Track events are closely related to field events. This packet will deal with five traditional
track events: the dash, the steeplechase, the hurdle, the relay race and the distance race.
Running as a sport did not become popular in America until 1871, when the first track
meet was held in New York City. Eventually, track and field events became so popular
that the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletics in America (ICAAAA) and the
National Collegiate Athletic Association NCAA) were organized to govern/oversee these
events and the rules that control them.
HISTORY OF TRACK SPORTS
Early human beings were forced by their environment
to run. They both ran after animals when hunting for
food, and ran from other animals who were themselves
hungry. This running consisted of jumping over
bushes, fallen trees, ditches and other obstacles. Hunting
and gathering techniques were taken into battle as
skirmishes between tribes made survival important.
In between hunting parties and wars, running and
jumping became leisure-time activities that people
chose to do as athletic events. Sometimes the object
was to compete against others; at other times, the athletesimply wanted to test himself or herself. Running
events were recorded in Greece as early as 776 B.C. They were also part of athletic
competition throughout the Middle Ages and on through the Renaissance and into modern
Over 2,000 years after the earliest Greek track events, in 1912, the International Amateur
Athletic Federation (IAAF) was founded to function as the governing body for track
and field sports all over the world.
Today, as many as 25 events may be included in a track and field meet. The track events
at the championship level include the 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 5000 and 10,000-meter
runs, the 3000-meter steeplechase, the 110- and 400-meter hurdles and the 400 and 1500-
HOW DIFFERENT TRACK EVENTS ARE DONE
Dashes, or short runs, are also called sprints. The athlete must attain maximum speed in
minimum time in order to compete successfully in these races. Like many field events,
dashes are deceptively simple. Almost everyone has run fast at some point in his or her
life. But competition-level runners in the dash must develop superior stamina, flexibilityand muscular strength. The dash is NOT as simple as it looks! Here’s how it’s done:
1. Getting off to a good start in short
races is crucial. Many races are lost
at the starting line! The rules require
that you start in a “crouch” position—
with both feet and both hands placed
on the track with the heels placed
against the starting block. These starting
blocks are anchored to the ground
and are adjustable to runners of every
size and height. The block gives
you a solid base from which to push
off.2. At the command, “On your mark,” place your feet on the starting block.3. At the second command, “Set,” lift your body until your back is almostparallel to the ground, with the hips slightly above the level of the shoul
ders. This is called the “ready position.”
4. As the starting gun is fired, push off from the starting block with explosive
force, keeping the body forward and the head low at the beginning of the
Both psychological and physical considerations enter intorunning the dash. Being aware of the competition’s
strengths and weaknesses is as critical as being a skilled
and aggressive runner. Patience and determination are also
essential attributes for the competitive runner in this event.
Hurdle competition is not running and leaping, but
making running leaps over the hurdles. You do not
jump over the hurdle. Instead, as you reach the hurdle,
you lift your legs and tuck them up so that they barely
clear the top of the crosspiece.
Traditionally, there are two types of hurdle races—
the 120-yard (110 meter) high hurdle and the 440-
yard (403 meter) intermediate hurdle. The hurdles are
42 inches (1.06 meters) high in the 120-yard event
and 36 inches (.91 meters) high in the 440-yard event. The distance from the starting line
to the first hurdle is 49 1/4 yards (45.03 meters). The ten hurdles are placed at 38 1/4-yard (34.9 meter) intervals across the running lanes. Here’s how to do the hurdles:
1. As you cross a hurdle, your body will be leaning forward. The arm opposite
the lead leg crosses the hurdle first. If the left leg leads, the right arm crosses
the hurdle first.
2. As you cross the hurdle, tuck your legs up so that they barely clear the top
of the hurdle.
3. After you have crossed the hurdle, land so that thebody’s weight will still be forward, in front of the
lead leg. Landing with the weight so far forward
can throw a careless runner off balance. Thus, it isoften recommended that the left leg become the lead
leg in order to help the runner maintain a better balance upon landing, especially
around curves in the track.
