It’s getting close to the season when lots of people are starting to throw down a weekly workout on the track instead of navigating the snowbanks and icy-sidewalks focused on aerobic conditioning. The easiest way to do the math is usually to run in the inside lane, but I really don’t like running the sharpest corners unless I have to. Instead I’d rather do the workout on one of the more outside lanes on the track… If possible it’s usually nice to run intervals on an increment of 10 seconds because it’s then pretty straightforward to keep track of the incremental time. The same idea as using a pace-clock in the pool, you graduate from swimming your 100’s on 1:35 straight to swimming your 100’s on 1:30 without going through a phase in between, keeping track is not worth the mental effort. If you can choose the lane so that the extra distance brings you across the line at the right time you can really save yourself a headache.
Unfortunately, that math is generally too hard to do accurately enough on the fly in my head. It generally requires some relatively difficult pace to calculate and some weird distance. I cobbled together a set of lap splits for track workouts that will tell you the splits required to run certain paces in different lanes on the track. The general method for using this would be to look up the pace you hope to run in the left columns (both per kilometer and per mile are listed) and then run your finger across that row to find a lap split that is the closest to an increment of 10 seconds, choose that lane and get running.
Doing this can increase your interval distance by up to 13% on an 8 lane 400m track or up to 19% on an 6 lane 200m track. So, if you’re dead-set on doing a certain distance interval, then use the inside lane. But let’s remember that those intervals are chosen to try and get a certain physiological response from the average person. I can personally guarantee that the physiological response of the average person varies by a lot more than 13%, and physiology probably varies more by time and speed than by distance. At least in my opinion, the benefit of running the wider corners of lanes 6-8 outweighs the insignificant benefit of running the inside lane to make an interval of a very specific length. It will probably also help you shy away from setting a new 800m personal record each time you show up to the track. You’ll pick the lane that corresponds to the pace you want to run, and then you’ll run the pace you wanted to run. This neatly evades the racing that can otherwise happen, between other athletes at the track, and with your former self, that can often happen when you get into your racing flats and start running in circles.
I’ve got these tables in my smartphone so they’re always accessible and I think I will print one out on cardstock and laminate it in to keep in my gym locker which has a 200m indoor track. Do what you want with them, hopefully it’ll improve your training – Enjoy!