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  • Track vs Roads

    This is a topic I don't recall seeing a thread on. (Haven't checked the whole list in the archives, though!)
    Here's my thoughts on it.

    1. The only distances where you get a straight comparison are the mile, 5000, and 10000. I won't include such oddities as the track 30K or 50K (run), nor road races of 2 miles, 15K and such. And I'm talking only outdoor races, since road races obviously aren't run indoors!!

    2. The times aren't at all comparable. The mile WR is 3:43 (track) vs 3:50 or so (road) for men. (Not sure of the road WR's, so just guessing!) No one's broken 27:00 in the men's 10K on the roads, so over 43 seconds slower than the track. Molly Huddle's recent AR in the road 10K (31:37) is 1:15 behind the track AR.

    3. Conditions are different. Weather, terrain (hills, flat?), point-to-point or loop, harder to judge pace when each 400 isn't timed.

    4. You don't always get the same group of competitors. Heather Kampf is called "Queen of the Road Mile", but she's nowhere near the top 3 or 5 women on the track.

    Anyway, you get the idea-----lots of differences.

    Personally, being a stats buff, I much prefer the track, because it makes for much more straight-forward comparisons. How can you really compare, say, the Carlsbad 5K to the USATF 5K where Huddle recently ran 15:10?

    I see road racing (at distances where it's comparable to track--mile to 10K) as just an adjunct to track, not a be all-end all in itself. Road times aren't as useless as XC course times, but they shouldn't be taken seriously when compared to track times either.

    But road races do tend to fill some of the gaps between track seasons.
    Carlsbad is timed perfectly for that, as are any races run between mid-September and January (when indoor track takes over).

    Your thoughts??
    Last edited by aaronk; 09-25-2014, 11:31 AM.

  • #2
    Most road courses are inherently slower than the track due to changing elevations and sharp turns. I've done the Carlsbad 5K and the thing I remember about it is the hairpin turns and undulating roads, which is really noticeable for someone from south Louisiana. Having said this, I'd love to see a world-class field assembled for Crescent City Classic in the winter time - below sea level, pancake flat, no hairpins turns, hopefully low humidity - with rabbits and a $100,000 WR bonus on the line to see what they could do.

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    • #3
      One thing I noticed more this year was what I listed as number 4 above.
      That you sometimes see track specialists running a road race (Jenny Simpson in the 5th Avenue Mile), but the opposite-----a road specialist racing, and winning, on the track----is rarely seen.
      When was the last time Kampf, for example, WON a big time track race??

      This happens a lot in the marathon.
      Kipsang, the Jeptoo's, etc don't often, if ever, race seriously on the track.

      It would be great to see what each group could do on the other's territory! (Huddle has done both at high quality all year, ever since that 12K last year.)
      Last edited by aaronk; 09-25-2014, 04:05 PM.

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      • #4
        This is a version of the track vs. Cross Country debate. I am not a fan of CC precisely because it is so dependent on confounding variables. And yet, all the major CC sites have descending order lists as though they were track races. CC is for the pure 'competition' fans of running, which is only a part of what I enjoy in T&F. Any 6th grade field day mile-run can have a highly competitive race. Sure, it's more 'interesting; when the best of the world go at it, but notice that even Oly Marathons can be disappointing. Look at the demise of the IAAF World CC Championships and you see a business model in ruins.

        On the other hand, I was there at the Stanford Golf Course in fall 1969 when Pre and Lindgren duked it out in the Pac-8 meet. Best race I've ever seen. :-)

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        • #5
          One problem with most XC courses is you have difficulty seeing much of the race unless you are a XC runner yourself....also true of road races.

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          • #6
            There are efforts to 'normalize' for the different courses with modest success. If you followed it much you would know (US-orientation only).

            As for viewing races, several of the top courses are designed so that you can see the race multiple times, especially if you move some but are no where near an XC racer (64-year old adults do just fine). Probably the two biggest examples are the course where NCAAs have been held repeatedly the last decade at Indiana State and the Zimmer course at Wisconsin. Indiana State is well laid out, but they have chain-link fences that restrict movement (for good reason at the NCAA Championship level. Wisconsin has not yet put in fencing and as elevation gradients that allow some viewing from a distance as well as close-up viewing of the part of the course where there are a series of "S"s. This allows you to see the start, then the race at about 1500m and then again four more times between 2500m and 3500m. You can then see them from a distance after 4km and get to repeat the process with about 4000m added to each of the first six measurements.

