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Dear PoPville – Anyone Know of a Public Indoor Track?

by Prince Of Petworth December 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm 48 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user JAMES ANTHONY CAMPBELL

Dear PoPville,

I’m starting to train for a half marathon and since it’s the winter, I’d love to find an indoor track on which to train. Does anyone know of a public indoor track in DC? I’m not a member of a gym and would prefer to not pay dues to join one for this purpose.

  • BW

    I’ve also been looking for a place to play basketball indoors (for cheapish). Somewhere preferably to play for fun and not get annihilated. Any thoughts? (maybe there’s an indoor track there too)

    • lbkstreet

      Sherwood Recreation Center has a weight room and basketball court.

      • SF

        Rosedale Recreation has an all new indoor basketball court. It’s great, although I haven’t seen any actual pickup games in there.

    • BW

      Thanks everyone! I hate to pester but does anyone know any place in NW. I’m sure I’ll get lit up for even asking, just looking for somewhere convenient.

  • Maire

    You seem to be pretty sure that you want to run inside but have you tried running outside? With some good gear outdoor winter running is great! Your body will warm up, the roads/trails/Mall are less clogged.

    Also, once you get into the 5-7-10 mile distances track running will be terribly boring! (in my opinion).

    But to answer your question, no, I do not know of a public indoor track.

    Signed, an avid cold-weather runner!

    • Anonymous

      I agree! And track running long distances can be very hard on the knees. Make sure you alternate directions!

    • KenyonDweller

      I agree. I don’t find outdoor running to be uncomfortable until it drops down into the 20s. Even then, it’s doable with the right gear, though I generally just go run on a treadmill at the gym at that point. (I realize the treadmill and the gym aren’t what OP is looking for.)

    • I second this whole-heartedly. I know it’s not an answer to the question OP asked but I recommend running outside. I don’t think training for a half-marathon on an indoor track will be as effective as doing it outside, both physically and mentally.

      Having said that, I don’t know of any indoor tracks, free or paid.

      Signed, another avid cold-weather runner.

    • AnneJuliet

      oh ME TOO! I wait patiently all summer long to break out my tights and headband for winter running weather:) I say give it a go!

  • The only indoor track in area I know of (other than a few at local universities) is the one at Thomas Jefferson CC in Arlington. I don’t think it’s free. I’ve paid something like 10 or 12 bucks for drop-in basktetball there a couple times.

    I echo Maire’s sentiments though. Cold-weather running is great with a good beanie and warm clothes. After-work runs on the mall in the winter months are a personal favorite — way less crowded, the monuments in all their lighted glory, and you can swing by the Captiol and National Xmas trees to get a jolt of holiday spirit as you shuffle along!

    • Anon

      The indoor track at TJ is uncrowded and membership is super cheap – but only for Arlington residents. If you have a friend that lives in Arlington you could use their voter identification card to get a membership.

  • Sidwell Friends has one – maybe they’ll let you in?
    But I second Maire – get some tights, shirt, vest, gloves, headlamp and a hat. Running outside is great. Rarely is it ever bone chilling cold in DC (I run at 5am and haven’t need gloves yet).

    With that said – some of my running friends swear by the running theaters (treadmills and a projection screen). I think Golds has a few – in case you must run indoors.

    • Anonymous

      Though not a track, some of the public rec centers have treadmills.

  • A

    To piggy back, does anyone know of any free OUTDOOR tracks?

    I’m training for a race as well and find speed work on tracks more enjoyable than on trails. I used to go to the one at Calvin Coolidge High School in Takoma, when I lived up there, but now I live in Mount Vernon Sq so I’m looking for something closer…

    • TW

      Banneker has a free outdoor track that I’ve used for speed work in the past.

      • I’m pretty sure Cardozo HS track is also available (and fairly close).

        • Yep, although sometimes DCPS will lock the gates to the track at Cardozo at the most bizzare times.

          I know it’s a bit of a hike for a lot of people, but American U’s track is open to the public and is rarely crowded (unlike Cardozo, Wilson, et al. can be at times).

