Athletics (track and field)
Overview
 
Athletics is an exclusive collection of sport
Sport
A Sport is all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. Sport may be competitive, where a winner or winners can be identified by objective means, and may require a degree...

ing events that involve competitive running
Running
Running is a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. It is simply defined in athletics terms as a gait in which at regular points during the running cycle both feet are off the ground...

, jumping
Jumping
Jumping or leaping is a form of locomotion or movement in which an organism or non-living mechanical system propels itself through the air along a ballistic trajectory...

, throwing
Throwing
Throwing may refer to:*launching a projectile, especially by hand*Throw , a martial arts and grappling technique that involves off-balancing or lifting an opponent...

, and walking
Walking
Walking is one of the main gaits of locomotion among legged animals, and is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an 'inverted pendulum' gait in which the body vaults over the stiff limb or limbs with each step...

. The most common types of athletics competitions are track and field
Track and field
Track and field is a sport comprising various competitive athletic contests based around the activities of running, jumping and throwing. The name of the sport derives from the venue for the competitions: a stadium which features an oval running track surrounding a grassy area...

, road running
Road running
Road running is the sport of running on a measured course over an established road . These events would be classified as long distance according to athletics terminology, with distances typically ranging from 5 kilometers to 42.2 kilometers in the marathon. They may involve large numbers of runners...

, cross country running
Cross country running
Cross country running is a sport in which people run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain. The course, typically long, may include surfaces of grass and earth, pass through woodlands and open country, and include hills, flat ground and sometimes gravel road...

, and race walking
Race walking
Racewalking, or race walking, is a long-distance athletic event. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times...

. The simplicity of the competitions, and the lack of a need for expensive equipment, makes athletics one of the most commonly competed sports in the world.

Organised athletics are traced back to the Ancient Olympic Games from 776 BC, and most modern events are conducted by the member clubs of the International Association of Athletics Federations
International Association of Athletics Federations
The International Association of Athletics Federations is the international governing body for the sport of athletics. It was founded in 1912 at its first congress in Stockholm, Sweden by representatives from 17 national athletics federations as the International Amateur Athletics Federation...

.
Encyclopedia
Athletics is an exclusive collection of sport
Sport
A Sport is all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. Sport may be competitive, where a winner or winners can be identified by objective means, and may require a degree...

ing events that involve competitive running
Running
Running is a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. It is simply defined in athletics terms as a gait in which at regular points during the running cycle both feet are off the ground...

, jumping
Jumping
Jumping or leaping is a form of locomotion or movement in which an organism or non-living mechanical system propels itself through the air along a ballistic trajectory...

, throwing
Throwing
Throwing may refer to:*launching a projectile, especially by hand*Throw , a martial arts and grappling technique that involves off-balancing or lifting an opponent...

, and walking
Walking
Walking is one of the main gaits of locomotion among legged animals, and is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an 'inverted pendulum' gait in which the body vaults over the stiff limb or limbs with each step...

. The most common types of athletics competitions are track and field
Track and field
Track and field is a sport comprising various competitive athletic contests based around the activities of running, jumping and throwing. The name of the sport derives from the venue for the competitions: a stadium which features an oval running track surrounding a grassy area...

, road running
Road running
Road running is the sport of running on a measured course over an established road . These events would be classified as long distance according to athletics terminology, with distances typically ranging from 5 kilometers to 42.2 kilometers in the marathon. They may involve large numbers of runners...

, cross country running
Cross country running
Cross country running is a sport in which people run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain. The course, typically long, may include surfaces of grass and earth, pass through woodlands and open country, and include hills, flat ground and sometimes gravel road...

, and race walking
Race walking
Racewalking, or race walking, is a long-distance athletic event. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times...

. The simplicity of the competitions, and the lack of a need for expensive equipment, makes athletics one of the most commonly competed sports in the world.

Organised athletics are traced back to the Ancient Olympic Games from 776 BC, and most modern events are conducted by the member clubs of the International Association of Athletics Federations
International Association of Athletics Federations
The International Association of Athletics Federations is the international governing body for the sport of athletics. It was founded in 1912 at its first congress in Stockholm, Sweden by representatives from 17 national athletics federations as the International Amateur Athletics Federation...

. The athletics meeting forms the backbone of the modern Summer Olympics
Summer Olympic Games
The Summer Olympic Games or the Games of the Olympiad are an international multi-sport event, occurring every four years, organized by the International Olympic Committee. Medals are awarded in each event, with gold medals for first place, silver for second and bronze for third, a tradition that...

, and other leading international meetings include the IAAF World Championships
IAAF World Championships in Athletics
The World Championships in Athletics is an event organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations . Originally, it was organised every four years, but this changed in 1991, and it has since been organised biennially.-History:...

 and World Indoor Championships
IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics
The International Association of Athletics Federations World Indoor Championships were inaugurated as the World Indoor Games in 1985 in Paris, France and were subsequently renamed in 1987 as they are known today.-History:...

, and athletes with a physical disability
Physical disability
A physical disability is any impairment which limits the physical function of one or more limbs or fine or gross motor ability. Other physical disabilities include impairments which limit other facets of daily living, such as respiratory disorders and epilepsy....

 compete at the Summer Paralympics
Summer Paralympic Games
The Summer Paralympic Games or the Games of the Paralympiad, are an international multi-sport event, where athletes with physical disabilities compete. This includes athletes with mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and Cerebral Palsy. The Paralympic Games are held every four years,...

 and the IPC Athletics World Championships
IPC Athletics World Championships
The IPC Athletics World Championships is an event organized by the International Paralympic Committee . Athletes with a physical disability compete, and in a few events athletes with an intellectual disability compete...

.

Etymology

The word athletics is derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 word "athlos" (), meaning "contest" or "task." Initially, the term was used to describe athletic contests in general – i.e. sporting competition based primarily on human physical feats. In the 19th century in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, the term athletics acquired a more narrow definition and came to describe sports involving competitive running, walking, jumping and throwing. This definition continues to be the most prominent one in the United Kingdom and most of the areas of the former British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. Furthermore, foreign words in many Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 and Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 which are related to the term athletics also have a similar meaning.

