Back in 1912, an international governing body for the sport of athletics was formed by representatives from seventeen national athletic federations, called the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). Among the many standards that the federation came together to discuss was distance around a running track (1). Although the distance varies between lanes, your standard high school running track is 400 meters around, via the inner-most lane. For Americans, this is equivalent to 0.248548 miles, or one-quarter mile.
Equation Used To Find Lane Length
Now that we’ve learned that the inner-most lane around a high school track is 400 meters, we can now find the distance around the track for the other lanes by using the following formula: 2S + 2pi(R + (n-1)w) = L
In the formula above, “L” is the lane distance, “S” equals the length of the straightaway, “R” is the radius of the turn, “n” is the lane number, and “w” is the width of the lane (2).
Modern running tracks are typically created in compliance with guidelines established by the IAAF. In these guidelines there are several variations on how straightaways and bends are created – some designs have two equal curves and two equal straightaways that are both 84.4 meters in length, while other designs have straightaways that are up to 100 meters in length.
But using the standardized track lane dimensions outlined by the IAAF, we can use the formula above to find that the distance around the track in lane 2 is 407.67 meters, lane 3 is 415.33 meters, lane 4 is 423 meters, lane 5 is 430.66 meters, lane 6 is 433.38 meters, lane 7 as 446 meters, and lane 8 is 453.66 meters.
Looking at the number above, four laps around a high school track in lane four is nearly 1700 meters, roughly 100 meters more than the distance needed in lane one. A runner using lane eight for four laps will run just shy of 1815 meters, or 215 meters farther than they would have run if they were in lane one.
Things To Remember
You do not need special track shoes or a pair of short shorts in order to run on a running track. Shoot, you don’t even have to run, walking is perfectly acceptable. But there are some things that you should keep in mind before going to your local high school running track.
- Read The Rules — Some high school tracks do not have any restrictions listed, but some schools may only open their tracks to the public during times when school isn’t in session. Plan your workout around open hours, and make sure you don’t interfere with special events like soccer, football, lacrosse, and of course track and field. To avoid complications later, simply call the school beforehand and ask if the track is open to the public.
- Be Weary Of Your Surroundings — Running in a condensed area like a track while others are jogging, walking, and chatting could become a recipe for disaster if you are not paying close attention to your surrounding. Think of it like driving on the highway – you’ll probably be fine, but one wrong move could get make people collide, roll an ankle, or tip. You might want to leave the iPod at home in order to keep your ears alert to those around you.
- Avoid Lane One — Unless you are the fastest runner on the track, or the track itself if empty, try to keep lane one empty. If you are warming up, cooling down, or moving slower than the other runners on the track, move to an outer lane. Some schools even restrict the general public from using lanes one through three.
- Run Counterclockwise — I’m not sure how this rule came about, but running tracks have a rule that states that you should proceed around the track counterclockwise. But if everyone is running clockwise, just go with the flow. Safety first.
How Long Is A Lap Around A High School Track?
At the time of writing, the current world record holder for the 400 meter dash is Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa with a time of 43.03 seconds (3). Niekerk’s memorable run came on August 14th, 2016 during Summer Olympic games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil.
Similarly, the current world record holders for the 800 meter and 1600 meter dashes are David Rudisha of Kenya and Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco respectively.
David Rudisha ran his record setting 800 meter dash in 1 minute and 40.91 seconds on August 9th, 2012 during the Summer Olympic games in London (4).
Hicham El Guerrouj’s mind blowing mile run was over in just 3 minutes and 43.13 seconds. His legendary run took place on July 7th, 1999 at the IAAF World Championship in Rome (5).
Now that you’ve learned that one lap around a high school track is 400 meters, or one-quarter mile, it’s time for you to get out there and smash some personal records.