It’s time to get speedwork in on the track! I am not sure about where you live Spring has definitely sprung here. We are still having some chilly wet days, but for the most part the weather has been seasonable. Even better yet, the snow is gone except for some stubborn piles pushed into mounds that are doing their best to resist the inevitable.
With the return of Spring comes the ability to get more speedwork in in the local track.The thought of that makes me estatic! In bad weather, hills and the beach provide the best locations for speedwork. During the week the local high school track is off limits to the public. This is when I bring my speed sessions to the track at the local city hall. It is a mixture or dirt, clay, and crushed gravel. It is by far not the best to use when trying to maintain a certain pace or hit certain splits. If you throw out the pace and other numbers there are a few reasons I love taking speedwork off the road, beach and even the high school track which is made up of polyurethane or rubber.
1) Running on the dirt/clay/crushed gravel is less impact on the legs than running on the high school track. It is an ideal way to still get in speed work without the wear and tear and pounding on your lower body.
2) The track outlines the baseball field. I will sometimes run on the inside edge of the grass. This slows me down quite a bit but I like to use it the instability of the grass to help strengthen the small muscles of the feet, ankle and lower leg.
3) Running on the grass further allows part me to reduce ground reaction forces even further for parts of my run.
4) Running on these types of surfaces are like strength training while running. If you can run hard on less than optimal surfaces that can translate to faster speeds when on surfaces that allow for increased speed.
5) It allows you to focus on things others than your watch. I am sure you are like me and at times catch yourself glancing at your watch too often. Believe me I understand there are plenty of times where hitting certain splits is important. On different surfaces I can ignore paces and splits and just focus on other things, foot turnover, running mechanics, and perceived exertion.
6) The particular track I use during the week is not your typical oval. This can be a good option for you the runner since unless you need to know exact splits you can do striders on the straightaways and jog for recovery the curves. With the less than oval shape of the shape of the track there are actually three curves and straightaways. If you can find one similar this gives you different options and can provide your running a different stimulus.
With the five reasons I gave above for why I love not always using a traditional track for speedwork I hope it challenges you to try it out. If you are not already using a track for speedwork now might be the time. You might save yourself some wear and tear and start running faster.