4. Continue running with no interruption of your rhythm to the next hurdle. If
you do this maneuver correctly, your upper body will barely move vertically
as you cross the hurdle.
Relay racing (or teamwork racing) uses a fourperson
team of sprinters, each of whom runs
approximately the same distance. The first personto run is the leadoff, and the last to run, usually
the best runner on the team, is called theanchor.Even a team with four fast runners isn’t assured
of victory. Relay racing demands not only speed
but teamwork. The crux of relay racing is the act
of passing a baton or stick to the next team member
without dropping it and without losing speed
during the pass. If the baton is dropped, the runner
who dropped it is disqualified and his/her
team finishes last. If speed is lost in the passing
of the baton, positions can be lost.The Visual Pass and the Blind Pass are two types of passes used in relay racing. Here’s
how these two passes are done:
The Visual Pass
1. The receiver of the baton starts running so that his/her speed will match
that of the oncoming runner.
2. As the two runners approach each other, the receiver looks over his/her
shoulder and extends the receiving arm back toward the oncoming runner.
The receiver has his or her palm up as the pass takes place.
3. The oncoming runner passes the baton to the receiver, who then movesahead and continues the race.
4. The oncoming runner quickly slows down and leaves the track.
The Blind Pass
1. The receiver starts running as the oncoming runner approaches.
2. As they draw near to each other, the receiver waits for the baton holder to
run about seven inches from him/her and then begins to move forward.
3. The receiver, meanwhile, moves with the receiving arm extended back toward
the passer. As the pass is made, the receiver pulls the baton from the
passer’s hand and runs faster as the passer slows down.
LONG DISTANCE RUNNING
Distance running refers to races over 800 meters and longer.
Middle distance races are generally designated as those between
800 and 2,000 meters. Long-distance races are those of 3,000
meters or more. Regardless of the actual number of meters involved,
however, distance running requires endurance, stamina,
tremendous concentration and self-pacing to prevent exhaustion.
A runner in a middle-distance race must learn to relax while using
a controlled leg movement. He or she must also master optimumhip rotation and learn to adjust the stride—a shorter stride if the
race is slow, a longer one for a faster race.
Each mile in a race can be divided into four segments. The
first segment is a brisk run. The second segment is taken at
a comfortable stride. The third segment is run at a stride that
allows the runner to conserve energy, while the fourth segment
starts slowly but ends with a burst of speed. The third
segment is often considered the most critical part of the mile
because it is the point where many runners are tiring, both
physically and mentally.
Long-distance runners need good judgment and a keen eyefor assessing the abilities of other runners on the track. They
also need to develop a game plan for winning each race.
This event requires that the athlete combine the skills of a hurdler
and the endurance of a long-distance runner. The steeplechase
is comprised of running and jumping over 28 hurdles
and 7 water jumps. In the Olympic Games, this race is approximately
3,280 yards long.Originally, the name “steeplechase” referred to a country horse
race over obstacles. Eventually, English students began to attempt
the race on foot and in 1889, the event was introduced
into the United States.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING
Track clothing is traditionally light in weight and allows complete freedom of movement.
This usually means tank tops or sleeveless shirts. The bottom hem of track shorts
is well above the knee, and sometimes the shorts have slits up the sides. Shoes are especially
important, since different events require different shoe designs. The soles of theshoes are cleated.
TRACK EVENTS NOTES AND NEWS
Below you will see a list of the Gold Medal winners of Track events in the 2000 Olympics
in Sydney, Australia.
