Most Tracks are Red. Y Tho?
It's perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century - or at least a question that is mildly thought-provoking. Why are tracks red? Of course any track fan knows that some tracks these days have different colorways, but most 400m ovals today still have that classic red-ish, orange-ish, brown-ish color. Why?
Well the short answer is...there is no short answer. The internet has a few different theories, but part of the reason is probably just because that's the way it's always been. For the more interesting theories, keep on reading.
Theory #1: Olympic Red Cinder
All the way up until 1968, the Olympic track was made with crushed cinder blocks. These cinder blocks happened to be have the same shade of red that today's tartan tracks do. It's entirely possible that in the 1968 Mexico City Games, the first tartan Olympic track was just colored the same way as the previous cinder tracks to keep up with tradition. It actually wasn't until 2016 that an Olympic track used a different color than cinder-block red. Some renegade in Rio thought it would be a good idea to change the color to blue. Did anyone care? Not really.
Theory #2: UV Color Degradation
I'm no scientist, but some convincing folks on the internet seem to suggest that red is the most "UV stable" color for a track. Apparently this means that it's less likely to react or fade in the sun and therefore hold up to a high standard longer than other colored tracks. Close behind red on the UV stability scale are blue and green as the theory goes, which might be why you've seen an odd blue or green track amongst the popular red ones. Questionable theory, but then again here at The Fast Track, we have no idea how UV rays work.
Theory #3: Aircraft Warnings
This is by far the most interesting theory of them all. In the early days of flight, pilots would commonly have to deal with engine failures. Some smaller aircrafts would try to salvage their failing planes by landing in trees, thick brush, or anything that offered a reasonable chance at a soft landing. For many years, this meant landing in parks resulting in many close calls with children, parents, and members of residential communities.
Since most local tracks are also constructed near residential communities, someone thought it would be a good idea to make tracks bright red in color. This way, pilots looking for a place to land their failing planes would be able to spot tracks as "warning areas" and therefore avoid possible collisions with unsuspecting civilians.
Quite an interesting idea, too bad it's completely false. Our research only yielded Theory #1 and Theory #2, but Theory #3 sounded way more interesting. I guess we'll never know exactly why tracks are red, but at least you'll be able to trick some of your friends into searching for low-flying aircraft instead of finishing their workouts.