Thursday, March 23, 2006

The indoor track at the University of Toronto's cavernous Hart House, a wonderous collection of general-purpose rooms and services inside the closest thing there is to a castle these days, has to be the Fenway Park of tracks. If we leave aside the tracks that are springing up in every condominium, gym and other institution, this (putatively) ancient track is easily the most novel place to run in downtown Toronto. Seven laps to a kilometre on a surface that feels as though someone stuffed pillows under a basketball court go by quickly thanks to the sharp, hesitantly-banked turns and hectic infield. Half of the infield, as it would be called, consists of exercise equipment, whereas the other half is, well, nothing. The track becomes a catwalk above a basketball court on the other side.

The Hart House track combines my fears of small spaces, heights, collisions while running but I still loved it, likely for the same inexplicable reasons as people loved the foibles of old Tiger Stadium, Fenway Park or, at least I do in my nostalgia, the horrendous arrangement and discomfort of old Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. Sheer novelty in the right context, despite its various deficiencies, transforms itself into a characteristic uniqueness, a trademark that becomes an attraction of its own.

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