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What runs but never goes anywhere? Your nose!
Track and field is a sport that includes various competitions based on running, jumping, and throwing.
In the beginning, track and field was named for the place where the different events took place. Athletes competed in a stadium with an oval running track around a grass field. The throwing and jumping events took place in the grass field.
Track and field events are generally individual sports where one person competes against several others.

In track and field, there are eight running events:

1. 100-meter sprint 2. 200-meter sprint
3. 400-meter sprint 4. 800-meter sprint
5. 1,500-meter sprint 6. marathon
7. hurdles 8. relays
Did you hear the one about the track star who had a fear of hurdles? Yeah,
he got over it.
In the sprinting events, runners run as fast as they can for the specific distance (for example, 100-meters). Runners must stay in their own lane for the whole race. Usain Bolt (from Jamaica) holds the record for the fastest 100-meter time at 9.58 seconds!
In the 200-meter sprint, runners line up in lanes next to each other and run for 200 meters around a curved track. The starting points are different because of the curve on the track, but all runners end up running the exact same distance.
Did you know! Mike Powell (American) holds the record for the longest long jump with a length of 29 feet 4 ¼ inches.
In most events, the runners must stay in their own lane for the entire race. In the longer events (like the 800 and 1,500 meter races), the runners must stay in their lanes for half of the first lap. Then, they can run wherever they choose. Many runners choose to run in the lane closest to the inside of the track.
In the marathon event, runners race for a distance of 26.2 miles or 42 km. Runners train for months to be ready for that long distance! The fastest marathon runner completed the race in 2 hours and 3 minutes. Most runners take 4-5 hours to complete the race.
What kind of stories do high jumpers tell? Tall tales.
In the hurdle event, each runner must run and jump over 10 hurdles in his or her lane. The hurdles are made of wood and metal. The height of the hurdles varies for the different length races, and for women and men. Runners do not receive a penalty for knocking down a hurdle!
In the relay event, there are four runners on each team. Each runner runs a leg of the race – that means he or she runs for a quarter (1/4) of the race's distance while carrying a baton. As a runner finishes his or her leg, the runner passes the baton to the next runner. They must pass the baton in the exchange zone or they may be disqualified.
Key Terms of RUNNING EVENTS

PR - Personal Record or PB – Personal Best – An individual athlete’s best time, height, or distance for a particular event.

Lap – A lap is one complete circuit of a track.

Dashes – A dash is any race up to the 800-meter distance.

False Start – A false start is moving or leaving the starting blocks or line before the gun goes off.

Hurdles – Hurdles are horizontal barriers, called hurdles, which a runner must clear.

Kick – A kick is when a runner increases in speed that comes toward the end of a running event. 

Heat – A group of athletes assigned to each event. Each group is a heat.

False Start - An athlete can be disqualified if he/she crosses the starting line before the starting gun goes off. 

Relay – A relay is an event in which four team members each run one of four legs of a race. The runners pass a baton in designated exchange zones.

Baton – The baton is the stick that runners hand off to one another during a relay race.

 

Changeover - The changeover is the exchange of the baton from one runner to the next during a relay race.

Anchor - The anchor is the athlete who runs the last leg of a relay race.

Leg – A leg is a designation segment of a relay race completed by one runner.

Exchange Zone - During relays, runners pass the baton in the exchange zone.

Handoff – One runner hands the baton to another runner in the exchange zone during a relay race.

Regular jumping events include long jump, triple jump, high jump, and pole vault.
Long jumpers can run a short distance on a track to gain momentum, and then jump into a pit of sand or dirt. The jumper must start his or her jump at the designated line, without crossing it. The winner is the jumper who jumps the longest distance. The record for long jump is over 26 feet!
Triple jumpers run on a track for a short distance to gain momentum, then hop, step, and jump into a pit of sand. The triple jumper must not cross the designated line and the winner is the one who jumps the farthest distance. The record for the longest triple jump is 60 feet!
High jumpers run a short distance, take off from one foot, and jump over a horizontal bar, then fall back onto a cushioned landing area. The high jumper must not knock the bar off the holder. The winner has the highest jump. The record for the highest jump is about 8 feet!
Did you know! In 1994, Sergey Bubka (Russia) holds the record for pole vault with a height of 20 feet 1 ½ inches.
In the pole vault, the jumper runs down the track, plants his or her pole in the metal box, and vaults over the horizontal bar. Then the jumper lets go of the pole and falls backwards onto the landing mattress.
The pole can be made of wood or fiberglass, or a combination of materials. The jumper must clear the horizontal bar without touching it. The winner has the highest jump. The record for the pole vault is just over 20 feet!

