Name: Silver Spring International Middle School
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Dimensions: 5-lane, 400m track; broad curves (IAAF style); standard lane widths
Facilities: Three levels of brick, hillside seating; primitive long jump runway (no pit) and minimalist high jump apron; softball diamond and backstop in infield
Access: Open (no gates)
A visitor to Silver Spring who inquires about places to run is likely to be directed to the Sligo Creek parkway, which features the Sligo Creek Trail, a 10.6-mile “linear park” frequented by cyclists, runners, walkers, and families out for a stroll.
If our visitor is running South along the trail, and if he isn’t too absorbed in the few yards of pavement ahead of him, he might just notice the Silver Spring International Middle School Athletic Complex off to the right.
The word “Complex” suggests a fancy, modern facility, but the surface and general state of disrepair indicate that the track was built decades ago, likely when it was still Montgomery Blair High School, that is, before 1999 when the original school buildings were re-purposed to house the International Middle School and Sligo Creek Elementary School.
Humble it may be, but the track itself is a fine (and rare) example of a 5-lane outdoor track with short straights and broad, sweeping turns, so much friendlier to runners than the sharp bends of an equal quadrant track.
The track at the SSIMSAC is a rare example of a 5-lane track with IAAF-style curves
As of this writing in December 2016, the asphalt surface is in pretty good shape — for asphalt — and mostly free of cracks and weeds. The lane lines are clearly visible around the entire oval, and are smooth and professional. A runner negotiating the curve or thundering down the final straight will not be troubled by wobbly lane lines.
The long jump runway and the high jump apron do not appear to have been used in a long time. There is no sand pit at the end of the runway, only hard, hard ground. The high jump apron is in a neglected corner of the field, with no sign that high jump mats have been thee in a very long time.
Runway to nowhere
Back on the track itself, our visitor soon notices a peculiar omission: there is no finish line, or start line, or any other mark to show how far one has progressed around the oval. There are no staggered start lines for the races run in lanes, no relay zones, no tick marks to show where hurdles go — nothing but endless lane markers, suggesting that once you start running, you are never supposed to stop, unless of course, you are a sprinter and follow the extended straight rather than the curve and stop when you get to the end of the asphalt, or the street.