events that fall under the title of running track. Each race distance requires different fitness characteristics and athletes that excel at running track are normally genetically suited to the events they run. The international unit of measure for running track is meters. For your reference, one meter is equal to 1.1 yards so 400 meters is 440 yards.
The most common distances for track sprinting are 100, 200 and 400 meters although indoor races often feature 60 meter races. Sprinters are usually powerfully built, posses fast reaction times and excel at short, explosive activities. A sprinter's muscles will predominately made up from type IIb fast twitch fibers. This type of muscle fiber is especially suited to short duration but high intensity activity and also has the greatest potential for increased size, which is why most sprinters are more muscular than other runners.
Middle distance running covers the 800 meters, 1,500 meters, the mile and distances up to 3,000 meters. Longer than sprints but still run at a fast pace, middle distances runners must posses some of the speed of a sprinter as well as the fitness of a distance runner. Races are often tactical and can come down to a well-timed kick in the closing stages of a race.
In track terms, distance means races from 5,000 to 10,000 meters. To succeed in distance running, athletes need a high level of fitness which is usually developed by high mileage running. Long-distance runners tend to have a high degree of type Ia muscle fibers. These fibers are especially good for long duration aerobic activity and lack the size potential of the thicker type IIb fibers. As pacing can also play a big part in distance running, runners must have good tactical awareness and learn when to exploit their opponents' weaknesses. A strong sprint finish, if well timed, can make the difference between winning and losing a distance race.
Although less common, some track races exceed the marathon distance of 42.195 meters and are called ultramarathons. Some ultramarathons are run on roads and trails, but other races take place on a track. Track races commonly involve seeing who can run the farthest in a given time, for example, 24 hours.
Runners who specialize in ultramarathon running tend to be extremely fit and posses a high degree of both mental and physical endurance. As economy of effort is vital for successful ultramarathon running, runners must also have a good understanding of race tactics and pacing to ensure they do not go too fast too soon and end up dropping out prematurely. Ultramarathons are only suitable for experienced runners who have a history of distance running training.
- High Performance Sprinting; Mike Smith
- Complete Distance Runner; Bruce Tulloh
- Magic, Madness & Ultramarathon Running; Andy Mouncey
- Improving Sports Performance in Middle and Long-Distance Running: A Scientific Approach to Race Preparation; Joanne Fallowfield and David A. Wilkinson
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.