Throwing Events

The shot put is a ball that is usually made of steel or iron. The thrower must hold the ball with one hand, close to his or her neck, and throw the ball over the shoulder. The thrower spins his or her foot and throws the shot put. The goal is to throw it as far as possible. Many shot put throwers can throw from 60-70 feet!
Did you know! The word "decathlon" comes from the Greek word "deca," which means ten. A decathlon includes 10 events completed in two days: 100-meter sprint, long jump, shot put, high jump and a 400-meter race on day one, and a 110-meter hurdle event, discus, pole vault, javelin and a 1,500-meter run on day two.
The discus is made of wood and metal and it weighs 4.4 pounds. The thrower holds the discus flat against the palm of his or her hand and the forearm. The thrower stands in a circle, turns one-and-a-half times inside the circle then throws the discus. Throwers must stay in the circle until the discus lands. The goal is to throw as far as possible. The discus throwing record is 243 feet!
Did you know! Roger Bannister was the first runner to achieve the 4-minute mile in 1954.
The hammer is a metal ball attached to a steel wire with a handle. The hammer weighs 16 pounds. The hammer thrower stands inside a circle.
He or she swings the hammer in an arch while spinning his or her body around then throws the hammer. Throwers must stay in the circle until the hammer lands. The goal is to throw as far as possible. The longest hammer throw was 284 feet!
A javelin is a shaft that can be wood or metal with a steel tip. The metal tip of the javelin must break the turf. Javelin throwers wear spikes and sprint down the  track to a line then throw the javelin.
They throw the javelin over their shoulder. If they cross the line, the throw does not count. When it is flying through the air, the javelin can reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour. The longest javelin throw was just over 343 feet!
Key Term of THROWING EVENTS

PR - Personal Record or PB – Personal Best – An individual athlete’s best time, height, or distance for a particular event.

Discus – Discus is a throwing event where the athlete throws a cylindrical object as far as possible. The object thrown is also the discus.

Javelin – Javelin is an event where an athlete throws a pole or spear for the longest distance.

Hammer Throw – Hammer throw is an event where the athlete throws a heavy object for the longest possible distance.

Key Term of THROWING EVENTS

Shot put – Shot put is a throwing event where the athlete throws a round steel ball as far as possible.

Shot - The equipment used in the shot put. It is a round, steel ball.

Throwing Circle - The circle or ring where an athlete stands to throw the discus, shot put, or hammer.

Throwing Sector – The throwing sector is the designated arc where the thrown object must land.

Some athletes compete in combined events like the decathlon.

A decathlon includes 10 events over a two-day period.

Day 1 includes:

• 100 meters race
• Long jump
• Shot put
• High jump
• 400 meters race

Day 2 includes:

• 110 meters race with hurdles
• Discus throw
• Pole vault
• Javelin throw
• 1500 meters race
Track and Field Rules

For many of the track and field events, the goal is to be the fastest runner, to throw the object the farthest, or to jump the highest or longest. In order to accomplish throwing, jumping and running feats, athletes must follow the rules and specifications for each event.

For example, runners must avoid false starts (starting before the gunshot is fired) and lane changes (moving out of his or her lane).

If a competitor does not follow the rules, it is a foul. Athletes can face penalties, and even disqualification.

Fouls

When an athlete does not follow the rules of each event, it may be ruled as a foul.


For example:

If a pole-vaulting athlete touches or knocks the bar down, it is a foul.
If a jumper does not jump in the time allotted, it is a foul.
If a jumper steps on, or crosses the line on the approach, it is a foul.
If a runner crosses into another lane, it is a foul.
Did you know? Javier Sotomayor (Spain) holds the record for high jump by completing an 8-foot hight jump in 1993.

