The common assumption is that four laps of a track equals one mile. But does it? Is every track the same? What about if you want to run more or less than a mile? How many laps around the track is a mile if you’re in lane 1 vs lane 4? Let’s break this all down.
Not knowing the answers to these questions shouldn’t discourage you from heading to the track for a workout. Track workouts can be an integral part of your training program, helping you improve your speed, leg turnover, and form.
Or perhaps you’ve been gearing up to watch some Olympics or other track and field races, so you’ve got questions.
Fantastic, we’re here to break it down with everything you need to know and help explain why you see staggered start lines or why they’re always pushing for that inside lane in longer distances.
Let’s get in to everything you need to know about running on the track and measuring laps.
Understanding Track Lane Distances
Most standard outdoor tracks are oval-shaped with eight lanes with the innermost lane measuring 400 meters. If you head to your local high school track or if you have a college nearby with a track open to the public, odds are they’ll match this standard.
Sometimes tracks may have slightly different but still circular shapes depending on the space they were trying to fit them in, but will still be the same 400 meters around.
Indoor tracks may be slightly smaller with 200 or 300 meter circumferences and some outdoor tracks may be larger so it can get confusing.
However, for the most part tracks are 400 meters for one lap using the innermost lane.
One other standard measurement you can count on for tracks is that each lane will be 1.22 meters wide.
Tracks will also generally have markings or be painted to denote lanes, start lines, finish lines, and more. These can also be helpful when you’re determining where to start and finish and what lane you want to use.
Tracks may vary in surfaces. They are usually made of compacted dirt, a synthetic surface, or asphalt. While the surface doesn’t impact the distance you run, it can impact how it feels and how fast you go, although this is something mostly noticed by elites running on numerous different tracks.
What are the Distance Measurements for Each Lane?
As I’ve mentioned, the innermost lane measures 400 meters around. But, there are 8 lanes and since they move further out from the center, the distance gets longer. This means if you stick to using one of the other lanes, you’ll be running further in each lap than if you just ran in the innermost lane.
The standard track distances for each lane are as follows:
While I’ve provided the distance in meters, feet, and miles, it’s important to be aware that the sport of track and field uses the metric system.
Why Is The Track in Meters?
Even though the United States uses the imperial system, there are very few other countries who join us in that. With the vast majority of the rest of the world using the metric system, the metric system was adopted as the standard.
The metric system is great because it’s based on the number 10, making it easy to work with.
So, when we talk about running distances on a track, like how far someone has to run in a race, we use meters. This helps keep things simple and fair, especially in big events like the Olympics, where athletes from different countries compete. Using meters for track distances makes it easy for everyone to understand and ensures that measurements are the same no matter where you are in the world.
Regardless, it’s helpful to know the measurements when you’re calculating your distance, designing workouts, etc.
Other Key Measurements to Know
In addition to the total distance around, it’s important to know some of the other distances on the track. Most of this is pretty basic math and based on the use of the innermost lane.
- each straightaway (the long side of the track oval) and curve is 100 meters and is the shortest distance for an outdoor sprint
- 200 meters is half a lap of the track, this is where you start to see different starting blocks for each runner to equal the same distance
- 400 meters is one lap around lane one, which is a quarter of a mile, a very common interval distance
- 600 meters means doing 1.5 laps
- 800 meters is two laps and is equivalent to a half mile
- 1,200 meters is three laps and is about three-quarters of a mile
- 1,600 meters or 4 laps is about one mile
How Many Laps is One Mile?
One of the most popular questions people ask about the track is “How many laps do I have to run to total one mile?”
4 laps is 1,600 meters or approximately one mile, running in lane 1 (the inside lane).
You’re probably wondering why I’m saying approximately and it’s because a mile is actually equal to 1,609 meters or 5,280 feet, which is just slightly longer than 4 laps of the inside lane.
However, if you choose to run in any of the other lanes of a track, because they are different lengths, you’ll end up running a little bit more than 1 mile as you can see in the table above in the “Miles” column.
None of this is an issue, but if you’re looking to run a specific distance for an interval workout for example, it’s important you know how far you’re going by using specific lanes.
How many lengths is 1 mile?
16 assuming you have run 4 laps.
As noted each curve or straightaway is consider a side or a length of the track.
How many laps is 2 miles around the track?
Sticking to the above note, now we’re talking about 8 laps in lane 1.
Now nothing says you have to stop at 1 mile either. But how many laps does it take to run other distances like a 5K or 10K?
How Many Laps is a 5K?
As you probably know, a 5K is 3.1 miles. So how many laps does a runner have to run to knock out five kilometers?
Oh no, a bit of math again! Assume these answers are always calculating from the inside lane.
12 laps + 1 straightaway
If four laps is one mile, than three miles is 12 laps. But what about that pesky .1? Well, to add that on you have to run another half lap (200 meters). This totals 5,000 meters, which is the event name you’ll probably see on TV if you’re watching a track and field event.
How Many Laps is a 10K?
If you think 12.5 laps for a 5K is a lot, well you mind find the number of laps required to complete a 10K a bit mind numbing.
A 10K, as we know, is 6.2 miles. This equates to 25 laps around a track.
Now, the 10K or 10,000 meters, is an actual track event and it’s the longest track running event held at the Olympics. If you’ve ever watched it on TV or in-person, you know it’s a long event even at the speeds those athletes hit.
Are you going to run a 10K around a running track? I know some folks absolutely LOVE track running and are happy to do any distance there, but even 10K elite runners aren’t usually doing it as an easy day.
They hit the roads or treadmill for long easy runs and most of their 10K at the track time is a part of a workout that’s broken into a warmup, intervals, and a cooldown.
How Many Laps Around a Track is a Half Marathon?
I can’t lie, now we’re treading in to an area that sounds like torture to me. In fact, in track and field once you pass the 10K most endurance events move to the roads.
However, maybe the track is what you have access too, so let’s break it down!
A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21,097.5 meters, which breaks down to 52 laps + 3 quarters (so three sides of the track).
Hopefully this helped clear up any basic questions you have about running distances on a track.
Regardless of whether you’re new to the track or not, you might find my article on Running Track: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide helpful too.
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- What are Fartlek Workouts
- Benefits of Sprinting for Everyone
- 21 Workouts to Get Faster
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