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  • Grass vs Track conversion - help!

    I'm trying to work out a grass to track conversion, but am struggling to find any reliable information online that can help. Does anyone have any knowledge or thoughts on this?

    The reason is purely selfish: I'm having a mid-life, lock down crisis, and last year decided to train a bit, with the aim of entering a masters sprint race "and not come last". I was looking at the 200m, the event I used to run as a junior, however, after hurting the achilles last year, the 400m seems less intense, albeit a million times harder and a total vomit-fest. Anyway, because of said achilles, I've currently started training again, but on grass. The grass is not a grass track, but a rugby pitch, not currently being used, and I would say is "soft, medium-length grass" as opposed to trodden down, flat stuff, ala Wimbledon.

    The soft grass massively helps my achilles, but on the other hand, is way slower. These last 4 weeks of running have been great with no after affects, but of course you get nothing back form the soft surface, and the times are, well pretty naff. Whilst I am not focusing on times and just getting back into it for now, I still need some idea of crap-ness.

    Any thoughts welcome.

  • #2
    I would suggest that there no possibility of having a reliable grass to rubberised conversion.

    Too many different factors:

    * has the grass been rolled flat
    * has the grass been mowed
    * what type of grass
    * what type of soil
    * is it soft or hard from the rain
    * and on and on

    However it would be fascinating if there was a reliable Factor because I've always wondrred just how Snell's 800m world record on grass would convert .

    I doubt any of today's 200m sub 20 second 200m sprinters could do that on grass
    Last edited by Tuariki; 09-27-2021, 08:12 PM.

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    • #3
      What Tauriki said in terms of a guaranteed, universal conversion - there isn't one. However, you can probably develop approximations yourself with well planned training.

      Combining grass and synthetic surface sessions can achieve good results for sprinters. Kerry Johnson (AUS) took the CWG 100/200 silvers behind Ottey in 1990 off a mix of grass track work at University of Queensland, her club track, and synthetic track work at Brisbane's QEII stadium.

      The key though, is that she didn't do all of her work on grass then compete on track because there's too much difference between the surfaces. If you go from your soft grass straight to competition on synthetic, your injury risks will skyrocket.

      You need a plan that incorporates regular sessions on a firmer surface to test how your Achilles reacts, even just one session every 7-10 days. Be conservative, just starting with run throughs and working up over weeks to one of your "easy" standard sessions if your body copes OK.

      By doing a standard session on different surfaces you can start to develop your conversion factor at least for lower intensity/volume work. As long as you match a session to your younger days, you will get some idea of what the future holds.

      Depending on how your body holds together, you can do a greater proportion of work on firmer tracks or stick to the occasional session if the Achilles is an ongoing problem.

      The whole idea is to be conservative and remember that stress from track surfaces is another training component that needs to be balanced just like intensity and volume. You should also consider your footware as part of this, where the balance of training in flats and spikes needs to be considered.

      For inspiration, here's a video of Snell on the grass track at Lancaster Park, Christchurch in 1962 cruising to a 1:44.3 WR enroute to a 1:45.1 880 WR.

      https://youtu.be/V7UtoLeBBDA


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      • #4
        Tuariki I appreciate your response, especially considering we've locked horns a number of times in the past. 😉

        El Toro that's good, common-sense advice. I need to be careful not to get too used to the grass surface, and then get injured when I step on a track. At the moment, the grass is obviously softer and gives me reassurance, as much as anything, that I can complete the session pain free. But it gives you nothing back, and is hard work in its own way. I think I may test a track soon...I just need some new flats. The ones I have currently are fine for grass, but would want something different for track. Time to how a nose around the Nike online store methinks...

        I shall take some inspiration from Snell.....


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        • #5
          The harder the soil and the shorter the grass, the better, The fact that Snell ran his fastest on that track certainly points to it being very fast (hard).

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Atticus View Post
            The harder the soil and the shorter the grass, the better, The fact that Snell ran his fastest on that track certainly points to it being very fast (hard).
            I wouldn't expect Lancaster Park to be "hard" as it was primarily a cricket/rugby ground but it would have been smooth, cut short and likely rolled. I've run on grass tracks like that and would rate them as "firm" in dry conditions. Maybe Tauriki has actually run on that track and can comment.

            A "hard" grass track would be one using crusher or cracker dust, small chips of hard rock coming from plants crushing rock into larger pieces for things like road base or rail ballast. This would would give a solid surface even in the monsoonal season where I grew up.

