If you run track in Southern Illinois, then you’ve been on a cinder track. Unlike rubber tracks, they’re hard, uneven, and they hurt so badly to fall on. Cinders cut easily, and get caught up in runners’ scrapes when they fall.
Track athletes are very superstitious, right? So this trend caught on – and I really don’t know where it started, of runners swallowing a cinder right before their race. The saying went that “the cinder would keep it all down!”, meaning that a runner wouldn’t cramp up or vomit following their run.
It was also supposed to protect you from falling, but that definitely isn’t real because I fell or dove at like half of my four hundreds and it still hurt.
Ritual described by Bree Tschosik, born and raised in Decatur, IL.
Cinder tracks are a common fixture in the rural Midwest due to their economical nature and durability. They never need to be covered or protected. Typically, they are found at public schools and facilities. Better funded, private schools typically have “all-weather” or rubber tracks.
This ritual is unique in that it only need be performed at meets held on a cinder track. Few athletic superstitions are performed inconsistently or with regards for the nature of the field of play.