In contrast to this, in much of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 athletics is synonymous with athletic sports
Athletic sports
Athletics is a term encompassing the human competitive sports and games requiring physical skill, and the systems of training that prepare athletes for competition performance. Athletic sports or contests, are competitions which are primarily based on human, physical competition, demanding the...

 in general, maintaining a more historic usage of the term. The word "athletics" is rarely used to refer to the sport of athletics in this region.

Antiquity and Middle Ages

Athletic contests in running, walking, jumping, and throwing are among the oldest of all sports and their roots are prehistoric. Athletics events were depicted in the Ancient Egyptian tombs in Saqqara
Saqqara
Saqqara is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of...

, with illustrations of running
Running
Running is a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. It is simply defined in athletics terms as a gait in which at regular points during the running cycle both feet are off the ground...

 at the Heb Sed festival and high jump
High jump
The high jump is a track and field athletics event in which competitors must jump over a horizontal bar placed at measured heights without the aid of certain devices in its modern most practiced format; auxiliary weights and mounds have been used for assistance; rules have changed over the years....

ing appearing in tombs from as early as of 2250 BC. The Tailteann Games
Tailteann Games
The Tailteann Games were an ancient sporting event held in Ireland in honour of the goddess Tailtiu. They ran from 632 BC to 1169-1171 AD when they died out after the Norman invasion....

 were an ancient Celtic festival in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, founded around 1800 BC, and the thirty-day meeting included running
Running
Running is a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. It is simply defined in athletics terms as a gait in which at regular points during the running cycle both feet are off the ground...

 and stone-throwing
Stone put
The stone put is one of the main Scottish heavy athletic events at modern-day Highland games gatherings. Similar to the shot put, the stone put more frequently uses an ordinary stone or rock instead of a steel ball...

 among its sporting events. The original and only event at the first Olympics in 776 BC was a stadium-length running event known as the stadion. This later expanded to include throwing and jumping events within the ancient pentathlon. Athletics competitions also took place at other Panhellenic Games
Panhellenic Games
Panhellenic Games is the collective term for four separate sports festivals held in ancient Greece. The four Games were:-Description:The Games took place in a four-year cycle known as the Olympiad, which was one of the ways the Greeks measured time...

, which were founded later around 500 BC.

The Cotswold Olimpick Games, a sports festival which emerged in 17th century England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, also featured athletics in the form of sledgehammer
Sledgehammer
A sledgehammer is a tool consisting of a large, flat head attached to a lever . The head is typically made of metal. The sledgehammer can apply more impulse than other hammers, due to its large size. Along with the mallet, it shares the ability to distribute force over a wide area...

 throwing contests. Annually, from 1796 to 1798, L'Olympiade de la République was held in revolutionary France
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, and is an early forerunner to the modern summer Olympic Games. The premier event of this competition was a running event, but various ancient Greek disciplines were also on display. The 1796 Olympiade marks the introduction of the metric system
Metric system
The metric system is an international decimalised system of measurement. France was first to adopt a metric system, in 1799, and a metric system is now the official system of measurement, used in almost every country in the world...

 into sport.

Modern era

The Royal Military College, Sandhurst has claimed to be the first to adopt this in 1812 and 1825, but without any supporting evidence. The earliest recorded meeting was organised at Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire, in the West Midlands region of England. Lying on the River Severn, it is a civil parish home to some 70,000 inhabitants, and is the primary settlement and headquarters of Shropshire Council...

, Shropshire
Shropshire
Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. It borders Wales to the west...

 in 1840 by the Royal Shrewsbury School
Shrewsbury School
Shrewsbury School is a co-educational independent school for pupils aged 13 to 18, founded by Royal Charter in 1552. The present campus to which the school moved in 1882 is located on the banks of the River Severn in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England...

 Hunt. There are details of the meeting in a series of letters written 60 years later by C.T. Robinson, who was a pupil there from 1838 to 1841. The Royal Military Academy at Woolwich held an organised competition in 1849, but the first regular series of meetings was held by Exeter College, Oxford
Exeter College, Oxford
Exeter College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England and the fourth oldest college of the University. The main entrance is on the east side of Turl Street...

 from 1850.
The first modern-style indoor athletics meetings were recorded shortly after in the 1860s, including a meet at Ashburnham Hall in London which featured four running events and a triple jump competition.

The Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) was established in England in 1880 as the first national body for the sport of athletics and began holding its own annual athletics competition – the AAA Championships. The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 also began holding an annual national competition – the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
The USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships is an annual track and field competition organized by USA Track & Field, which serves as the American national championships for the sport...

 – first held in 1876 by the New York Athletic Club. Athletics became codified and standardised via the English AAA and other general sports organisations in the late 19th century, such as the Amateur Athletic Union
Amateur Athletic Union
The Amateur Athletic Union is one of the largest non-profit volunteer sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.-History:The AAU was founded in 1888 to...

 (founded in the US in 1888) and the Union des sociétés françaises de sports athlétiques
Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques
Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques is a former French sports governing body. During the 1890s and early 1900s it organised numerous sports including athletics, cycling, field hockey, fencing, croquet and swimming...

 (founded in France in 1889).

An athletics competition was included in the first modern Olympic Games
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

 in 1896 and it has been as one of the foremost competitions at the quadrennial multi-sport event
Multi-sport event
A multi-sport event is an organized sporting event, often held over multiple days, featuring competition in many different sports between organized teams of athletes from nation-states. The first major, modern, multi-sport event of international significance was the modern Olympic Games.Many...

 ever since. Originally for men only, the 1928 Olympics
1928 Summer Olympics
The 1928 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the IX Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1928 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Amsterdam had bid for the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games, but had to give way to war-victim Antwerp, Belgium, and Pierre de...

 saw the introduction of women's events in the athletics programme. Athletics is part of the Paralympic Games
Paralympic Games
The Paralympic Games are a major international multi-sport event where athletes with a physical disability compete; this includes athletes with mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and Cerebral Palsy. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which are held immediately following their...

 since the inaugural Games in 1960
1960 Summer Paralympics
The 1960 Summer Paralympics, originally known as the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games, were the first international Paralympic Games, following on from the Stoke Mandeville Games of 1948 and 1952. They were organised under the aegis of the International Stoke Mandeville Games...

