When I was young, the tracks were longer (which is true, being 440 yards) and always uphill (which is probably not true). Most in the 70s where I grew up (and now live) were cinder, Bronxville, White Plains, etc. You’d wear one-inch spikes when you raced there, and your feet would make a whush sound, as is made when you run around the Reservoir. No party if it rained.
Iona Prep had an all-weather track (a lane of which we shoveled after blizzards, like banditos digging their own graves). There was an all-weather track with a 220-yard straightaway in a stadium at Randall’s Island, which had a big bubble on the backstretch; the stadium was used for the 1936 men’s Olympic Trials (Bowery Boys podcast!), although it too was cinder then. It was all torn down and rebuilt as Icahn Stadium.
All of these tracks are all-weather now of course.
On a recent Saturday Warren Street run, the subject of tracks came up, I don’t know how, and Paul Thompson mentioned that where he grew up in northern England there was a predominance of grass tracks. Such things were unheard of here. When I went for a run in Dublin with Eamonn Coghlan, he mentioned his club’s plan to build a grass track on a field that happened to be outside his back door.
Yesterday I saw a where-i-run video from Ewen, from Down Under, wearing a shirt that says “21 km” on it, which means I know not what. (You got 21km Marathons there?) The track is, he says, in Calwell, Australia. It’s a grass track, and it looks wonderful. As I noted there, while if I had to choose I’d go with Mondo, but I’d love to have a grass track as an alternative. In theory one could run around the inside of an all-weather track (although many such fields in Westchester are now artificial turf), but there’s something of beauty in a grass track with lanes and stagger lines cut out.
Think of the work all of the little muscles in the foot would get from a solid workout, and the ease of doing barefoot strides. As with always running on trails, of course, you’d have to get a chunk of road miles in if you were to race on the roads. It won’t happen, of course. When I watch the various Austen adaptations I wonder just where I could set up a track on the grounds of some estate. Wouldn’t it be great?
Surfing, kangaroos, grass tracks. Another reason to spare Australia. (And if TK is watching, here’s another song that references London.)