            For anyone wanting to see a top-level college XC meet that has the biggest impact on which teams go to the NCAA meet they should go see the adidas XC Invitational on October 17 (midday). This year they list 37 mens teams and 38 womens teams, often with about 15-20 of the top 31 (NCAA field size) teams in the country despite the fact that it is run on the same weekend as the 'Preview' race on the NCAA Championship course.

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            • #7
              I am clerking the 78th Cowboy Jamboree tomorrow. I was at the 13th through 16th, missed a few while off living life but have made the last 40. Thirty years ago, before cell phone/radios/gators my assignment was to stand near the start, start my watch, run a half mile to the one mile mark and call splits, run another half mile to the two mile mark and call splits, run a half mile back to work the chute...repeat for six races then go to the football game.
              I was the finish line judge for about twenty years. Now, chips have made the finish chute less demanding.. good thing, trying to keep exhausted, sweaty women vertical and moving without touching anything verboten is harder than it sounds.

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              • #8
                Lonewolf, your bit about the finish line reminded me of the NXN meet last year, when Sarah Baxter was outkicked by both Alexa Efraimson and Elise Cranny.

                Baxter was so totally exhausted by her effort, that she was bent over (while Efraimson & Cranny more easily just walked away) for several seconds after her finish.

                While nothing "verboten" was touched, the people trying to move her away from the finish--I felt---were too aggressive.
                She was totally spent...even to the point, I thought, of needing medical assistance!!---and they should have either A) carried her off on a stretcher, or B) let her stand there another minute or so while she recovered.

                What's more important....a runner's health, or clearing out the finish chute??

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by aaronk View Post
                  What's more important....a runner's health, or clearing out the finish chute??
                  Leaving her there in the chute does not particularly advantage her health and it does not advantage anyone the health of anyone else. They clog the chute and then you can not get in to assist those that need help. It also can interfere with the race itself as it will back up to the finishing line and then people running at 12-15 miles and hour are running in to tired runners that are rather unaware of the dangers.

                  In the woman's race in particular it is sometimes helpful to have teammates assist in moving someone distressed in the chute area.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by lonewolf View Post
                    One problem with most XC courses is you have difficulty seeing much of the race unless you are a XC runner yourself....also true of road races.
                    But if you're up for it, few things are more fun than dashing back and forth across the course. The ability to get close to a half-dozen great vantage points at Stanford was one thing that made the epic Lindgren/Prefontaine race even better.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by gh View Post
                      But if you're up for it, few things are more fun than dashing back and forth across the course. The ability to get close to a half-dozen great vantage points at Stanford was one thing that made the epic Lindgren/Prefontaine race even better.
                      Be nice if all (or most) road courses were on a 2 or 3K loop (15K=5 loops), so more road fans can see the runners several times during a race.
                      Like the walks sometimes do, with their 2K loops.
                      Lots of turns, but good for the fans.

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                      • #12
                        big road races tend to be about community involvement, not pleasing a small group of hardcore race fans. Accordingly,a nice big loop taking in as much of the community is what's desired, not going over ploughed ground over and over.

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                        • #13
                          ^ Agree. I do not have the history w any aspect of this sport that most here have, but I can second gh's comment, at least with reference to Indiana University's course as laid out in the 1990s (& now, I think -- I haven't been there in a while). A great course to watch NCAA (once), the Indiana HS championships, and a few other meets. With relatively little movement, one could see the athletes at several points.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by gh View Post
                            big road races tend to be about community involvement, not pleasing a small group of hardcore race fans. Accordingly,a nice big loop taking in as much of the community is what's desired, not going over ploughed ground over and over.
                            Not to mention the logistical issues with using a small loop for larger races (e.g.., the back of the pack would not be clear of the start by the time the leaders completed their first 2K).

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                            • #15
                              Anyone who sees variability of conditions, course length, and spectator access as failings of cross country as a sport just doesn't get it.

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