. Athletics has a very high profile during major championships, especially the Olympics, but otherwise is less popular.

An international governing body, the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), was founded in 1912; it adopted its current name, the International Association of Athletics Federations
International Association of Athletics Federations
The International Association of Athletics Federations is the international governing body for the sport of athletics. It was founded in 1912 at its first congress in Stockholm, Sweden by representatives from 17 national athletics federations as the International Amateur Athletics Federation...

, in 2001. The IAAF established separate outdoor World Championships
IAAF World Championships in Athletics
The World Championships in Athletics is an event organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations . Originally, it was organised every four years, but this changed in 1991, and it has since been organised biennially.-History:...

 in 1983. In modern times, athletes can receive money for racing, putting an end to the so-called "amateurism" that existed before.

The Comité International Sports des Sourds had been formed by 1922, to govern international deaf sports, including athletics.

The first organized international competitions for athletes with a physical disability
Physical disability
A physical disability is any impairment which limits the physical function of one or more limbs or fine or gross motor ability. Other physical disabilities include impairments which limit other facets of daily living, such as respiratory disorders and epilepsy....

 (not deaf) began in 1952, when the first international Stoke Mandeville Games were organized for World War II veterans. This only included athletes in a wheelchair
Wheelchair
A wheelchair is a chair with wheels, designed to be a replacement for walking. The device comes in variations where it is propelled by motors or by the seated occupant turning the rear wheels by hand. Often there are handles behind the seat for someone else to do the pushing...

. The first Paralympic Games
Paralympic Games
The Paralympic Games are a major international multi-sport event where athletes with a physical disability compete; this includes athletes with mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and Cerebral Palsy. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which are held immediately following their...

 were held in 1960. Competitions would over time be expanded to include mainly athletes with amputation
Amputation
Amputation is the removal of a body extremity by trauma, prolonged constriction, or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as malignancy or gangrene. In some cases, it is carried out on individuals as a preventative surgery for...

s, cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement....

 and visual impairment
Visual impairment
Visual impairment is vision loss to such a degree as to qualify as an additional support need through a significant limitation of visual capability resulting from either disease, trauma, or congenital or degenerative conditions that cannot be corrected by conventional means, such as refractive...

, in addition to wheelchair events.

Sports

The International Association of Athletics Federations, the sport's governing body, defines athletics in five disciplines: track and field
Track and field
Track and field is a sport comprising various competitive athletic contests based around the activities of running, jumping and throwing. The name of the sport derives from the venue for the competitions: a stadium which features an oval running track surrounding a grassy area...

, road running
Road running
Road running is the sport of running on a measured course over an established road . These events would be classified as long distance according to athletics terminology, with distances typically ranging from 5 kilometers to 42.2 kilometers in the marathon. They may involve large numbers of runners...

, race walking
Race walking
Racewalking, or race walking, is a long-distance athletic event. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times...

, cross country running
Cross country running
Cross country running is a sport in which people run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain. The course, typically long, may include surfaces of grass and earth, pass through woodlands and open country, and include hills, flat ground and sometimes gravel road...

, and mountain running. All forms of athletics are individual sports with the exception of relay race
Relay race
During a relay race, members of a team take turns running, orienteering, swimming, cross-country skiing, biathlon, or ice skating parts of a circuit or performing a certain action. Relay races take the form of professional races and amateur games...

s. However, athletes' performances are often tallied together by country at international championships, and in the case of cross country the finishing times of the top athletes from each team or country are combined to declare a team victor.

Track and field

Track and field competitions emerged in the late 19th century and were typically contested between athletes who were representing rival educational institutions, military organisations and sports club
Sports club
A sports club or sport club, sometimes athletics club or sports association is a club for the purpose of playing one or more sports...

s. Participating athletes may compete in one or more events, according to their specialities. Men and women compete separately. Track and field comes in both indoor and outdoor formats, with most indoor competitions occurring in winter
Winter
Winter is the coldest season of the year in temperate climates, between autumn and spring. At the winter solstice, the days are shortest and the nights are longest, with days lengthening as the season progresses after the solstice.-Meteorology:...

, while outdoor events are mostly held in summer
Summer
Summer is the warmest of the four temperate seasons, between spring and autumn. At the summer solstice, the days are longest and the nights are shortest, with day-length decreasing as the season progresses after the solstice...

. The sport is defined by the venue in which the competitions are held – the track and field stadium.

A variety of running
Running
Running is a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. It is simply defined in athletics terms as a gait in which at regular points during the running cycle both feet are off the ground...

 events are held on the track which fall into three broad distance categories: sprints, middle-distance
Middle distance track event
Middle distance running events are track races longer than sprints, up to 3000 metres. The standard middle distances are the 800 metres, 1500 metres and mile run, although the 3000 metres may also be classified as a middle distance event. The 880 yard run, or half mile, was the forebear to the...

, and long-distance track event
Long-distance track event
Long-distance track event races require runners to balance their energy. These types of races are predominantly aerobic in nature and at the highest level, exceptional levels of aerobic endurance is required more than anything else...

s. Relay races feature teams comprising four runners each, who must pass a baton to their team-mate after a specified distance with the aim of being the first team to finish. Hurdling
Hurdling
Hurdling is a type of track and field race.- Distances :There are sprint hurdle races and long hurdle races. The standard sprint hurdle race is 110 meters for men and 100 meters for women. The standard long hurdle race is 400 meters for both men and women...

 events and the steeplechase
Steeplechase (athletics)
The steeplechase is an obstacle race in athletics, which derives its name from the steeplechase in horse racing.-Rules:The length of the race is usually 3000 m; junior events are 2000 m, as women's events formerly were. The circuit has four ordinary barriers and one water jump. Over 3000 m, each...

 are a variation upon the flat running theme in that athletes must clear obstacles on the track during the race. The field events come in two types – jumping and throwing competitions. In throwing events, athletes are measured by how far they hurl an implement, with the common events being the shot put
Shot put
The shot put is a track and field event involving "putting" a heavy metal ball—the shot—as far as possible. It is common to use the term "shot put" to refer to both the shot itself and to the putting action....

