With the end of cross country season and the onset of winter, the collegiate runner moves into a new phase of competition. But despite the biting cold and icy roads, training goes on as usual.

After a strong finish at Heptagonals this fall, the Quakers’ cross country teams look to join forces with their sprinting, jumping and throwing counterparts in an effort to continue their success indoors.

But other than the obvious, what makes indoor track indoor track? And how does it fit into the life of a Penn athlete?

Indoor track — or running ‘on the boards,’ as it used to be called until synthetic ‘mondo’ surfaces replaced the wooden boards of another era — is a two-month season during which track teams flock to a few well-designed, often banked tracks around the nation to compete at slightly modified distances from the ones they run outdoors.

Indoor tracks are also shorter than the standard 400-meter outdoor tracks. They range from five to 11-and-a-quarter laps to a mile, but the usual length is one-eighth of a mile (200 meters) — half that of an outdoor track.

Although they take it seriously, most athletes use indoors as a chance to prepare for the outdoor season, both by taking time to put in quality training and by participating in a few competitions to keep their skills sharp and their minds in racing mode.

Runners also like the opportunity to run some more peculiar distances, like the 300-meter or 500-meter dash (rather than the 400-meter), which aren’t run in the spring. Oddly enough, it is during the indoor season that athletes get the chance to run the more common mile distance (1609 meters), which becomes the slightly shorter, metric-based 1500-meter run during the outdoor season.

But in his last indoor season — and last chance to run the mile — senior miler Jeff Weinstein is “going for broke” and trying to shave off three seconds from his last winter season personal best, 4:08.

Junior Michael Cunningham is looking to run a similar time but is placing more emphasis on preparing for the spring campaign.

Robbie Dugger, a 4:12 miler, looks at it a little differently. He sees the indoor season as a great opportunity in itself to use the aerobic strength he accumulates from thousands of miles over the summer and fall to rack up fast times the moment the gun goes off in January.

This Saturday, the Red and Blue will travel to the Armory at 168th Street in New York City to launch their season.

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