5 Types of Races in Athletics

You've probably noticed that many different athletics races are held in the Olympic Games: speed, distance, obstacle courses, among others. Learn more about each of them by reading this article!
5 Types of Races in Athletics

Last update: 24 September, 2020

Athletics is considered the oldest sport in the world and the “father” of many current disciplines. Within this great family of sports, you can find jumps, races, throws, and combined events. In this article, we’ll be detailing the types of races in athletics. Keep reading!

What are the types of races in athletics?

First off, we must define the word ‘race’. Well, it refers to a speed competition in which athletes complete a distance in the shortest possible time or the longest distance in a given period. Now, races in athletics are a very important event in competitions such as the Olympic Games, and they’re divided into the following types:

1. Types of races: speed

It’s a race with a certain distance: it can be 60, 100, 200, or 400 meters. The first is on an indoor track and the rest is outdoors.

“Sprinter” is the name of an athlete who participates in this type of race. They start the race with their bodies semi-incorporated, with their feet resting on starting blocks. Individuals from all over the world have been able to see these events in the Olympic Games since ancient times and also since the first modern edition.

A woman running a background race, one of the most popular types of races out there.

2. Middle-distance running

Middle-distance races consist of running distances between 800 and 3,000 meters. There’s an intermediate test of 1,500 meters, which along with the 800 meters one, are the only official ones of the Olympic Games.

Furthermore, middle-distance races are very tough events. For this reason, they require not only speed but also a lot of endurance. The most famous middle-distance runners in modern history are Fermín Cacho, Noureddine Morceli, Hicham el Gerrouj, and Asbel Kiprop. As for women, Jarmila Kratochvilova and Genzebe Dibaba hold the 800 and 1,500-meter records.

This, without a doubt, is one of the most important types of running in athletics due to its great intensity and toughness. They’re the longest distances: they range from 5,000 meters to 42 kilometers.

The Olympic Games presents three of these events: the 5,000 meters, the 10,000 meters, and the marathon. We can also find the so-called 21-kilometer half marathon and the cross-country race.

Inside the Hall of Fame of the best long-distance runners in history are Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zátopek, Hicham El Gerreouj, Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, Eliud Kipchoge, Tirunesh Dibaba, Almaz Ayana and Brigid Kosgei.

4. Types of races: hurdles

A lot of people know these events as obstacle courses. The reason for this is that, in addition to running, athletes must overcome a set of hurdles arranged every certain distance. The hurdle race had its origins in ancient times and is one of the main events of athletics in the modern Olympic Games.

Moreover, the distances range from 60 to 3,000 meters and there may be fence steps and pit jumps. In the case of track jumping races, the hurdles will be 91.4 centimeters high for men and 76.2 centimeters for women. The upper part of the fences is painted white and red.

The jumping events are 60, 100, 110, and 400-meter hurdles and 3,000-meter hurdles. It’s very important that the athletes don’t cross the fences and don’t go over the sides of the pit. They can overturn the fences during the trip, although that adds extra time, and no competitor wants that.

A man running a hurdle race.

5. Relay races

Finally, the last of the types of races in athletics is the relay race. Basically, in this competition, each member of each team take turns to carry out the same activity, passing a baton (a cylindrical bar that’s 30 centimeters long). This determines that it’s time for the next member to continue the race.

In the Olympic Games, the distances are 100 and 400 meters, and each team always has four members. Other official but non-Olympic events are 200, 800, and 1,500 meters, also with four members per team.

At the moment, the Jamaican National Team holds the men’s 4 x 100 record, which they obtained at the 2012 London Olympics. In the same game, the US National Team achieved the best record in women’s relay history.

Athletics races for all tastes

In brief, athletics is a large family of disciplines and, in addition to the types of races that we mentioned, there are other events within this sport. For example, walking (20 and 50 kilometers), jumping (long, triple, high and pole vault), throwing (shot put, discus, hammer and javelin) and combined events (pentathlon, heptathlon, and decathlon).

There’s a very diverse spectrum of options for those who enjoy watching these competitions on tv and for those who participate in them. It’s safe to say that all the alternatives are interesting and demanding. Would you be interested in testing your qualities in them?

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