The Eternal Battle Over the Inner Lane

Don’t you just hate it when you go to the track to do some speedwork and an old lady is using the inside lane to walk?

I mean, first of all, I’ve never really understood walking at a track in the first place. The only reason I use the track is for speedwork, where the track is useful for the distances, but does a walker really keep track of their 400-meter splits? And isn’t it ridiculously boring? Why not go somewhere more interesting for a walk?

I suppose they want some idea of how far they walk (I would show them a site like mapmyrun or USATF routes, but I don’t think that the age group I’m referring to is all that computer savvy), but I still can’t understand it.

There’s nothing I can do about walkers at the track; it’s one of those things I’ve just come to accept. But what I refuse to accept is why they use the inner lane. I mean, they’re clearly going to exercise, why not go a little further by using an outer lane? It’s not like they need the exact distances, most of them probably don’t even keep track of how many laps they do. But for some reason, again and again, a walker will be using the inner lane when I go to do speedwork. And so I have developed my own way to handle it.

Step One: The cough- As I approach the walker on the inner lane, I will cough twice to let them know I’m coming. Sometimes they move. Most of the time they don’t. If they don’t change lanes, commence Step Two.

Step Two: The close pass- Once the cough fails, I have no choice but to pass the walker on the next lane; so I pass close to the walker (speeding up, as I always do when I pass someone), nearly brushing them, and then zoom back into the inner lane after I pass. This hopefully sends the message that the rude runner wants the lane you’re walking in.

Step Three: The spit- After the pass, I always spit toward the grass on my left. I think this may be a subconscious act of trying to disgust the walker out of the inner lane, but maybe not. It’s just a weird habit of mine after I pass someone.

Step Four: The request- I have actually never had to do this yet, which surprises me. But the last thing to do, if you really want that inner lane, is to ask for it. Nicely, of course. If that doesn’t work, suck it up and take an outer lane.

Another annoying ‘walker thing’ is going in pairs or larger groups. I don’t mind that in itself (I like it for running, I don’t want to be hypocritical), but when they take up the inner lane and the next lane or two, I have in the past gasped ‘excuse me’ as I go by, which has always made the group shift a lane.

These are the ways I have learned to adapt at the track to inner lane walkers. I am sure there are other runners who are much more upfront in demanding the inner lane, and others who don’t even give it a second thought. But all I know is that it bugs the hell out of me.