            Something midway between would be grass growing on a cinders base, which would be free draining but softer than a crusher dust base due to the smaller particle size.

            The worst grass track I ever ran on was the site used a fortnight before for the Mt Isa rodeo parking lot during the dry season. The parched straggly grass had been unable to resist the impacts of extensive circle work and most people lost almost one second !! over 100m.

            There is a reason why I don't have much time for people complaining about supposedly slow tracks...

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Atticus View Post
              The harder the soil and the shorter the grass, the better, The fact that Snell ran his fastest on that track certainly points to it being very fast (hard).
              There weren't too many other options in those days, especially NZ.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Tuariki View Post
                There weren't too many other options in those days, especially NZ.
                His 1:45.1 Tokyo OG was fast cinders (where Hayes ran).

                I'm guessing that 'fast' back then was highly correlated to how dry the soil was. Even a track that had been rolled was problematic if it were damp at all.
                Last edited by Atticus; 09-28-2021, 09:41 PM.

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                • #9
                  I don't understand grass tracks. Wouldn't lane one get chewed to bits right away and the grass not grow back from constant running on it?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Fortius19 View Post
                    I don't understand grass tracks. Wouldn't lane one get chewed to bits right away and the grass not grow back from constant running on it?
                    Ala Wimbledon grass court base lines. We've seen a few issues over the years where the grass has either been too slippy, or too ripped up.

                    I guess many 'developing countries' (hate that phrase) still rely on grass tracks. We used to have a 200m grass track at my school and you could barely see the lanes. I wonder how many grass tracks there are in use in 'developed countries' now?

                    I'm training on a University rugby pitch at the moment, the added issue being the size of the area; the pitch is 300m in diameter (2x 100m lengths and 2 x 50m widths) so trying to do 200 reps, for example, is hard, and the turns crazy-tight. There is just enough grass outside to add 25m to one length & width i.e so not having to run two turns, so 175m's it is!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Fortius19 View Post
                      I don't understand grass tracks. Wouldn't lane one get chewed to bits right away and the grass not grow back from constant running on it?
                      Perhaps they aren't used as much for training as tracks of other surfaces? I know in the UK, and I suspect elsewhere, some tracks reserve the inside lane or 2 lanes for competition. This includes some synthetic tracks.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Trickstat View Post

                        Perhaps they aren't used as much for training as tracks of other surfaces? I know in the UK, and I suspect elsewhere, some tracks reserve the inside lane or 2 lanes for competition. This includes some synthetic tracks.
                        Yep, spot on with the lane management. A properly managed grass track, even one without professional maintainence, will limit use of lanes to different days to spread the wear.

                        If you are really smart like me, you will build a Lane0 for those pricks that absolutely have to warm up and train on the inside lane despite any barriers in place.

                        You get the added bonus of their depression when they don't perform as well as they expected based on their 400 (ha!) reps.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Fortius19 View Post
                          I don't understand grass tracks. Wouldn't lane one get chewed to bits right away and the grass not grow back from constant running on it?
                          Grass is a good surface because it's cheap if the climate supports it. This probably won't be the case in large parts of the northern hemisphere with harsh and long winters. However, in moderate climates like the UK, Australia and New Zealand, grass is cheap compared to the hassle of cinders and the cost of synthetic surfaces and grows easily.

                          The other factor in those countries is the combination of sports where rectangular Union/League/Association football can be played inside an ovalish cricket or Australian rules ground. All you need to do to make track is to cut and roll the grass and mark some lanes and fire the starting pistol. After athletics is over, just let the grass grow and you wouldn't know anything had happened.

                          Where I grew up, there were no cinder tracks at all in the state, they were all grass, at least until the venue for the 1982 CWG was built and that was over 1,000 miles away. Even now, in the top half of the state, there are only 3 clubs based at synthetic tracks with the other 20 using grass, although some have installed synthetic for highest wear locations such as jumps and javelin.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Trickstat View Post

                            Perhaps they aren't used as much for training as tracks of other surfaces? I know in the UK, and I suspect elsewhere, some tracks reserve the inside lane or 2 lanes for competition. This includes some synthetic tracks.
                            Lots of tracks in the US have movable bars that block the inside 4 lanes.

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                            • #15
                              Thanks for the feedback. We're looking at creating a grass track here in central CA for a local kids club.

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