Track Etiquette 101

How to run on a track without making everyone mad

Forget that Zoom cooking class on Airbnb, as a society we need a good track etiquette lesson. I love running on the track. It gets my adrenaline going, as memories of close finishes and nervous anticipation from high school track meets come flooding back. But nothing subdues that energy like a me monster who has no regard for their surroundings.

A high school track in Madison Heights, Michigan

There are rules, even if they are not officially posted on a rusty sign outside. The key to proper track etiquette boils down to one concept: respect. Applying a basic amount of respect will go a long way to ensuring everyone has a good time.

The track etiquette rules

What is “respect” exactly? Well, let’s find out what it means to me.

Run Counter-clockwise

Running the opposite way like a lost deer will only get you into trouble. A track is meant to be run counter-clockwise, but there’s sometimes that one person who wants to watch the world burn. Running against the flow of everyone is disruptive, and puts your hot breath directly in the face of someone else’s hot breath. No one wants that in 2020. Run the normal direction; no one is above track etiquette.

Don’t walk or jog on the inside lanes

It may be tempting to gravitate towards the inside lane, as it is the shortest distance, but remember to be mindful of faster runners. Giving faster runners the inside lane is common courtesy. You can’t call “dibs” or “lane save” on a track, so be kind and scoot to the middle lanes.

On the flipside, if someone is hogging the inside lane and you’re flying like Balto on his way to Nome, it might be tempting to make a reckless pass on the inside like Jeff Gordon at Talladega, but swinging wide and passing on the outside with plenty of room is the right thing to do. (Feel free to give a few over-the-top “did you see me” looks back to drop a hint).

Leave the bike at home

While it would be fun to dust off the old Schwinn and treat your local track like a personal Olympic velodrome, but it’s just a bad idea. First, the track is for runners and walkers, not Lance Armstrong wannabes. Bikes also bring a lot of wear and tear on the rubber surface of a track, which will cost you tax dollars in the long run, and cost me another twisted ankle. And finally, no one wants to run behind your spandexed rear end.

Signs at a high school track that prohibit bicycles, roller blades and pets

A track isn’t a concert venue

Bringing your Beats Pill to the track and blasting Buckcherry at max volume can sound like a good idea to some, but keep that to yourself. We’re all out here trying to get some work in; not everyone wants to hear your Linkin Park-centric Spotify playlist. Do everyone a favor and get some headphones. Same goes for phone calls. Yes, calling your entire family to air out drama from Christmas last year is a great way to pass the time while walking a few laps on the track, but not everyone wants to hear about Aunt Sally’s new haircut.

No cones on the track

Don’t be the person setting up a full-on NFL Draft combine in lane three, as most of us aren’t trying to win the local flag football rec league. Keep the mini cones, rope ladder, box jump and monster truck tires off the track. Mel Kiper Jr. ain’t showing up to watch you prepare for the Come Play Detroit co-ed league this season, buddy.

No Country for Old Dogs

I realize the risk of criticizing doggos on Al Gore’s internet, but people, leave your mutts at home! Can’t have them pooping and barking all over the place. Not everyone is super comfortable with a random, unleashed dog marking his territory (my water bottle) like he owns the place.


A track is a shared, public space where people of all skill levels and motivations can come together and get their sweat on for free. Showing some basic self-awareness and respect is the key to practicing good track etiquette. Happy running!

Have some track tips? Complaints? Ideas? Drop a note in the comments!

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