Athletics is a set of sports that consists of three main modalities: running, jumping and throwing. This is a sporting activity that can be performed on the track (running), on the field (jumping and throwing) and in mixed events, that is, both on the track and on the field, such as the heptathlon and decathlon, hiking events such as the road races and marathons, cross country field running events, mountain races and race walking events.
The sports that make up athletics bring together three of the fundamental human movements: running, jumping and throwing. For this reason, athletics is considered a base sport and the main Olympic modality. The official track contemplates the particularities of each modality, although some tests are held in other spaces.
History of athletics
The emergence of athletics dates from the realization of the first Olympics in history in 776 BC, in the city of Olympia, belonging to Ancient Greece. However, records regarding its creation point to the practice of this modality in Egypt and China, about 5 thousand years before.
The historical perpetuation of athletics generated changes in its practices, making it acquire its modern format in England in the 19th century. This format reorganizes its three fundamentals (running, jumping and throwing) into the following official categories:
- Races (shallow, hurdles and hurdles )
- Pitches and Throws
- Athletic march
The rules of the events that make up these categories are regulated by the International Association of Athletics Federations ( IAAF ), founded in Sweden in 1912. The official events are composed of 21 sports, differentiated from each other by aspects such as the size of the routes and the equipment used. In addition, some basic rules differentiate and characterize each modality.
Below are the modalities of athletics.
5 thousand and 10 thousand meters
The 5,000 m and 10,000 m events – referred to as long-distance races – require good physical resistance from runners, called long-distance runners. As they are the longest races, the element prioritized in this modality is consistency in the pace of the race. The race is held on the official track of the Olympic stadium, being concluded after the distance runners complete, respectively, 121/2 laps and 25 laps on the track.
800 and 1,500 meter dash
These races are called half-distance. In the 800 m race, runners complete two complete laps around the track. In the 1,500 m race, they complete almost four laps. In the 800 m event, the runner can only move to another lane other than the one in which he started the route after completing a complete lap around the track. In the 1,500 m event, the runner can move to another lane right at the start of the race.
100 meter dash
Considered the noblest test of the Olympics, the 100 m dash requires attention to the smallest details in the execution of the movements of the runners, called sprinters. This attention is due to the short duration of the test, an aspect that guides specialists in the study of techniques to improve, for example, movement cycles in running.
200 meter dash
Like the 100 m dash, the 200 m race requires explosion in the start phase, the first of the race’s moments. However, this test requires balance from the runners when going through the curve, a moment that usually defines the winner. This is because, after the curve, the runners must perform one more moment of explosion in the final phase of the race.
400 meter dash
The 400 m dash event has been disputed since the first edition of the Olympic Games in Athens, 1986. In this event, the athletes must complete a lap on the track, starting from the blocks placed on the starting line, facing from the outside to the inside of the eight lanes of the track.
100 and 110 meters hurdles
The 100 m and 110 m hurdles events are performed by women and men respectively. In these tests, the runners must jump ten hurdles distributed along the route. The hurdles for women are 84cm high and the hurdles for men are 1.07m high.
400 meters hurdles
The 400 m hurdles event entered the Olympics in 1900, at the Paris Olympic Games. It is a test that requires speed from the runners, in addition to overcoming the ten barriers distributed along the course. In this event, the hurdles for men are 91.4 cm high and the hurdles for women are 76.2 cm high.
3000 meters steeplechase event
The 3,000 m steeplechase event also entered the Olympics at the Paris Olympics. However, it began to be disputed by women only after the Olympic Games in Beijing, in 2008. This test requires athletes to overcome barriers and lakes along the route.
The hurdles in the men’s event are 91.4 cm wide and those in the women’s event are 76.2 cm wide, both with a minimum width of 3.94 m. The lakes are 3.66 m long and 70 cm at their deepest part.
The javelin throw consists of a straight run along a track 34.9 m long and 4 m wide, followed by the throwing of a bat. The baton for the men’s event measures 2.60 m and weighs 800 g, while the one for the women’s event measures 2.20 m, weighing 600 g. The mark obtained by the athletes is measured by the judges, from the limit of the launching zone to the first point where the bat touches the ground.
The discus throwing event is performed in a circular area of 2.5 m in diameter. The athlete must hold the metal disk against the fingers of the hand and forearm and throw it forward as far as possible. The disc for men’s events weighs 2 kg and has a diameter between 219 and 221 mm. The disc for women’s events weighs 1 kg and measures from 180 to 182 mm in diameter.
The shot put event is also held in a circular area, which measures 2.1 m in diameter. The shot put is a metal ball with a mass of 7.26 kg for men and 4 kg for women. Each athlete is entitled to three attempts to throw, and the measure considered is the longest distance obtained in the throw.
The hammer throw test is performed with a metal implement (a wire with a ball attached to one end and a handle to the other) weighing 7.26 kg. The athlete can perform up to three turns with the implement over his head to acquire momentum and, after that, three more turns around his own body axis before launching.
