I was jogging when I asked myself this question:

In running contests the standard running direction is counterclockwise; I also believe to remember that the regulation is very old (right back to the Greeks and Romans). I suppose the reason is that most people have a stronger dominant right leg and running counterclockwise feels more natural.

Now there are people who are "left-legged": They have a stronger and dominant left leg. What I ask is: How would the times change overall if we revert the direction and let the runners run clockwise ? Has someone experimented with it ? Is the effect discernible or even decisive ? Would left-legged people get an advantage ?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm not a track runner, but surely even on track there must be more to it than a dominant leg vs a non-dominant leg! I would imagine the difference is minuscule when compared to training regime and the on-the-day morale of the racer. Even small things like pre-race diet and windspeed will affect the racers much more I would have thought. I'm interested to see if a sports-scientist can provide an answer that says otherwise! $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ I know that if you take a former racehorse and try to make them go the other way around the ring, they are confused. But it is necessary to exercise them in a balanced way. (And to have a useful riding horse.) I imagine human runners having nightmares of having to go the wrong way around the track! $\endgroup$
    – user17124
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


Been a sprinter for 12 years, so from that perspective, I don't think it would matter. The angle that you take when turning is not drastic enough to have a musculoskeletal difference; step height differs only a few inches. Additionally, turns never account for more than 50% of a race (barring a couple distance events, where turns act much more like straightaways anyway due to the lessened speed), so a bigger imbalance would be disadvantageous for straight sprinting. In practice, I think it would take a little bit to get used to, but not more than a year.

  • $\begingroup$ Could you actually test it ? Run 800m (to see if it makes actually a difference) two times continously over two weeks (if you have holiday), switching the directions (1. day counterclock clock 2.day clock counterclock 3. counterclock clock) every day to level out any order influence and look if the times are equal. In the first days a difference is to be expected because you are unused to it, but if your assumption is correct after two weeks the difference should be neglible. $\endgroup$
    – user10094
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ I could do this, but as I am a sprinter, generally the longest that I run is around 150m. If I run 800m, it would increase the amount of turns taken, but it would be very slow. As your original question pertains to competition, I'm not sure that that speed would be relevant to your line of questioning. Additionally, I have no turn bias, since my event, 100m hurdles, doesn't include turns, so I think that the times would be pretty similar even without taking an average over a longer period of time. $\endgroup$
    – Angelmass
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 17:59

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