Need to do some speed work? Want to run on a soft surface? Like going around in circles? The Irwin Belk track is a great place to get it all done. Located within the Davidson College campus, the Belk track is "a 400 meter, eight-lane track built to international standards" (source: Davidson College). Four laps make nearly a mile*.
There's no question that speed work will make you faster, provided you stick to a plan. There are as many plans as there are running coaches, so pick the the one that's best for you and your goals. For example, one method for prepping for a faster marathon is the Yasso 800s. Simply put, run 800 meters at a time (two laps) with a jog break in between, beginning with four sessions, add one session per week, culminating in ten sessions.
Week 1: Four sessions (4 x 800)
Week 2: Five sessions (5 x 800)
Week 3: Six sessions (6 x 800)
Week 4: Seven sessions (7 x 800)
Week 5: Eight sessions (8 x 800)
Week 6: Nine sessions (9 x 800)
Week 7: Ten sessions (10 x 800)
The pace you choose for your 800s should be your anticipated total marathon time, extrapolated. For example, if you want to run a 3 hour 30 minute marathon, run each 800 in 3 minutes 30 seconds. For more information see Bart Yasso's website.
Bringing the topic back to Davidson College's Belk track, you can also run the stadium stairs, which will give your cardiac system quite a workout.
Some things to keep in mind as you run on the Belk track. Officially, it's reserved for Davidson College students, faculty, and staff. However, if it's not being used by the aforementioned you should be able to run without issue; early morning are the best. Also, lanes one thru four are prohibited for use, so stick with the outside lanes. Generally, the slower you are the further out you should be. There are other general rules posted on signs as you enter the stadium, so be sure to read them. Oh yeah - if you drive and park, make sure you either park on Davidson-Concord Rd. or at the big lot off Baker Dr. Otherwise your track session may cost you $20, courtesy of Davidson College campus police.
So if you're interested in becoming faster or figuring out exactly what your P.R. for a mile is, track is the place for you.
A special thanks for DART member Kathy Rink for providing additional info regarding the Belk track.
P.S. Four four-hundred meter laps = 1,600 meters = .994 miles, or 31 feet shy of 5,280 feet. Come on, you really wanted to know, didn't you?