To keep your outdoor track and field facility looking good — and performing even better — regular and routine maintenance practices are key. In fact, you don’t need any particular expertise to be proactive. The following can be used as a guide to regular track maintenance:
Perform regular walk-throughs: Make it a point to walk your track on a regular basis. You may have to circle it twice to ascertain that you’ve seen each lane and both sides. Keep an eye out for damage to the surface, loose rubber, worn markings or anything else. If you see anything, take a photo of it. Send the photo to your tack installer before you embark on any repairs. Specific types of treatment may be required, depending upon your track, your geographical location and the season you’re currently in.
Keep it clean: Remove large debris (sticks, pine cones, twigs, etc.) from the surface by hand. Remove dust and dirt with a leaf blower held far enough from the surface to move the debris without damaging or putting pressure on the surface itself. Remember that anything you allow to stay on the track can mark it or be ground in by runners, damaging the surface.
Washing: Occasionally, a surface will look dirty or dingy. Discuss with your installer any recommendations for remedying this, as different track types have different cleaning protocols. The contractor may advise you to simply let rain take care of the problem, or they may recommend the use of specific equipment and cleaning products. The wrong type of approach can harm the surface – always ask first.
Keep weeds down: If you have a porous track system (water drains through) you may occasionally notice a problem with weeds that move in and take root here and there. The edges of the track is where you’ll likely see this first. (Tracks with curbing are not as susceptible to this problem.) An herbicide spray should help keep the problem at bay.
Drains: Clean drains on a regular basis. If they become blocked, water can wind up on your track and cause problems with the surface.
Field events: Inspect your field event structures. The sand pits are often an area of concern. Over time, sand can be kicked out (or unfortunately, if your facility is open to the public for community use, kids will use the area as a sand box while their parents walk or jog on the track). This sand can be ground into the surface of the track, which abrades it. Keep the sand pits raked and add, or even change, sand as necessary. Locking covers for the pits will also help protect the area.
Protect the track: Cover the track with plywood or another material if equipment has to be driven over it to access the field. Under no circumstances should equipment be driven on the track.
Add proper signage: If there are rules for using the track (no bikes, no in-line skates, no strollers, etc.), these rules need to be posted. Among other rules to consider:
No food or beverage: Colored drinks will leave stains if spilled on the track and may stain if left too long. Debris such as peanut or pistachio shells, sunflower seed husks and more can be ground into the surface if dropped.
No spiked shoes: While surfaces are designed to resist wear, spikes and cleats can damage a track over time. Many surfaces carry recommendations for the use of “pyramid” or “Christmas tree” type spikes that are a maximum of 6 millimeters long for best athletic performance on the track surface. This will also aid in reducing the possibility of excessive damage to the surface. Your track contractor will know what each manufacturer recommends. This information should also be imparted to coaches and athletic directors.
Hours of usage: A good track and field facility is viewed by many communities as an important amenity. If the area is open for community use, a decision will need to be made as to whether it’s open 24 hours a day, or during only certain hours/days. Lighting during dark hours will make the facility less inviting to vandals. But the more a facility can be used unsupervised, the less ability the owner has to control any misuse that could damage it. If a facility is left open to community use, the owner should assess the condition of the track and field periodically and decide whether to keep it open or limit its usage.