, discus
Discus throw
The discus throw is an event in track and field athletics competition, in which an athlete throws a heavy disc—called a discus—in an attempt to mark a farther distance than his or her competitors. It is an ancient sport, as evidenced by the 5th century BC Myron statue, Discobolus...

, javelin
Javelin throw
The javelin throw is a track and field athletics throwing event where the object to be thrown is the javelin, a spear approximately 2.5 metres in length. Javelin is an event of both the men's decathlon and the women's heptathlon...

, and hammer throw
Hammer throw
The modern or Olympic hammer throw is an athletic throwing event where the object is to throw a heavy metal ball attached to a wire and handle. The name "hammer throw" is derived from older competitions where an actual sledge hammer was thrown...

. There are four common jumping events: the long jump
Long jump
The long jump is a track and field event in which athletes combine speed, strength, and agility in an attempt to leap as far as possible from a take off point...

 and triple jump
Triple jump
The triple jump is a track and field sport, similar to the long jump, but involving a “hop, bound and jump” routine, whereby the competitor runs down the track and performs a hop, a bound and then a jump into the sand pit.The triple jump has its origins in the Ancient Olympics and has been a...

 are contests measuring the horizontal distance an athlete can jump, while the high jump
High jump
The high jump is a track and field athletics event in which competitors must jump over a horizontal bar placed at measured heights without the aid of certain devices in its modern most practiced format; auxiliary weights and mounds have been used for assistance; rules have changed over the years....

 and pole vault
Pole vault
Pole vaulting is a track and field event in which a person uses a long, flexible pole as an aid to leap over a bar. Pole jumping competitions were known to the ancient Greeks, as well as the Cretans and Celts...

 are decided on the height achieved. Combined events, which include the decathlon
Decathlon
The decathlon is a combined event in athletics consisting of ten track and field events. The word decathlon is of Greek origin . Events are held over two consecutive days and the winners are determined by the combined performance in all. Performance is judged on a points system in each event, not...

 (typically competed by men) and heptathlon
Heptathlon
A heptathlon is a track and field athletics combined events contest made up of seven events. The name derives from the Greek hepta and athlon . A competitor in a heptathlon is referred to as a heptathlete.-Women's Heptathlon:...

 (typically competed by women), are competitions where athletes compete in a number of different track and field events, with each performance going toward a final points tally.

The most prestigious track and field contests occur within athletics championships and athletics programmes at multi-sport events. The Olympic athletics competition
Athletics at the Summer Olympics
Athletics has been contested at every Summer Olympics since the birth of the modern Olympic movement at the 1896 Summer Olympics. The athletics program traces its earliest roots to events used in the ancient Greek Olympics. The modern program now comprises track and field events, road running...

 and World Championships in Athletics, and the Paralympic athletics competition
Athletics at the Summer Paralympics
Athletics has been contested at every Summer Paralympics since the first games in 1960. Men and women from all disability groups compete in the sport.Some athletes use wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs....

 and IPC World Championships in Athletics, are the highest and most prestigious levels of competition in track and field. Track and field events have become the most prominent part of major athletics championships and many famous athletes within the sport of athletics come from this discipline. Discrete track and field competitions are found at national championships-level and also at annual, invitational track and field meetings. Meetings range from elite competitions – such as those in the IAAF Diamond League
IAAF Diamond League
The Samsung Diamond League is an annual series of track and field meetings held from 2010 onwards, beginning with the 2010 IAAF Diamond League...

 series – to basic all-comers track meets and inter-sports club meetings, which form the grassroots of track and field.

Road running

Road running competitions are running events (predominantly long distance) which are mainly conducted on courses of paved or tarmac
Tarmac
Tarmac is a type of road surface. Tarmac refers to a material patented by Edgar Purnell Hooley in 1901...

 road
Road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...

s, although major events often finish on the track of a main stadium
Stadium
A modern stadium is a place or venue for outdoor sports, concerts, or other events and consists of a field or stage either partly or completely surrounded by a structure designed to allow spectators to stand or sit and view the event.)Pausanias noted that for about half a century the only event...

. In addition to being a common recreational sport, the elite level of the sport – particularly marathon races – are one of the more popular aspects of athletics. Road racing events can be of virtually any distance, but the most common and well known are the marathon
Marathon
The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres , that is usually run as a road race...

, half marathon
Half marathon
A half marathon is a road running event of . It is half the distance of a marathon and usually run on roads. Participation in half marathons has grown steadily recently. One of the main reasons for this is that it is a challenging distance, but does not require the same level of training that a...

, 10 km and 5 km. The marathon is the only road running event featured at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics
IAAF World Championships in Athletics
The World Championships in Athletics is an event organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations . Originally, it was organised every four years, but this changed in 1991, and it has since been organised biennially.-History:...

 and the Summer Olympics, although there is also an annual IAAF World Half Marathon Championships
IAAF World Half Marathon Championships
The IAAF World Half Marathon Championships is an annual half marathon competition organised by the International Association of Athletics Federations. It was contested from 1992 to 2005, and replaced by the IAAF World Road Running Championships, a 20 kilometres race which had its inaugural...

. The marathon is also the only road running event featured at the IPC Athletics World Championships
IPC Athletics World Championships
The IPC Athletics World Championships is an event organized by the International Paralympic Committee . Athletes with a physical disability compete, and in a few events athletes with an intellectual disability compete...

 and the Summer Paralympics. The World Marathon Majors
World Marathon Majors
The World Marathon Majors is a championship-style competition for marathon runners that started in 2006. It comprises five annual races for the cities of Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, and New York City. Two other races are also included in the series: the IAAF World Championships Marathon and...

 series includes the five most prestigious marathon competitions at the elite level – the Berlin
Berlin Marathon
The Berlin Marathon is a major running and sporting event held annually in Berlin, Germany. The official marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers is set up as a city-wide road race where professional athletes and amateur runners jointly participate...