          • LBeeCH

            DC Tri Club has a great track practice at Wilson HS on Wednesdays at 6:30. You don’t have to be a member to run!

        • Brian

          Cardozo’s track is closed for the forseeable future due to the massive construction they are doing to their gym facilities.

          • 13th&u

            Nope! Cardozo is definitely open. I play soccer there a couple times a week and it’s not affected by the construction. Try coming around 6:30 on weeknights – the gates and lights usually stay on until 9 or 10 when soccer leagues are playing!

        • McKinley HS in Eckington has a nice track.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Yes, I use Banneker’s track, too. It seems to be open pretty much all the time, whereas I can’t seem to figure out when Coolidge, Roosevelt, or Cardozo are open. It is an odd shape (it is around a baseball field rather than a football field), but yes, it indeed is a standard 400 meters.

        • Anonymous

          Second roosevelt. And there are lights on and usually people out there using the field so it feels pretty safe (woman running alone here).

    • Anonymous

      Try McKinley Tech HS on T St NE. There’s parking and I don’t believe they lock it. Also, probably closer to you, keep an eye on Dunbar’s reno…they’re sure to have nice athletic facilities when they’re done.

    • DC Fit Crasher

      Just throwing another outdoor track into the mix: the Duke Ellington track by the Georgetown Hospital in Burleith has been recently renovated and is an awesome spot for track workouts.


  • Blah-blah

    Indoor running is something that some people are more suited for than others. Why not use a treadmill?

  • Megan

    I am also a distance runner who trains throughout the winter for spring races.

    First off, to answer your question, no I do not know of any free, public indoor tracks in the area.

    Now, for the unsolicited advice: Train outside. Unless your half-marathon will be on an indoor (or even outdoor) track, do not use this terrain to train on. You will find yourself unprepared for the hills, curbs, sharp turns and dodging of people you will encounter during the race. Plus, running out in the cold forces you to bundle up; when you drop the layers for the race you will feel lighter and faster.

    In high school, I once decided to do an 8 mile run on the track instead of going out on the streets. Most miserable 32 laps of my life. Keep in mind most indoor tracks are only 200 meters (as opposed to outdoor 400 meter tracks). The though of running over 64 circles is enough to make my head spin.

    • dcndc

      Agreed! Get gloves, a hat, and some warm wicking gear and you’ll be fine. You warm up pretty quickly and get a much better view running outside than lapping for miles inside. I trained last winter and am again this winter outside for a spring half marathon and I remember the coldest I ran in was 17 degrees and believe it or not, felt great.

    • It can literally leave you spinning. I ran the 3200 meter track and field event for four years. Every time I ran, I would end the race horribly dizzy. It takes a few hours to properly regain your balance. I would not recommend long distance training on a track to anyone.

  • LW

    There is an indoor track in Landover, MD, by the Redskins stadium. You can get close on the Orange line. It looks like they have community hours. More info here: http://www.pgsportsandlearn.com/Our_Facility/Field_House/Community_Usage_Calendar.htm.

    I agree with everyone else, though, just run outside. There are tracks at many of the high schools in DC that you can use. Not to mention, training heavily on a 200 meter track for a half marathon puts you at risk for injuries if you’re not very smart about it.

    Avoid treadmills at all costs, they’re deceptive beasts and the natural world beckons.

    Just my $.02

  • For reals, the thought of training for a half on a track sounds miserable, unless you’re only using it for speedwork. Make sure you’ve got good gear and running outside is pretty comfortable – meaning wicking fabrics and stuff meant for running, no sweatshirts or cotton anything. Runningwarehouse.com has really great prices and free shipping and free returns, and you can get discount codes if you like them on facebook.

