Anyone up for “playing” track?


By Gary Droze


Notwithstanding those bumper stickers that gruffly announce “TRACK: THE SPORT YOU DON’T PLAY,” room exists for a more frolicsome approach to the sport whose essence is routinely prescribed as punishment by PE coaches. Three variations on a notion of “running for fun” come to mind:

Hare and Hounds. This activity calls for certain players (hares) to set out on a deliberately evasive route, and to leave occasional clues for other players (hounds) who begin to track the hares after giving them a head start. The game takes on real flavor when the course involves routes such as shopping malls, abandoned cemeteries, and dry creek beds. I once participated in a hare and hounds race outside of Loma Linda, California that led the runners through a nudist colony. As I snooped for clues around the common area, a handful of unclothed residents spotted me and shrieked. I was literally caught with my pants up!

Long Easy Runs. While the play potential on long easy runs is well known by distance runners, many sprinters consider the term “long easy run” a pure oxymoron. What a shame. For a trained runner, runs of an hour or more at conversational pace can be relaxing, invigorating, and – dare I say it? – even fun. Entertaining running partners increase the fun factor. Local ultramarathoner Dana Stetson is the Robin Williams of long runs. He effortlessly weaves together hysterical tales involving roadkill, recycling plant mayhem, and disgruntled anthropology majors, tossing them out in stream-of- consciousness style. Other individuals or groups tend toward word games or exploring new terrain during some of their long runs. The activity within the run really depends the group mix. My fondest high school track coaching memories are of the competing movie reviews served up by my distance runners as we toiled around Lake Overstreet. Their utter refusal to cave in to each other’s opinions yielded much merriment, especially when the robust gainsaying degenerated into spirited name-calling. You just can’t beat the entertainment value of witnessing a debate on the plot intricacies of “The Matrix” devolve into a shouting match over who has the grossest zits!

Summer Track Meets. As distinguished from the fierce contests during the spring track and road-racing season, the Gulf Winds Track Club Summer Track Series is a light-hearted affair. Each Thursday beginning June 7th, the GWTC hosts all-comers’ track meets at the FSU track. The meets begin at 7:00pm and feature sprint and distance events. Some hop in a race or two to spice up their speed training, others bring their children and run with them, and a few run every race of the evening, as a sort of buffet approach to a distance run. It’s a way to actually “play” track!