, Boston
Boston Marathon
The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon hosted by the U.S. city of Boston, Massachusetts, on Patriots' Day, the third Monday of April. Begun in 1897 and inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics, the Boston Marathon is the world's oldest...

, Chicago
Chicago Marathon
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a major marathon held yearly in Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. Alongside the Boston, New York, London and Berlin Marathons, it is one of the five World Marathon Majors. Thus, it is also an IAAF Gold Label race...

, London
London Marathon
The London Marathon is one of the biggest running events in the world, and one of the five top world marathons that make up the World Marathon Majors competition, which has a $1 million prize purse. It has been held each spring in London since 1981. The race is currently sponsored by Virgin Money,...

, and New York City
New York City Marathon
The New York City Marathon is a major annual marathon that courses through the five boroughs of New York City. It is one of the largest marathons in the world, with 45,103 finishers in 2010...

 marathons.
The sport of road running finds its roots in the activities of footmen: male servants who ran alongside the carriages of aristocrats
Aristocracy (class)
The aristocracy are people considered to be in the highest social class in a society which has or once had a political system of Aristocracy. Aristocrats possess hereditary titles granted by a monarch, which once granted them feudal or legal privileges, or deriving, as in Ancient Greece and India,...

 around the 18th century, and who also ran errands over distances for their masters. Foot racing competitions evolved from wagers
Gambling
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

 between aristocrats, who pitted their footman against that of another aristocrat in order to determine a winner. The sport became professionalised
Professional sports
Professional sports, as opposed to amateur sports, are sports in which athletes receive payment for their performance. Professional athleticism has come to the fore through a combination of developments. Mass media and increased leisure have brought larger audiences, so that sports organizations...

 as footmen were hired specifically on their athletic ability and began to devote their lives to training for the gambling events. The amateur sports
Amateur sports
Amateur sports are sports in which participants engage largely or entirely without remuneration. Sporting amateurism was a zealously guarded ideal in the 19th century, especially among the upper classes, but faced steady erosion throughout the 20th century with the continuing growth of pro sports...

 movement in the late 19th century marginalised competitions based on the professional, gambling model. The 1896 Summer Olympics
1896 Summer Olympics
The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, was a multi-sport event celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first international Olympic Games held in the Modern era...

 saw the birth of the modern marathon and the event led to the growth of road running competitions through annual events such as the Boston Marathon (first held in 1897) and the Lake Biwa Marathon
Lake Biwa Marathon
The held in Otsu, Shiga, is one of the prominent Japanese marathon races of the year. It is a male only competition and has IAAF Gold Label status. First held in 1946 and having taken place every year since then, it is Japan's oldest annual marathon race...

 and Fukuoka Marathon
Fukuoka Marathon
The , held in Fukuoka, Japan, is an international men's marathon race established in 1947. It is usually held on the first Sunday in December.The course record is held by Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia, running 2:05:18 in 2009 to best his own record from the previous year.-Men's winners:Winners of the...

s, which were established in the 1940s. The 1970s running boom in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 made road running a common pastime and also increased its popularity at the elite level.

Ekiden
Ekiden
is a term referring to a long-distance relay running race, typically on roads. The Japanese term originally referred to a post-horse or stagecoach which transmitted communication by stages.-History:...

 contests – which originated in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 and remain very popular there – are a relay race variation on the marathon, being in contrast to the typically individual sport of road running.

Cross country running

Cross country running is the most naturalistic of the sports in athletics as competitions take place on open-air courses over surfaces such as grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

, woodland
Woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

 trails, and earth
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

. It is both an individual and team sport
Team sport
A team sport includes any sport which involves players working together towards a shared objective. A team sport is an activity in which a group of individuals, on the same team, work together to accomplish an ultimate goal which is usually to win. This can be done in a number of ways such as...

, as runners are judged on an individual basis and a points scoring method is used for teams. Competitions are typically long distance races of 4 km (2.5 mi) or more which are usually held in autumn and winter. Cross country's most successful athletes often compete in long-distance track and road events as well.

The Crick Run in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1838 was the first recorded instance of an organised cross country competition. The sport gained popularity in British, then American schools in the 19th century and culminated in the creation of the first International Cross Country Championships
International Cross Country Championships
The International Cross Country Championships was an annual international competition in cross country running. It was created in 1903 by the International Cross Country Union and it marked the first time that an annual international championships had been held for the sport.It began its life as...

 in 1903. The annual IAAF World Cross Country Championships
IAAF World Cross Country Championships
IAAF World Cross Country Championships is the most important competition in international cross country running. Held annually and organised by International Association of Athletics Federations , it was inaugurated in 1973, when it replaced the International Cross Country Championships...

 was inaugurated in 1973 and this remains the highest level of competition for the sport. A number of continental cross country competitions are held, with championships taking place in Asia
Asian Cross Country Championships
The Asian Cross Country Championships is a biennial regional cross country running competition for athletes from Asia. It is organised by the Asian Athletics Association and was first held in 1991 in Fukuoka, Japan...

, Europe
European Cross Country Championships
The European Cross Country Championships is an annual international cross country running competition. Organised by the European Athletic Association, it is the area championships for the region and is held in December each year...

, North America
Americas Cross Country Championships
The NACAC Cross Country Championships is an annual regional cross country running competition for athletes representing member nations of the North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association . The event was inaugurated in 2005 and was held in Florida, United States until 2009...

 and South America
South American Cross Country Championships
The South American Cross Country Championships is an annual continental cross country running competition for athletes from South America or, more specifically, member countries of CONSUDATLE. It was first held in 1986, making it the oldest of the continental cross country championships...

. The sport has retained its status at the scholastic level, particularly in the United Kingdom and United States. At the professional level, the foremost competitions come under the banner of the IAAF Cross Country Permit Meetings.

