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  This page looks at the benefits of some warm up exercises to get you moving and describes the events that make up the sport of athletics.

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Warming Up

As with any sport, a warm-up routine is important. Plan a routine that lasts about 20 minutes. Begin by jogging to warm up your body temperature. Continue with some stretching exercises for your neck, arms, legs and body.

If your muscles are warm and properly stretched, injuries, sprains and strains are less likely to occur.


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Track & Long Distance Events

All the events listed here are recognised as Olympic events, but at most meetings only a selection of these events will take place. Juniors do not participate in certain events and sometimes the races are shorter for the younger juniors (e.g.. 55m or 60m sprints and hurdles rather than 100m).

Men's and Women's events take place separately.

Indoor Athletics offers a slightly different programme of events with sprints and hurdle races, even for the top athletes, starting at 55m or 60m rather than 100m or 110m.

Track Events

Sprints (Men and Women)
These are short, fast races run over 100m 200m and 400m. (Races less than 100m are included in some junior and indoor programmes). The sprint relies on a good start (most senior athletes use starting blocks), concentration and a good finish with runners reaching for the line with their body - not their arms.

Medium and Long Distance Races (Men and Women)
These are more tactical races run over 800m, 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 10,000m. For most of the race, especially the longer distances, athletes try to keep a steady pace.

pic25Relays (Men and Women)
Relays are team races involving four people. The fastest relay is the 4x 100m, where each runner runs 100m leg. The other relay is the 4 x 400m. A baton is passed from runner to runner. The baton is a hollow tube made from wood metal or plastic. A good changeover ((e.g.. passing the baton from one person to the next) is vital.

Hurdles (Men and Women)
The distances for hurdles are 100m for women, 110m for men and 400m for both. (Races less than 100m are included in some junior and indoor programmes).The hurdles are wooden bars supported by adjustable metal stands that are placed at regular intervals along the track. They are weighted, but may be knocked over by an athlete accidentally during a race to avoid serious injury. The height of the hurdle can be altered for different levels and age groups.

The 3000m steeplechase is a longer distance race with hurdles. The hurdles are spaced around the track and one is a water jump, i.e. there is water on the far side of the hurdle that athletes must run through.

Long Distance Running/Walking (Men and Women)

Long distance events are often run as events on their own. Distance runners and race walkers do not necessarily need an athletic stadium or ground with a track. At local, regional and national level there are a range of distance events including the popular 'marathons' (26.2 miles/ 42 km) and 'half-marathons' (13.1 miles/21 km).

Many clubs throughout the UK are specifically aimed at runners and race-walkers and they encourage runners of all ages and abilities to take part in running/jogging/race walking activities. At international level, there are World Championships for the Marathon, Half-Marathon, Race Walking, Cross Country and Road Relay. In the Road relay competition, six runners make up a team that covers a total distance of 42.195 km. Three athletes run 5 km each, two athletes 10 km each and the final runner the remaining 7.195 km

At the Olympic Games, the long distance events start in the stadium, then the race moves out of the stadium into the surrounding city and countryside and finally finishes back in the stadium. Long distance runners/ walkers have always received a warm response when finishing in the stadium but today's spectators can follow the top races via live TV coverage en route.


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Field Events

Each athlete has a number of attempts (up to six in some events) to achieve their personal best on the day.

Jumps (Men and Women)

The jumps include:

  • the Triple Jump (hop, step, and jump)
  • the Long Jump
  • the High Jump
  • the Pole Vault (men only event)

Throwing (Men and Women)

Throwing events include:

  • the discus (a wooden disc surrounded by a metal rim) is thrown from within a circle, 2.5m diameter, into the discus sector. There are discuses of different weights and diameters for juniors, men and women. The lightest is around 1kg and the heaviest around 2kg. The thrower makes one-and-a-half turns to gain momentum.
  • the javelin (a wooden or metal shaft, with a grip and metal end) is thrown from a runway into the javelin sector. There are javelins of different weights and lengths for juniors, men and women. The thrower runs up the runway to gain momentum before releasing the javelin. It must land point first for the throw to be recorded.
  • the shot put (a brass or iron ball) is thrown from within a circle, 2.1m in diameter, into the shot put sector. There are shots of different weights for juniors, men and women. The lightest is 3.25kg, the heaviest 7.26kg.
  • the hammer (a heavy ball attached to a length of wire with a handle) is thrown from within a circle, 2.1m diameter, into the hammer sector after several turns by the athlete to gain momentum. The ball, wire, and handle together weigh 7.26 kg and form a unit no longer than 1.2 metres. (men only event)


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Combined Events

Decathlon (Men)

10 events are held over 2 days to determine the best all round male athlete.

Day 1: 100m sprint, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m sprint
Day 2: 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, 1500m

Heptathlon (Female)

7 events are held over 2 days to determine the best all round female athlete.

Day 1: 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m sprint
Day 2: long jump, javelin, 800m race


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Last modified on: Friday, March 6, 1998.