Leesville’s indoor track and field team has been working hard to prepare for upcoming competitions. Because there is not an indoor track in or near the Raleigh area, the team must travel to JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem in order to compete. While it is nice for the teams to be able to run in more controlled conditions of an indoor facility during the winter, we often lack the support of friends and family in the Leesville community because the meets are so far away.
As a member, I hope to bring the indoor track team experience to you.
Arriving at JDL Fast Track, spectators separate from the athletes and enter through the main entrance while athletes competing are required to enter through the back entrance in order to complete a spike check– running shoes with ¼ inch metal spikes on the bottom to give the runner more traction while racing. Some spikes are considered illegal to race in because they tear up the track. If the athlete’s shoes are deemed acceptable, the person checking the spikes will put a marker on the laces.
Leesville typically sets up for the day on the back right bleachers; we claim our spot with peanut butter, water bottles, our warm up gear, and of course, blankets. The inside of JDL is far warmer than being outdoors, but it is still pretty cold. Athletes everywhere are huddled in blankets and wearing many layers of clothes in order to keep their muscles warm before their races.
When I was a freshman, going into my first meet, the seniors tried to tell us newbies how dry the air is in indoor track facilities and that we needed to drink tons of water. I can admit I thought they were exaggerating at least a little bit; I was very wrong. You know it’s an indoor meet when all the athletes can’t stop coughing for an hour after their race from breathing in the dry air and clouds of sand from the jump pits.
The races are typically a day long event, starting early in the morning with the 4×800 meter relay and ending much later in the day with the 4×400 meter relay. Depending on what race or heat you are in, the order of events, and if you are in multiple events, you may or may not have time to kill before you run, jump, or throw.
At a race last year, a team had brought a blow up mattress and managed to squish it in between bleachers. On top was almost their whole team that attended the race disguised with multiple blankets. At most of the meets I’ve been to, Enos have been hung up from bleacher to bleacher, and you can always find multiple athletes asleep on the floor trying to get some rest before they compete.
Teams usually arrive an hour before races in order to have time to set up and give at least thirty minutes to warm up for athletes racing in the first events of the day. The most drastic difference between indoor and outdoor track is that an indoor track is 200 meters shorter. Because indoor tracks are half the size of a regular track, you’d half to run double the number of laps than you would on an outdoor track. Before they close off the track to runners warming up to begin the races, you see athletes jogging a few laps to get use to the feel of a short track with more frequent turns.
Last year, a few of the Leesville runners and I had the opportunity to run at the Virginia Tech indoor track. That was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. The race was far more competitive than any I had competed in before, and the track had an interesting feature that I had never seen. The track was banked, meaning that the turns were raised. Typically, indoor track athletes only compete on flat tracks like JDL.
My favorite part about running track that really differs from cross country is that the athletes were able to support their team mates– never ceasing to cheer for every Leesville runner on the track. This is possible because not everyone runs the same thing — everyone runs at different allowing us to cheer on our teammates while we aren’t competing.
When it nears time for your race after you’ve warmed up, a race volunteer ushers your heat to the start line. Throughout all of the indoor races I’ve competed in, the sportsmanship of the runners never fails to impress me. Right before the announcer yells the “set” command, a few runners wish good luck to those on their right and left, and congratulate each other at the end of the race no matter how they ran.
The second the start gun goes off, all friendliness amongst the runners is gone. You don’t want to end up on the outside lane during the first turn, and you don’t want to be boxed in. In other words, you have to fight for an inside position with space to move, especially in unlaned distance events, which can become pretty messy. Most competitors are pretty anxious to make sure they can get the most out of their races after all of their hard training.
Running on an indoor track feels far different from an outdoor one. For starters, it’s much softer. The track is made of a padding that’s still firm but doesn’t make the runner feel like their feet are pounding the ground as hard. Since the track is 200 meters shorter, it creates the illusion that you are running faster than you actually are. While this can be a disadvantage, there are timers every 100 meters so the runners are quickly able to correct themselves. The support of hearing your teammates cheer for you as you come around the straight away is always helpful in carrying you to the finish line.
While indoor track meets are somewhat lagging an entertainment quality for parents or siblings to watch, for us athletes, they are extremely interesting. We can watch our teammates and athletes of different schools, especially at more competitive races with runners from different states. Although you may not be able to come out and support the Leesville indoor track team this winter, hopefully when spring track comes, you see what progress our team has made.