The Geometry of Track & Field
The warmth of the gym (or bed) is being shunned on early mornings by lonely runners, groups of cyclists and platoons of parkland boot campers. Seldom do we hear about the lonely scene of the faded athletics stadium, with its tired grandstand seating and broken changing rooms, but you can have a slice of Olympic daydreaming for as little as £4. One cold rainy morning we took ourselves down to run, but like many turned on by grids, type and geometry we found there was more than sport to enjoy.
Out in the car-filled lanes of Surrey or around monotonous laps of Regents Park its hard to imagine yourself cycling up the Col du Tourmalet to win a decisive stage of the Tour de France. Volleying an over-head bicycle kick in Hyde Park that was definitely 'crossbar and in' is not a last minute winner in the FA Cup final, especially as you have to run 100 yards to collect the ball before continuing heads and volleys. Smashing a tennis ball 'for six' into next doors' garden doesn't make you Ian Botham. You can try to imagine, but it's just not quite enough.
However, with track running — for a meagre sum — you can amble, jog or sprint inside an actual athletics stadium. You can't do that at Wembley or Twickenham or Lords. You can outsprint Carl Lewis, smash Seb Coe and make Jess Ennis wish she'd stuck to advertising credit cards. An empty athletics stadium, however dilapidated, is a glorious thing. The grandstand, the floodlights, the burnt orange track — it's real. It's Barcelona, Montreal, London. Let your imagination do the running.
It's a wonderful arena, simply because it has to do so many jobs. A myriad of sports are housed in an athletics stadium which creates a problem only solvable with good design. Grids, type and geometry all come together to help this 400m track provide an arena for sprints, hurdles, long jumps, long distance and more. Different start positions around the track allow the finishing tape to be consistent on the home straight. The painted lanes are only the start, there are markers and numbers punctuating almost every metre creating a beautiful sea of intersecting lines.
Next time you fancy a jog, feel an urge to dream or simply want to see some lovely grids — head down to your local track.