    My usual winter running uniform (for temps around 30) includes UnderArmour Cold Gear tights (fleece-lined), a fleece-lined mock turtleneck (it’s pretty tight so sometimes I’ll add a t-shirt over it to cover the flabbies), running gloves, and a light jacket that I usually tie around my waist after the first mile. I was really hesitant to try running tights, but now I’m sold. They rock. It’s definitely harder to get out the door when it’s cold, but once you get going, you’d be surprised how warm you get. And I’m saying this as a cold-averse Florida girl.

    • Oh, and I forgot the most important thing – a headband that covers my ears.

  • Anonymous

    One of the coolest deals in the city is at Trinity University. They have an amazing athletic center with pool, track, gym, bb court etc all inside, and it is open to the public to join, much cheaper than any other gym. Google it.

    It is on beautiful grounds too.

  • The YMCA in Dupont Circle has an indoor track, though you have to run about 17 laps to equal 1 mile.

  • anony

    i agree with the poster. I HATE running outside in the cold. no matter what people say about how you can just “get over it.” i dont like it, no matter how far i have to run. i could put a book on tape or my fave tunes and run inside for laps and laps and laps. it’s good to run a little bit outside, though, to prepare for the race, unless the race is in like april or may.

    • Greg McE

      I’d wager good money that the half-marathon in question is the Rock ‘N Roll USA in mid-March. Having run that race plenty of times (from back when it was still the National Maration & Half-Marathon), chances are VERY high that it will be 30 degrees when the race starts. The original poster will do themselves a huge disservice if they train solely indoors, both because of the temperature and also because they will not be ready for the several mile run up Connecticut Ave.

      There is definitely a tipping point where it does get too cold out for me (below 20 degrees and my lungs start hurting from the cold air, although a balaclava helps a great deal) but the indoor track should be a last resort. After one of the Snowmageddons I ran 9 miles on TJ’s indoor 1/8th mile track and it was excruciating.

  • Paula

    A couple things:
    Indoor track: Try the DPR: http://dpr.dc.gov/
    Outdoor track: Banneker Community Center (I have been to Cardozo too often & it’s closed when it’s supposed to be open + if there’s a school activity they close the track to outsiders)
    Running Programs: I coach with Fleet Feet in Adams Morgan. If you’re interested in a formal program (with track workouts included)- check out their website.
    Good luck on your training!

  • LT

    I have cold air tiggered asthma so I was excited to see so many comments on this post, but then when I actually get to them it’s nothing but chastising the asker. A little information without judgement would be nice.

    • Relax, no one was chastising or judging. Just showing support for the alternative, and there is *plenty* of good info here that did answer the question. I’m sorry you have cold-triggered asthma but no need to be so sensitive, especially on someone else’s behalf.

    • Anonymous

      Interesting. I ran track in college, including indoor track, and always felt raspy throated after running indoors. Outdoor running didn’t aggravate it, unless the pollen was heavy. Which is why I really only run in the winter in DC.

    • Anonymous

      “Judgment”? Where??

      • AK

        I’m not the OP or the original asker, and though I didn’t find the responses to be judgmental, I think some of the suggestions might be presumptuous. He or she didn’t mention the cold as a barrier to training–just winter. As a casual runner who really enjoys running outdoors in the winter, my main barrier is the dark. There just aren’t enough daylight hours in the winter to get out there, and I don’t often feel safe running after dark.

    • Nikki

      Anyone seeking information without judgment has come to the wrong place. Judgment always, information if you’re lucky.

  • dat


  • Anonymous

    It sounds like the OP is simply looking for an indoor track to train on until the weather warms up a bit. I don’t think he intends to train for the half marathon solely on the indoor track.

  • Anonymous

    I also run a lot outside in the winter, but some other reasons someone might want an indoor alternative:
    It can get icy (not always, but sometimes).
    It’s dark most of the time. There aren’t a lot of places in DC where I feel comfortable running in the dark, both for personal safety but also ability to see the terrain (see note above).
    Doing sprint work can be a lot easier over known distances (like a track).
    Asthma (as someone else posted).

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone know if the Gonzaga track is open to the public?

  • Anonymous

    Do you live or work in a tall building? Running the stairs yields a much more strenuous and beneficial workout.


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