While cross country competitions are no longer held at the Olympics, having featured in the athletics programme from 1912–1924, it has been present as one of the events within the modern pentathlon
Modern pentathlon
The modern pentathlon is a sports contest that includes five events: pistol shooting, épée fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3 km cross-country run...

 competition since the 1912 Summer Olympics
1912 Summer Olympics
The 1912 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the V Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Stockholm, Sweden, between 5 May and 27 July 1912. Twenty-eight nations and 2,407 competitors, including 48 women, competed in 102 events in 14 sports...

. One variation on traditional cross country is mountain running, which incorporates significant uphill and/or downhill sections as an additional challenge to the course. Fell running
Fell running
Fell running, also known as mountain running and hill running, is the sport of running and racing, off road, over upland country where the gradient climbed is a significant component of the difficulty...

 and Orienteering
Orienteering
Orienteering is a family of sports that requires navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain, and normally moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they...

 are other competitive sports similar to cross country, although they feature an element of navigation
Navigation
Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

 which is absent from the set courses of cross country.

Racewalking

Racewalking is a form of competitive walking
Walking
Walking is one of the main gaits of locomotion among legged animals, and is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an 'inverted pendulum' gait in which the body vaults over the stiff limb or limbs with each step...

 which is usually contested on courses on open-air roads, although running tracks are also occasionally used. Racewalking is the only sport in athletics in which judges monitor athletes on their technique. Racewalkers must always have a foot in contact with the ground and their advancing leg must be straightened, not bent at the knee – failure to follow these rules results in disqualification from the race.

Racewalking finds its roots in the sport of pedestrianism
Pedestrianism
Pedestrianism was a 19th-century form of competitive walking, often professional and funded by wagering, from which the modern sport of racewalking developed.-18th- and early 19th-century Britain:...

 which emerged in the late 18th century in England. Spectators would gamble on the outcome of the walking competitions. The sport took on an endurance aspect and competitions were held over long distances or walkers would have to achieve a certain distance within a specified time frame, such as Centurion
Centurion (racewalking)
The Brotherhood of Centurions is a club for which racewalkers are eligible who have completed a distance of 100 miles in Britain within 24 hours...

 contests of walking 100 miles (160.9 km) within 24 hours. During this period, racewalking was frequently held on athletics tracks for ease of measurement, and the 1908 Summer Olympics
1908 Summer Olympics
The 1908 Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the IV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in 1908 in London, England, United Kingdom. These games were originally scheduled to be held in Rome. At the time they were the fifth modern Olympic games...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 saw the introduction of the 3500-metre and 10-mile walks. Racewalking was briefly dropped from the Olympic programme in 1928
Athletics at the 1928 Summer Olympics
At the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, 27 athletics events were contested. The competition was held on a 400 meter track and would become the standard for athletics tracks in the future. For the first time, women's events in athletics were included in the Olympic Games program...

, but the men's 50 kilometres race walk
50 kilometres race walk
The 50 kilometre race walk is an Olympic athletics event. The racewalking event is competed as a road race. Athletes must always keep in contact with the ground and the supporting leg must remain straight until the raised leg passes it.-World records:...

 has been held at every Olympic Games but one since 1932. The men's 20 kilometres race walk
20 kilometres race walk
The 20 kilometre race walk is an Olympic athletics event that is competed by both men and women. The racewalking event is competed as a road race...

 was added to the Olympic athletics schedule in 1956 and the women's event was first held in 1992. The most common events in modern competition are over 10 km, 20 km and 50 km on roads, although women's 3 km and men's 5 km are held on indoor tracks.

The highest level racewalking competitions occur at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics and at the Summer Olympics, although the sport also has its own separate major competition – the IAAF World Race Walking Cup
IAAF World Race Walking Cup
The IAAF World Race Walking Cup is a race walking event organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations. It has been held since 1961, and generally on a biennial basis. Women first entered the 1979 edition. It was formerly known as the Lugano Cup after the city that hosted the...

 – which has been held since 1961. The IAAF World Race Walking Challenge
IAAF World Race Walking Challenge
The IAAF World Race Walking Challenge is a race walking contest organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations. The athletes accumulate points in three specific racewalk meets during the season...

 forms the primary seasonal competition – athletes earn points for their performances at ten selected racewalking competitions and the highest scoring walkers are entered into that year's IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final.

Athletes with a disability

Athletes with a physical disability
Physical disability
A physical disability is any impairment which limits the physical function of one or more limbs or fine or gross motor ability. Other physical disabilities include impairments which limit other facets of daily living, such as respiratory disorders and epilepsy....

 have competed at separate international events since 1952. It is governed by IPC
International Paralympic Committee
The International Paralympic Committee is an international non-profit organisation and the global governing body for the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the Paralympic Games and functions as the international federation for nine sports...

 Athletics, and is one of the sports at the Summer Paralympic Games
Paralympic Games
The Paralympic Games are a major international multi-sport event where athletes with a physical disability compete; this includes athletes with mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and Cerebral Palsy. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which are held immediately following their...

 since 1960
Athletics at the 1960 Summer Paralympics
Athletics at the 1960 Summer Paralympics consisted of 25 events, 13 for men and 12 for women.-Medal table: - Men's events :- Women's events :...

.

Competiors at elite level competitions, are classified by disability, to arrange athletes with a similar disability in the same event. A classified T12 athlete for example, is a track athlete with a visual impairment.
  • F = Field athletes
  • T = Track athletes

  • 11–13 – Visual impairment
    Visual impairment
    Visual impairment is vision loss to such a degree as to qualify as an additional support need through a significant limitation of visual capability resulting from either disease, trauma, or congenital or degenerative conditions that cannot be corrected by conventional means, such as refractive...

    . Compete with a sighted guide
    Sighted guide
    A sighted guide is a person who guides a person with blindness or vision impairment.-Paralympic Games:At the Paralympic Games there are various classifications of athletes with a visual impairment....

    .
  • 20 – Intellectual disability
  • 31–38 – Cerebral palsy
    Cerebral palsy
    Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement....

