- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

Thus far we have escaped the worst of the winter weather, but remember it was not until February that the wicked weather last year postponed or canceled most road races. It is bound to get worse outside, which is a good reason to consider the indoor track as a backup.

More importantly, though, anybody looking to increase speed and/or strength should consider track sessions and track meets during the cold and snowy season.

Speed sessions should be incorporated into your training year-round. Even if you can get out and challenge your cardiovascular system with an interval session just once a week, you will find marked improvement, no matter if you are a track athlete or a marathoner.

Plus, the quicker sessions force you to improve your turnover, which in turn trains your body to naturally run faster. Everybody could benefit from quicker turnover.

An easy way to incorporate this speed training into your yearly program is to run in the area’s many indoor track meets during January, February and March. Another way is to do interval training on outdoor tracks with some of the local running clubs.

Frankly, the former always has appealed to me but not the latter. When I am doing speed, I want to be fairly warm. We were forced indoors when I was a prep runner in New England for obvious reasons. And it was not until recently that I realized that Florida and California high schools do not have indoor track programs because they do not need them.

The two local track series are held at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex (301/583-2661), near FedEx Field in Landover, and Thomas Jefferson Community Center (703/218-2726), off Route 50 and Glebe Road in Arlington.

My preference has always been the PGSLC track because it has a six-lane, 200-meter oval track on Martin’s poured rubber surface. With or without spikes, this is a fast track with gentle turns.

Nearly every other Sunday, beginning today, there is a track meet — (Jan.4, Jan.18, Feb.1 and Feb.22 masters only) — with events for all ages from hurdles and sprints to 3,000-meter race walk, 3,200-meter run, relays and five field events (pole vault, shot put, triple jump, long jump and high jump). Most of the time, you will have your times or marks recorded.

The Thomas Jefferson meets are well organized, but I am not a big fan of running on a soft urethane surface unless I have no other choice. Reminds me too much of gym class in elementary school.

The indoor track at Jefferson is a newly resurfaced, four-lane 200-meter indoor track with a 20-meter turn radius, so it is a bit tight in the corners but you get the long straights.

Major downers: no spikes allowed, no field events, no hurdles and no recorded times for races shorter than the mile. But the schedule does have three racewalk races, six running races from 55 meters to 3,000 meters and two relays.

The dates coordinate well with the PGSLC meets — Jan.11, Jan.25 and Feb.8 — allowing participants to race a track meet or run an interval workout indoors every Sunday for the next five weeks.

The cost of both meets is minimal, virtually half the price of a trip to the movies. And these meets are fun — except when there are hundreds of children participating and you have to wait an eternity for your event to be called. So be patient.

You can find more information on both meets at www.pvtc.org.

If you don’t mind a day trip to the Philadelphia area, you can find well-organized meets by the Philadelphia Masters Track & Field Association. Today is the second of the series, with the third Feb.15 at Albright College in Reading, Pa., and the fourth and final meet March13 at Haverford College near Philadelphia.

Contact Kyle Mecklenborg, 215/393-1382, for information.

There also is an open indoor meet on Jan.18 at the University of Delaware in Newark, managed by the university athletic staff.

All of these meets are low-key, so you are not running for prize money or Olympic gold medals. Try out one or many of them, have some fun, stay warm and get hooked on speed.

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