Event Contestant Country
MEN 10,000 METERS Haile Gebreselassie Ethiopia
MEN 100 METERS Maurice Greene United States
MEN 110 METER HURDLES Anier Garcia Cuba
MEN 1500 METERS Noah Kiprono Ngenyi Kenya
MEN 20 KM WALK Robert Korzeniowski Poland
MEN 200 METERS Konstantinos Kenteris Greece
3000 METER STEEPLECHASE Ruben Kosgei Kenya
MEN 400 METER HURDLES Angelo Taylor United States
MEN 400 METERS Michael Johnson United States
MEN 4X100 METER RELAY United States
MEN 4X400 METER RELAY United States
MEN 50 KM WALK Robert Korveniowski Poland
MEN 5000 METERS Millon Wolde Ethiopia
MEN 800 METERS Nils Schumann Germany
Event Contestant Country
WOMEN 10,000 METERS Deratu Tulu Ethiopia
WOMEN 100 METER HURDLES Olga Shishigina Kazakhstan
WOMEN 100 METERS Marion Jones United States
WOMEN 20KM WALK Liping Wang China
WOMEN 1500 METERS Nouria Merah-Benida Algeria
WOMEN 200 METERS Marion Jones United States
WOMEN 400 METER HURDLES Irina Privalova Russia
WOMEN 400 METERS Cathy Freeman Australia
WOMEN 4X100 METER RELAY Bahamas
WOMEN 4X400 METER RELAY United States
WOMEN 5,000 METERS Gabriela Szabo RomaniaWOMEN 800 METERS Maria Mutola Mozambique
The NCAA championships in 2001 saw some fast times and exciting finishes. Some
of the track winners are listed below:
100 meters Anglea Williams, Southern California 11.05
200 meters Brianna Glenn, Arizona 22.92
400 meters Allison Beckford, Rice 52.33
100 meter hurdles Donica Merriman, Ohio State 12.73
400 meter hurdles Brenda Taylor 55.88
100 meters Justin Gatlin, Tennessee 10.08
200 meters Justin Gatlin, Tennessee 20.11
400 meters Avard Moncur, Auburn 44.84
110 meter hurdles Ron Bramlett, Alabama 13.54
400 meter hurdles Bayano Kamani, Baylor 48.99
Stay on top of the latest track events at the college level by visiting the NCAA web site
Remember that there are many exciting events in this sport on the high school level.
Keep your eyes on the standouts at these levels of competition and you may someday
see them again among the international champions. For example, Alan Webb recentlysmashed Jim Ryun’s 36 year-old national high school record in the mile. Webb erased a
legend from the record books with his confident running at the Prefontaine Classic witha time of 3 minutes 53.43 seconds. Webb’s mile was fastest by any US runner sinceRichie Boulet’s 3:53.26 in 1998.
WHAT TO DO:
The following questions will help you to have a greater appreciation and understanding
of track events. Write your answers in the spaces below the questions. If there is not
enough room, write on the backs of these sheets. Be neat, spell correctly, and write in
1. What are the physical benefits to be gained from participating in track as a sport?
2. What are the five traditional track events?
3. Describe why the starting position is so crucial to the dash or short run.
4. It is often said that both psychological and physical considerations enter into asuccessful dash. What are these factors and why are they so important?
5. What is the hurdle competition and what are the two types of hurdle races?
6. Why is it sometimes recommended that the left leg be used as the lead leg in
7. Why does relay racing depend as much on teamwork as on the speed of the individual
8. What is a “visual pass?”
9. What is a “blind pass?”10. Describe how the receiver should be positioned to receive the baton in the visual pass.
Short Answer Questions:1. One of the associations that control track events
8. Number of sprinters in a relay race
9. Direction of minimum movement in crossing hurdle
12. Another name for the dash
13. An association of colleges that supervises track events
14. Position with hips slightly above shoulder level
15. Traditional number of hurdle types
16. This is passed in a relay race
17. This race involves water jumps and hurdles1. Type of relay pass
2. One of the five track events covered in this packet
4. The last runner in a relay race
5. Number of water jumps in a steeplechase
6. Direction of body weight after crossing hurdle
7. Track events held here in 776 BC
8. Height in inches of hurdles
10. Federation that controls track all over the world
11. Name of first sprinter in a relay race
12. Second command when starting the dash
16. The sprinter puts his or her feet here at the start of the race