Against the grain
Our Friday morning indoor track workouts sometimes run against the grain. The traditional direction in which one runs on any track is counterclockwise. Our 200-meter indoor track facility has a Monday-Wednesday-Friday clockwise rule while the Tuesday-Thursday direction is counterclockwise.
That means we need to adapt to the situation depending on which day we choose to workout. Typically at 6:00 a.m. there is a girls elite program running, and they almost always run in the traditional counterclockwise direction. Sometimes there are University or college athletes as well. They always train counterclockwise. Both of these groups are much faster than we are. Whatever direction they are training, we do the same.
Still, there are some days that we arrive and everyone’s obeying the clockwise direction on that day of the week. We typically to do the same. Running in the “wrong” direction on a track still feels a little weird to me. But on the other hand, changing directions helps keep repetition injuries at bay.
The rules are established to keep total chaos from taking place any day of the week. Yet we’re not afraid on some days to “go against the grain” when there are few other people using the track.
Most people who are using the track to walk will gravitate to the outer lanes and allow faster runners to use the inside lanes. That’s the etiquette on virtually every track around the world. Back when I managed an indoor track facility I posted a sign documenting the number of laps needed to cover a mile in each of the lanes. That way people of all speeds could accurately calculate their mileage. It worked wonderfully, and fifteen years after I managed that facility I returned to find that same sign still standing in the display case where I’d originally posted it. The sign was somewhat faded and a little worse for wear.
This past Friday morning we arrived to do our track workout as the basketball games were ending and all the other runners had completed their workouts. The facility staff even raised the curtains so the entire facility was free and clear. As we did our warmup, there were still a couple guys walking in the clockwise direction as indicated by the facility signage. They were occupying the two inside lanes.
Habits and agendas
That’s always going to be the case at a public facility of any kind. People arrive with their own habits and agendas in mind. Some even arrive with prejudices locked in place. Do walkers find runners threatening? Do fast runners find slower people insufferable?
As we passed the walkers during our warmup, I overhead them discussing the distance they wanted to cover. They probably knew how many laps they needed to walk in order to cover a few miles. It was clear they weren’t about to budge from that objective.
As we finished our warmup, we discussed whether we should switch and run in the same direction the walkers were moving. That would be in line with the rules posted on the wall.
But that would also have meant swooping up behind them every lap or so. Many times people react badly when approached from behind. There is a natural reaction to jump to one side or the other when you hear someone approaching. We didn’t want to cause a collision.
There was a partial solution that evolved during our warmup. One of the walkers began swerving out from the inside lanes as we approached them. He’ move out to lane four as we approached. So we ran between them in the gap he provided. That’s also how it went through a series of 8 X 200 meters. The guy on the inside had a bit of a resolute expression on his face. He seemed to be sending the message that he and his partner were walking in the “right” direction and he was not going to budge from the rules.
It all worked out okay. The outside guy swerved and the inside guy stuck to his guns. We all completed our workout and no one ran into each other.
The situation shows that sometimes there’s a conflict between etiquette and actual rules in this world. All it takes to resolve the situation is a little tolerance from both sides of the situation. That instinct toward tolerance seems to be a rare commodity on some fronts.
Which explains why even nations struggle to be on the right track by going in the wrong direction. Or being on the wrong track and pushing for the right direction. Well, you get the picture. Just don’t dare color outside the lines. Some people really hate that.