  • 41–46 – Amputation
    Amputation
    Amputation is the removal of a body extremity by trauma, prolonged constriction, or surgery. As a surgical measure, it is used to control pain or a disease process in the affected limb, such as malignancy or gangrene. In some cases, it is carried out on individuals as a preventative surgery for...

    , and others (including athletes with dwarfism
    Dwarfism
    Dwarfism is short stature resulting from a medical condition. It is sometimes defined as an adult height of less than 4 feet 10 inches  , although this definition is problematic because short stature in itself is not a disorder....

    )
  • 51–58 – Wheelchair


In wheelchair racing
Wheelchair racing
Wheelchair racing is the racing of wheelchairs in track and road races. Wheelchair racing is open to athletes with any qualifying type of disability, amputees, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy and partially sighted . Athletes are classified in accordance with the nature and severity of their...

 athletes compete in lightweight racing chairs. Most major marathon
Marathon
The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres , that is usually run as a road race...

s have wheelchair divisions and the elite racers consistently beat the runners on foot.

Occasionally, athletes with a disability excel to compete with able bodied athletes. Legally blind Marla Runyan
Marla Runyan
Marla Runyan , is an American track and field athlete, road runner and marathon runner who is legally blind. She is a three-time national champion in the women's 5000 metres.Runyan was born in Santa Maria, California...

 ran in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and won a gold medal in the 1500 metres at the 1999 Pan American Games
Athletics at the 1999 Pan American Games
The athletics competition at the 1999 Pan American Games was held in Winnipeg, Canada. Two new events were introduced for women: pole vault and hammer throw. In addition the 20 km road walk replaced the 10,000 m track walk.-Track:-Field:-Track:...

. Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius is a South African sprint runner. Known as the "Blade Runner" and "the fastest man on no legs", Pistorius, who has a double amputation, is the world record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 metres events and runs with the aid of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial...

, a double amputee, has achieved the "A" qualifying standard
Qualifying standards in athletics
In sports under the athletics banner, certain competitions require an athlete to meet a qualifying standard, meaning a mark as good or better than this set mark, in order to be eligible to compete. Its obvious, an elite level competition does not want to embarrass its reputation nor the competitor...

, making him eligible for the 2012 Olympics. At the 2011 World Championships
2011 World Championships in Athletics
The 13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics was an international athletics competition that was held in Daegu, South Korea. It started on 27 August 2011 and finished on 4 September 2011....

 Pistorius successfully made it to the 400 metres semi-final round and won a silver medal as part of South Africa's 4x400 metres relay team
2011 World Championships in Athletics – Men's 4 × 400 metres relay
The Men's 4 × 400 metres relay event at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics was held at the Daegu Stadium on 1 and 2 September. Thursday and Friday. This is a change in schedule from previous years when all the relays were at the end of the program...

. In Masters athletics it is far more common to make an accommodation for athletes with a disability. Blind Ivy Granstrom set numerous Masters world records while being guided around the track.

Venues

Professional athletics almost exclusively takes place in one of three types of venue: stadium
Stadium
A modern stadium is a place or venue for outdoor sports, concerts, or other events and consists of a field or stage either partly or completely surrounded by a structure designed to allow spectators to stand or sit and view the event.)Pausanias noted that for about half a century the only event...

s, set courses on grass or woodland, and road-based courses. Such venues ensure that events take place in a relatively standardised manner, as well as improving the safety of athletes and enjoyment for spectators. At a more basic level, many forms of athletics demand very little in terms of venue requirements; almost any open space or area of field can provide a suitable venue for basic running, jumping and throwing competitions.

Track and field stadia

A standard outdoor track is in the shape of a stadium, 400 metres in length, and has at least eight lanes 1.22 m in width. Older track facilities may have nonstandard track lengths, such as 440 yards (402.3 m) (common in the United States). Historically, tracks were covered by a dirt running surface. Modern All-weather running track
All-weather running track
An all weather running track is the common term to describe a rubberized artificial running surface for the sport of Track and field athletics. Throughout the history of the sport, there has always been a search for a consistent surface that gave competitors an equal advantage, to test their...

s are covered by a synthetic weather-resistant running surface, which typically consists of rubber (either black SBR or colored EPDM granules), bound by polyurethane or latex resins. Older tracks may be cinder
Cinder
A cinder is a pyroclastic material. Cinders are extrusive igneous rocks. Cinders are similar to pumice, which has so many cavities and is such low-density that it can float on water...

-covered.

A standard indoor track is designed similarly to an outdoor track, but is only 200 metres in length and has between four and eight lanes, each with width between 0.90 m and 1.10 m. Often, the bends of an indoor track will be banked to compensate for the small turning radius. However, because of space limitations, indoor tracks may have other nonstandard lengths, such as 160-yard (146.3 m) indoor track at Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden, often abbreviated as MSG and known colloquially as The Garden, is a multi-purpose indoor arena in the New York City borough of Manhattan and located at 8th Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets, situated on top of Pennsylvania Station.Opened on February 11, 1968, it is the...

 used for the Millrose Games
Millrose Games
The Millrose Games is an annual indoor athletics meet held on the first Friday in February in New York City. They will be held at the Armory in Washington Heights in 2012, after having taken place in Madison Square Garden from 1914 to 2011...

. Because of space limitations, meetings held at indoor facilities do not hold many of athletics events typically contested outdoors.

Cross country courses

There is no standardised form of cross country course and each venue is significantly defined by the environment it contains – some may be relatively flat and featureless, while others may be more challenging with natural obstacles, tight turns, and undulating ground. While a small number of purpose-built courses exist, the vast majority of cross country running courses are created by cordoning a specific area within any open natural land, typically a park
Park
A park is a protected area, in its natural or semi-natural state, or planted, and set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. It may consist of rocks, soil, water, flora and fauna and grass areas. Many parks are legally protected by...

, woodland
Woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

 or greenspace
Open space reserve
Open space reserve, open space preserve, and open space reservation, are planning and conservation ethics terms used to describe areas of protected or conserved land or water on which development is indefinitely set aside...

 near a settlement.