Running events:

The winner of the race is person whose torso crosses the finish line first. The winner has the best time (shortest time) for the event.

Jumping events:

  • To win the high jump, the athlete must clear the bar without touching it.
  • To win the long jump, the athlete must jump from behind the line. If the jumper touches or steps over the line, it is a foul. The winner of the long jump is the athlete who jumps the longest distance without fouling.

Throwing events:

For the throwing events, the winner is the athlete who throws the javelin, shot put, discus, or hammer the longest distance.
GEAR UP!
Equipment: What do you need to participate in track and field?

Spikes (for many events)

Running shorts, running shoes, running shirt (for running events)

Baton & a team of 4 runners (for relay)

Hurdles (for hurdle races)

A vault pit and a pole (for pole vault)

A crossbar and pit (for high jump)

A sandpit and take off system (for long jump)

A throwing ring or platform, a shot put ball, a javelin, a discus, or a hammer and gloves (for throwing events)

History and Timeline

Track and field-style events are among the oldest of all sporting competitions.

People competed in jumping, running and throwing events since the beginning of time.

The first organized track and field events are the Ancient Olympic Games. Track and field events were also present at the Panhellenic Games in Greece. Competitions moved to Rome in Italy around 200 BC.

19th century - Modern track and field competitions were organized by schools, military organizations and sports clubs.

1865 - Dr. William Penny Brookes establishes the National Olympian Association.

1866 - Athletes competed in the First Olympian Games in London.

1876 - The United States began yearly national competitions (the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships) in New York.

1896 - People established the modern Olympic Games. 

1919 - Athletes participated in the first continental track and field competition at the South American Championships.

1921 - Male athletes participated in the first Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championship.

1923 - Athletes competed in the first World Student Games.

1928 - Female athletes were able to compete in five track and field events at the Summer Olympics, including high jump and discus.

1932 - Female athletes competed in javelin events for the first time.

1934 - Athletes competed in the first European Athletics Championships.

1948 - Females first competed in the long jump and shot put at the Olympics.

1950 - Parry O'Brien popularized the 180 degree turn and throw technique for shot put, called the "glide," breaking the world record 17 times.

1960 - Disabled athletes were able to compete in major track and field competitions at the Summer Paralympics.

1968 - Dick Fosbury created a new backwards and head-first technique for the high jump called the "Fosbury Flop," which won him the gold at the 1968 Olympics.

1976 - Aleksandr Baryshnikov and Brian Oldfield introduced the "spin" or rotational technique to the shot put event.

1980 - Many world records were broken in this period, and the added political element between competitors from various countries.

1984 - Females competed in the first 400 m hurdles event.

2000 - Females competed in Olympic pole vaulting competition and hammer throwing for the first time.

LEGENDS

Jesse Owens

Nickname: The Buckeye Bullet In 1936, Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the Olympic Games in Berlin. He won the 100-meter race, the long jump, the 200-meter race, and the 400-meter relay. He broke two Olympic records along the way. He raced against cars and horses, and he played with the Harlem Globetrotters.
LEGENDS

Frederick Carlton
"Carl" Lewis

Carl Lewis competed in four Olympic Games and won numerous gold and silver medals before his retirement in 1997. His best events were sprinting and long jump. His longest jump was just over 29 feet and 1 inch.
LEGENDS

Michael Duane Johnson

Michael Duane Johnson was an American sprinter. He won four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships gold medals. Johnson currently holds the world and Olympic records in the 300 and 400 meter races. Johnson is one of the greatest long sprinters in the history of track and field.
LEGENDS

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee was the first American to win gold for the long jump and the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the seven-event heptathlon. She has won three gold medals, a silver medal, and two bronze medals, making her the most decorated female athlete in Olympic track and field history. She currently holds the record for the long jump (just over 24 feet) and the heptathlon (with 7,291 points).
LEGENDS

Zola Pieterse or Zola Budd

Zola Budd was an Olympic track and field competitor who broke the world record in the women's  5000-meter race.  She was the women's winner at the World Cross Country Championships two times. Zola Budd was famous for running barefoot.
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