How Long Is A Track (And Why)?

How Long Is A Track (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 400 Meters

A track is a great place for exercises such as running and jogging. Running on a track is fun and has great health implications. Exercises in such open places offer ample air and chances of suffocation are widely reduced. These running tracks are more visible and pronounced in athletic competitions.

These tracks can be made up of either compact dirt or synthetic materials. The compact dirt tracks are widely considered as unsafe as the surface becomes muddy with a slight drizzle. On the other hand, synthetic tracks are safe to use. They are uniform and durable, although not easily affordable.

How Long Is A Track

How Long Is A Track?

Ideally speaking, tracks are 400 meters in length. In other words, that translates into a quarter-mile. When you cover the entire running track in one run, it is called a lap. So, if you want to run for a distance of a mile, you have to go for 4 laps on the track.

An ideal running track is divided into 8 lanes. In popular culture, when it is said that the track is 400 meters long, actually the interior most lane is being referred to. This interior most lane, Lane 1, is exactly 400 meters and as you go further, the distance increases. If you are a runner and as you go further from Lane 1, you will be required to cover more distance. So, if you are in a competition and want to win, you might stick to the interior most lanes.

However, it should be noted that the tracks are not uniform everywhere. In places like schools, colleges and adult community parks, the 400-meter track rule does not apply. This is because such places are made as per their needs.

For example, in a school competition, children cannot perform at the same standards as professional runners. Thus, the tracks are tailored as per their requirements. In such cases, you might have to take more than the usual number of laps.

It is also worth mentioning that the width of lanes and other rules regarding the tracks are established by the international body, International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). Accordingly, the international body has laid down the lane widths as summarised below:

Track LaneLength Of The Track
Lane 1400 meters
Lane 2407.67 meters
Lane 3415.33 meters
Lane 4423 meters
Lane 5430.66 meters
Lane 6438.33 meters
Lane 7446 meters
Lane 8453.66 meters

Why Are Tracks So Long?

The length of the running tracks as 400 meters were not decided out of the blue. There was a clear-cut and well-debated process behind it.

As described earlier, rules regarding tracks and lane lengths are formulated by the IAAF. The International Amateur Athletic Federation was originally formed by 16 countries in 1913. It was tasked with establishing standards for not only tracks but all athletic sports.

As concerns tracks, the IAAF came up with a compact mathematical formula to determine the track and lane lengths. The formula was, L = 2S + 2pi(R + (n-1)w). In this formula, L was lane lengths; S was the straightaway length; R stood for the radius of turn; n was the number of lanes while w was a symbol of lane width.

Also, if you are running on a track, be mindful of obeying all the rules. These rules are helpful for the general safety of the people and keep you going. For example, it is advised to run in the anti-clockwise direction on the running tracks. Such a facility helps all people to run in one direction. This is instrumental to prevent collision and unnecessary tension on the tracks.

Running tracks can be built inside sports complexes or in open-space sports complexes. However, the location of the tracks is not a determinant in deciding the length of the tracks.


In conclusion, the IAAF has a major role to play regarding track length and width. The track length is roughly 400 meters, though, it can vary as you move away from the interior lanes. The formula given by the IAAF helped to standardize the track dimensions for professional sporting events.

It has standardized and provided a uniform structure to the sport. The tracks in two different nations on two different continents would be the same and pose comfortability to the runners.



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Hi! I'm Nidhi.

Here at the EHL, it's all about delicious, easy recipes for casual entertaining. So come and join me at the beach, relax and enjoy the food.

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