Athletics - Track and Field


Running, jumping and throwing competitions are called track and field or athletics. They are probably the oldest form of sport and an important part of the Olympic Games.



Track and field is organised as meets that take place mostly in an outdoor stadium with a track and a grassy field. In winter meets take place in indoor areas. Such a meet can last for only a few days or as long as two weeks at Olympic Games or World Championships.



Track events

Track events are races between athletes that take place on an oval track that is normally 400 metres long. It is divided into lanes and has a surface of asphalt, rubber or tartan.

Short distance racers are called sprinters. They start with their feet against a starting block and their hands on the track. When a gun is fired the race begins and the sprinters run as fast as they can towards the finish line, but they must always stay in their lanes.

Short distance races cover distances of 100, 200 and 400 metres. The 100 metre dash is one of the most popular events at such a track and field meeting. The world record holder is considered to be the fastest man on earth,

Middle distance races are the 800, 1 500 and sometimes the 3,000 metre races. Runners need speed but also endurance.

The 5,000 and 10,000 metre races are the longest races on the track. Athletes have to train a lot and run many km a day in order to complete such a race. They must learn to keep a steady pace and also must be able to have enough energy for the final metres.

The longest race is the marathon. It goes back to 490 B.C. when a Greek soldier ran all the way from Marathon to Athens (about 40 km) to tell the people about a great military victory. Today the marathon distance is 42.195 metres and it is run mostly on roads.

Relays are races in which teams of runners compete against each other. Four athletes form a team and take turns running around the track. They have to pass a stick , called a baton to their next team-mate before they reach the finish line. The most common relay races are the 4X 100 metres and the 4X400 metres.

In a hurdle race athletes must jump over obstacles called hurdles which are about 1 metre high.- Men run the 110 metre and 400 metre event, women the 100 metre and the 400 metre event.



Jumping events

The jumping events at athletic meets are the high jump, the pole vault, the long jump and the triple jump.

In the high jump athletes have to jump over a metal stick called a crossbar, without knocking it down. It is placed on two vertical poles. Most modern jumpers pass over the crossbar with their heads first.

Pole vaulters must jump over a much higher crossbar. They have long flexible poles that may be up to five metres long. They run towards the crossbar and before they get there they plant the pole into a small box on the ground. Then they thrust themselves high up into the air and try to get over the bar.

At both events you have three tries to get over the bar. When you clear the bar its height is increased by a few cm. Whoever clears the greatest heights wins the competition.

In the long jump, the athlete runs very quickly towards a wooden board open the ground and then leaps into air and lands in a sand pit. In the triple jump the athlete jumps from one foot, lands on the same foot, jumps off again, lands on the other foot and then jumps off for the last time and lands on both feet in the sand pit.



Throwing events


There are four throwing events at track and field meets: the shot put, hammer , discus and javelin.

Shot putters belong to the strongest athletes at athletic events. They must stand in a circle in order to make their throws. The shot is a heavy metal ball that weighs up to 7. 25 kg . It is put between chin and shoulders and then thrown as far a possible into the field. Women use a lighter shot.

The hammer is a metal ball that is connected to a strong chain. The hammer thrower swings the hammer around him a few times and then lets go.

The discus looks like a plate that athletes spin into the field. It is the oldest throwing event and was a classic contest at the Olympic Games of ancient Greece.

The javelin is a spear-like object that is made of wood or metal and is about 2.5 metres long. The thrower of the javelin takes a run to gain speed and then thrusts the javelin as far as he can into the field.


All round events

The decathlon and the heptathlon are a combination of many events. It takes athletes two days to finish.

The men’s decathlon consists of the 100 metre dash, the long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 metre dash, 110 metre hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and the 1,500 metre run.

The heptathlon is made up of 7 single events for women: the 100 metre hurdle, high jump, shot put, 200 metre sprint, long jump, javelin and the 800 metre run.

The athletes are given points for each event. They are added up and in the end determine the winner.




History of Track and Field

Over thousands of years people in many different cultures have held footraces and athletic contest, especially in ancient Greece.

Today’s sport goes back to the 19 th century. Amateur footraces were organized in England as early as 1825. Athletic clubs were founded in American and even national championships were organized.

The first modern Olympic Games gave athletes world wide importance. in 1912 the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was founded. It sets the rules and approves of all world records.

Track and field was once only for men, but today all events are open for women too.


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Related Topics



  • ancient = old
  • approve = to officially accept or say yes to something
  • athlete = someone who competes in sport , a sportsman
  • baton = a short stick that is passed from runner to runner during a race
  • board = piece of wood that is on the ground
  • century = a time of a hundred years
  • chain = small metal rings that are joined together in a line
  • championship = competition to find out which player or team is the best
  • chin = the front part of your face below your mouth
  • classic = very popular and liked by many people
  • clear = to pass the bar without knocking it down
  • combination = many events put together
  • common =usual, regular
  • compete = here : to run against each other
  • competition =an event in which athletes or teams play against each other
  • complete = finish
  • connect = link to
  • consider = thought to be
  • consists = is made up of
  • crossbar =a bar that connects two standing posts
  • dash = very short quick race
  • determine = find out
  • discus = heavy flat round object that you can throw
  • distance =how far away two things are
  • endurance = here: if you are able to run fast over a longer distance
  • especially =above all
  • finish line = the line where the race ends
  • flexible = something that you can bend
  • footrace =to run against others and try to be the fastest
  • found—founded = to start something– here a club
  • gain = build up
  • grassy = covered with grass
  • height =how high something is
  • hurdle = a small fence that you have to jump over during a race
  • increase = to go up
  • lane = an area that is marked for a runner or a swimmer in a race
  • leap = jump
  • meet = a competition between athletes who run , do jumps etc..
  • obstacle = something that is in your way
  • outdoor = in the open
  • plant = here : put
  • pole vault = a jump over a high bar sing a long pole
  • probably =likely
  • relay = to run not at the same time but one after the other
  • rubber = a material that is used to make tyres or boots
  • rules = instructions on how a game must be played
  • sand pit = big hole in the ground that is full of sand
  • shot put = sport in which you throw a heavy metal ball as far as possible
  • speed =how fast something is
  • spin = here :throw
  • sprinter = an athlete who runs very fast for only a short time
  • steady pace = always at the same speed
  • surface =the top layer of something
  • swing = here :to move in a circle
  • take turns =to do something one after the other
  • thrust = throw very suddenly
  • towards = in the direction of
  • track = the brown oval paths that go around the field
  • triple jump =an event in which you jump on one foot, then on the other and finally land on your own two feet
  • try = attempt
  • victory = when you win a battle, fight or a game
  • weigh =how heavy something is
  • worldwide = all over the world