The Olympic Legacy

Building on the Olympic Legacy: installing the right synthetic running tracks for your facility

London 2012 and the Paralympics are over – but there’s no doubt that the inspirational games we’ve just witnessed have driven British enthusiasm for sports. The ambition to inspire a generation seems to have universally hit home – and no more so than on the athletics track. Thanks to the incredible performances of Mo Farah, Oscar Pistorious, Johnny Peacock and Yusain Bolt, enquiries at sports centres have reportedly rocketed as the British public jumps up from their sofas to explore what athletics could do for them.

Naturally that presents a fantastic opportunity for sports halls, clubs and schools looking to improve their synthetic running tracks – especially with funding on offer from public bodies such as Sport England. Plus, increasingly sophisticated polymeric running tracks and rubber running tracks now make it even easier to deliver a sports surface that will serve your facility and your users for decades to come.

Understanding system advances in modern synthetic running tracks

Whether you’re planning to improve the athletics facilities in your school hall or you’re looking to install full sized synthetic running tracks in a sports arena, modern athletics surfaces are geared up to provide superior sporting performance as well as the benefits of low maintenance and longevity. Your exact choice of running track will of course depend on your budget, type of use and future capacity for maintenance. However the choice can be narrowed down to two general types:

Rubber running tracks are based on the principle of layering rubber crumb with binding materials to achieve a durable high performing surface. The most popular of the rubber running tracks are the Spray Coat Systems, widely used by smaller clubs and schools, and a cost-effective option with an average life expectancy of 10 years.

However for professional or heavy use you should consider either the Sandwich System, which can cope with excessive and regular impact and will last up to 15 years – or the top end Full Pour System. This system is approved by the IAAF and is commonly used for professional synthetic running tracks for it’s top quality performance, extremely low maintenance and average 20 year life span.

Polymeric running tracks offer the benefits of extreme slip resistance, shock absorption and the hardiness to cope with running shoe spikes. A good choice for synthetic running tracks, polymer is also a popular option for MUGAs, new tennis courts and other sports surfaces due to affordability and practicality.

The basic factors to consider when installing a synthetic running track

When you are considering installing or improving a synthetic running track you should think about usage, positioning, longevity, maintenance needs and how all of these fit within your budget.

If you are responsible for an open air facility then your synthetic running track will need to deliver weather proof performance, water run-off and UV resistance to avoid unnecessary damage. If your users are professional athletes then they’ll expect the very best in shock resistance – particularly to cope with spiked shoes – whereas if your users are amateur or beginner athletes it’s wiser to prioritise price and long term performance in order to keep maintenance and replacement costs down. The experts at ETC Sports Surfaces Limited can advise you on your specific premises and situation and help you decide whether a rubber running track or a polymeric running track is the right choice for you.

Making sure your synthetic running track meets safety regulations

Naturally the Olympics Legacy has also inspired a boom in the supply of sports facilities – so you need to be careful that you choose an installer with the right experience and track record. There are a number of accreditation schemes in operation that can help you make the right choice. The Sports and Play Construction Association (SAPCA) represents companies specifically involved in sporting construction including synthetic running tracks. Whilst The Contractors’ Health and Safety Association Scheme (CHAS) oversees health and safety practices on council sites across the UK.

ETC Sports Surfaces Limited are Principle Contractors for SAPCA, accredited of CHAS, and have also implemented ISO:9001 2008 standards in quality management. Our guides to planning permission, maintenance and disability access will all help you to ensure that your synthetic running track delivers safe, superior performance for your users for decades to come.