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LISTS: List of Sports, Olympic Athletics Events



Objective: The object of athletics is to reach the finish line first. Where Olympic and other major races are extremely close, computer-aided replays determine to the tenth of a second which runner crossed the line first. Athletics is a main Olympic event. It is an umbrella term used to describe all forms of sprinting, running, and other track and field-based activities.


In all athletics races, the competitors (in Olympic competition there are usually eight) line up at the starting line. For races up to and including distances of 400 metres, the official will start the race with a call of 'on your marks, set,' then will fire a starting pistol.

Races longer than 400 metres are not run as fast, so the starting position is standing instead of the crouch used for shorter races. As such, the call is different, usually consisting of just the starting pistol. As with other sports, any obstruction of the other competitors is against the rules.


50 metres (indoors only)
60 metres
100 metres
200 metres
400 metres

800 metres
1500 metres
2000 metres

3000 metres
5000 metres
10,000 metres

The distances given above are for standard running. For junior competitions, the distances are usually reduced. For example, the 5000m is dispensed with, and the 3000m is cut back to 2000m. Distances given above may vary worldwide, although the Olympic Games will contain the full distances given above.

When the race is run around the track once or more, in other words, races including a bend in the track, the starting positions are staggered, as are the finishing positions. This ensures that each athlete runs the same distance.

Runners must stay within their own lane throughout the race, and the race is won by the first runner whose body crosses the finish line - hands, head, etc do not count.

There are variations on standard racing, such as steeplechase, relay, and hurdles. In all running events, the competitors run anti-clockwise.


There are three main distances that the steeplechase includes.

1500 metres
2000 metres
3000 metres

The steeplechase is a race run around the track as a normal long distance race, but there are barriers and water jumps.

For the 1500 metres, there are 13 barriers, and 3 water jumps.
For the 2000 metres, there are 18 barriers, and 5 water jumps.
For the 3000 metres, there are 28 barriers, and 7 water jumps.

The barriers are 91.4 centimetres (3 feet) high and made of heavy timber. They are too heavy to be knocked down, but also strong enough for an athlete to put their feet on it to aid their jump, although many athletes clear the barrier completely when there is no water jump.

If there is a water jump, it starts from right behind the barrier, and extends for 3 metres. There is no penalty for going into the water, in fact many athletes do step in the water jump as they jump over the barrier.

3000 metres is the standard distance for steeplechases. The 3000m is not exactly seven and a half laps, as the water jump has to be counted as part of the track or not, so the lap is slightly more or slightly less than 400 metres.


Relay racing is run as a sprint, but instead of one runner completing the entire distance, there are teams. One runner will run some of the distance, passing the baton to the next runner so that the next runner completes the next set of the track.

There are two major different lengths of tracks that relay races take place on.

4 x 100 metres
4 x 400 metres

The less usual distances:

4 x 200
4 x 800
4 x 1500

And 'medley' events with different distances for each part of the relay:

200m, 200m, 400, and 800m
100m, 200m, 300m, 400m

Each 100 metre section of the track is marked into 20 metre segments either side of the 100 metre mark. There is a further 10 metre zone either side of the 20 metre zone, called the 'acceleration zone'.

The runner who is to collect the baton may stand in the area defined by the lines. Usually the receiving runner will start running before the baton is exchanged. The baton may not be exchanged until the runners are in the 20 metre zone.


Hurdle races are run as sprints. Runners jump over ten hurdles in the specified distance.

Mainly, there are two different lengths of tracks that hurdles races take place on.

100/110 metres & 400 metres
Adult men run 110 metres, women run 100 metres. Both sexes run 400 metres. Again, in different competitions, the size of the hurdles, number of hurdles, and distance may differ, although the rules given are major official international regulations.


The marathon is not run on a track, except often at the start and finish. Marathon courses often take place through designated urban areas. A marathon is 42.195 kilometres (26 miles 385 yards) long.

False starts

A false start occurs if one or more runners step over the starting line before the race has started. If this happens, all runners must return to their starting positions, even if they were not at fault, or they have started running.

If one athlete commits two false starts in one race, they are disqualified. For combination events such as triathlon, three false starts are permitted (throughout the entire competition). For Olympic events, one false start is permitted.


The track

The track consists of eight lanes, each 1.22 metres (4 feet) wide. The length of the oval track from end to end is 157.4 metres (172 yards) in total. The width of the track oval is 73 metres(80 yards). The radius of the curve (distance around the curve) is 36.5 metres (39.9 yards).

The lanes are numbered from 1 to 8 from the inside out.


A baton is a metal cylinder which weighs about 50 grams (1.76 ounces). It is usually 28-30 centimetres (11-12 inches) in length, and 12-13 centimetres (4-5 inches) around.


Hurdles are adjustable. The height can usually be set from 1.067 metres (3.5 feet) down to 0.762 metres (2.5 feet). They have a maximum width of 1.20 metres (3.9 feet), as they must fit onto one line of the track.

Hurdles weigh a total of 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and have adjustable counterweights on the base so that a force of at least 3.6 kilograms (7.9 pounds) would be required to knock them down.

While the hurdles are frequently knocked down when athletes clip them as they jump over, the weights prevent the wind or anything similar from knocking them down.


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