For the throw to be considered valid, the implement must land within a 34.92° angle in front of the athlete, in relation to the throw area.
The marathon is the last and most exciting event of the Olympic Games, being disputed by men and women. In it, runners cover a path of 42.195 km. On the route, there are distance indicators for runners every 1 km and rest stations every 5 km, with rest outside these stations being prohibited.
The athletic walking test requires the practitioner, called a marcher, to walk keeping both feet on the ground throughout the course. For this, in each step the marcher must keep the forward leg extended. This causes the hips to move in such a way as to produce a “shaking” effect characteristic of the modality.
The races are held on the streets with a course of 20 km for women and 20 km or 50 km for men.
4×100 and 4×400 meter relay
The relay relay, as relay events are called, is carried out by teams of four sprinters. To complete the races, each sprinter must pass a baton to the next runner on the team within the designated lane and within a 20 m mark during the race.
In pole vaulting , athletes use a long, flexible pole to jump over a pole as high as possible. The batten is a bar with a length of 4.5 m and a weight of 2.260 kg, horizontally positioned at the end of a track of 45 meters. At ground level, at the end of the runway, there is a box 1 m long and 60 cm wide in which the athlete rests his pole to perform the jump.
The high jump consists of jumping over a horizontally positioned bar. However, the jump is performed only with the athletes’ impulsion, without the use of implements. All competitors have up to three attempts to jump as high as possible without dropping the slat.
The women’s Olympic record in this event belongs to Russian athlete Yelena Vladimirovna Slesarenko, with a mark of 2.06 m, in 2004. The men’s Olympic record is held by American athlete Charles Austin, with a mark of 2.39 m in 1996.
The long jump or long jump, as it is also called, requires athletes to combine strength, speed and agility at the time of the jump, which is performed inside a sandbox placed at the end of the space for the race.
At the end of this space, there is a line that marks the limit between running and jumping. If the athlete steps on the line, his jump is invalidated. The measurement is made from that line to the mark in the sand made by the athlete’s body after the fall.
The triple jump is characterized by a succession of three steps after a run to take off, followed by a landing in the sandbox. The three steps have a specific execution technique and add to the main moment of the test, which is the call: movement from which the athlete gets momentum to perform the jump.
The Heptathlon is a competition consisting of seven events, held over two days. This modality is practiced in the Olympics only by women, with the Decathlon being the equivalent for men. The events that make up the Heptathlon are: 100 m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 m dash, long jump, javelin throw and 800 m dash.
The first four tests are held on the first day, the rest are held on the second day. With each race performed, the athletes accumulate points that are added at the end of the competition to determine the winner.
The Decathlon modality is made up of ten events that, in the Olympic Games, are carried out exclusively by men. They are: 100 m run, long jump, high jump, shot put, discus throw, javelin throw, pole vault, 1,500 m run, 400 m run and 110 m hurdle run. The rules for this modality are the same as for each of the tests that compose it.
The Athletics Trials
Athletics is a sport that features several events for male and female athletes. Of the most important, the others stand out: individual races of 100, 200, 400, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 meters; 110 and 400 meters hurdles; 3,000 meters hurdles; 4×100 and 4×400 meters; 20,000 meter march; high jump; pole vault; long jump; triple jump; shot put; disk throw; javelin throw; hammer throw; decathlon and pentathlon and many more.
Athletics events can be performed by children, beginners, youth, juniors, seniors and veterans athletes and usually take place in stadiums or outdoor spaces.
The athletics tracks
- Athletics tracks must have eight lanes, each 1.22 meters wide. The sum of all strips must correspond to the minimum width of 10 meters. An official athletics track must have two straights and two curves, 400 meters long in the inner lane closest to the center and 449 meters in the outer lane furthest from the center.
- In short-distance competitions, athletes must stay in their lanes, while in long-distance competitions, competitors can change lanes and thus avoid longer routes.
- In competitions with hurdles, the height varies according to the gender of the competitors. In men’s events the height of the hurdle is 1.06 meters, while in women’s competitions the height is 0.84 meters. This type of race has 10 obstacles per race.
- To be considered an indoor track, the enclosure must be covered and have sufficient lighting. The temperature and ventilation must meet the minimum conditions satisfactory for a competition. It must contain a 200-meter oval track, a 60-meter straight track for sprints and hurdles, landing areas for jumping events, permanent or temporary space with a circle and a landing area for throwing events. On the other hand, the floor surface of an indoor track must be made of synthetic material or wood.
Materials needed for the practice of athletics
Athletics is a low-cost sport that is accessible to anyone who wants to practice some type of physical activity. To do this safely, just gather the following materials:
- comfortable sneakers
- Shirt, shorts or tracksuit
- Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
Bear in mind that in some competitions, such as throwing competitions, the equipment can be taken by the athletes themselves, but, in most cases, it is provided by the organization of the respective event.