At the elite and professional level, courses must be looped and each lap must be between 1750 m and 2000 m in length. Severe obstacles such as deep ditches, high barriers and thick undergrowth not normally present; the course should be able to be completed whilst remaining on foot throughout. In order to maintain the sport's distinction from road running, the usage of unnatural or macadam
Macadam
Macadam is a type of road construction pioneered by the Scotsman John Loudon McAdam in around 1820. The method simplified what had been considered state-of-the-art at that point...

ised surfaces is generally kept to a minimum or avoided entirely.

Due to the fact that the majority of races take place on areas of grass, soil, mud or earth, weather conditions can significantly affect the difficulty of cross country courses, as snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 and rain
Rain
Rain is liquid precipitation, as opposed to non-liquid kinds of precipitation such as snow, hail and sleet. Rain requires the presence of a thick layer of the atmosphere to have temperatures above the melting point of water near and above the Earth's surface...

 reduces traction and can create areas of standing water.

Road courses

The surface of road races is highly important and the IAAF dictate that the courses must be along man-made roads, bicycle paths or footpaths. Courses set along major roads of cities are typical of road running events, and traffic
Traffic
Traffic on roads may consist of pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using the public way for purposes of travel...

 is usually cordoned off from the area during the competition. While soft ground, such as grass, is generally avoided, races may start and finish on soft ground or within a track and field stadium. Road racing courses come in two primary types: looped and point-to-point. Courses may be measured and designed to cover a standardised distance, such as 10 km (6.2 mi), or they may simply follow a set route between two landmarks.

Road running courses over 5 km usually offer drinks or refreshment stations for runners at designated points alongside the course and medical professionals are present at the courses of major races due to the health risks involved with long-distance running.

Elite road walks are conducted on closed loop courses (usually loops of 2,000 or 2,500 meters). Refreshment stations are also present over long distance walking competitions, with drinks being available on every lap for races longer than 10 km.

Organizations

Since its foundation in 1912, the international governing body for athletics has been the International Association of Athletics Federations
International Association of Athletics Federations
The International Association of Athletics Federations is the international governing body for the sport of athletics. It was founded in 1912 at its first congress in Stockholm, Sweden by representatives from 17 national athletics federations as the International Amateur Athletics Federation...

 (IAAF). It was initially known as the International Amateur Athletics Federation but changed later its name to reflect that the sport had moved away from amateurism
Amateur sports
Amateur sports are sports in which participants engage largely or entirely without remuneration. Sporting amateurism was a zealously guarded ideal in the 19th century, especially among the upper classes, but faced steady erosion throughout the 20th century with the continuing growth of pro sports...

 towards professionalism
Professional sports
Professional sports, as opposed to amateur sports, are sports in which athletes receive payment for their performance. Professional athleticism has come to the fore through a combination of developments. Mass media and increased leisure have brought larger audiences, so that sports organizations...

 in the late 1970s. The IAAF has 213 member nations and territories, which are divided into six continental areas (or area associations). The six association areas are for Asia
Asian Athletics Association
The Asian Athletics Association is the continental governing body for the sport of athletics in Asia. It is headquartered in Singapore. It organises the Asian Championships in Athletics and other continental competitions....

, Africa
Confederation of African Athletics
The Confederation of African Athletics is the governing body for the sport of athletics in Africa. It is headquartered in Senegal. It organises the African Championships in Athletics and other continental competitions.-Members:...

, Europe, Oceania, North America and South America. The sports within athletics do not have their own independent governing bodies at either international or continental level and, instead, all fall under the athletics authorities.

  •       AAA – Asian Athletics Association
    Asian Athletics Association
    The Asian Athletics Association is the continental governing body for the sport of athletics in Asia. It is headquartered in Singapore. It organises the Asian Championships in Athletics and other continental competitions....


  •       CAA – Confederation of African Athletics
    Confederation of African Athletics
    The Confederation of African Athletics is the governing body for the sport of athletics in Africa. It is headquartered in Senegal. It organises the African Championships in Athletics and other continental competitions.-Members:...


  •       CONSUDATLE – South American Athletics Confederation

  •       NACACAA – North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association

  •       EAA – European Athletics Association

  •       OAA – Oceania Athletics Association


National level athletics organisations are responsible for the regulation of the sport within their respective countries and most major competitions have some form of permit or approval from their national body.

Competitions

Athletics competitions can be broadly divided into three types: international championships, national championships, and annual meetings and races. Athletics at international championships, or Games, represent the pinnacle of competition within the sport, and they are contested between athletes representing their country or region. The organisation of these competitions is usually overseen by either a world, continental, or regional athletics governing body. Athletes gain entry into these competitions by earning selection from their national athletics governing body, which is generally done by assessing athletes via their past achievements or performances at a national selection event. National championships are annual competitions endorsed by a national governing body which serve the purpose of deciding the country's best athlete in each event. Annual one-day meetings and races form the most basic level of competition and are the most common format of athletics contests. These events are often invitational and are organised by sports organisations, sports promoters, or other institutions.

Competitions typically feature only one of the sports within athletics. However, major outdoor international athletics championships and athletics competitions held as part of multi-sport events usually feature a combination of track and field, road running and racewalking events

Olympic Games

The modern Summer Olympics was the first event at which a global athletics competition took place. All the four major sports within athletics have featured in the Olympic athletics programme since its inception in 1896, although cross country has since been dropped. The Olympic competition is the most prestigious athletics contest and, in addition to this, many athletics events are also among the most prominent competitions at the Summer Olympics as a whole. A total of 47 athletics events are held at the Olympics, 24 for men and 23 for women. The events within the men's and women's programmes are either identical or have a similar equivalent, with the sole exception being that men contest the 50 km race walk.

Paralympic Games

The Summer Paralympics include athletes with a physical disability
Physical disability
A physical disability is any impairment which limits the physical function of one or more limbs or fine or gross motor ability. Other physical disabilities include impairments which limit other facets of daily living, such as respiratory disorders and epilepsy....

. Track and field, and road events have featured in the Paralympic athletics programme since its inception in 1960. The Paralympic competition is the most prestigious athletics contest where athletes with a physical disability compete.

Athletics at the Paralympic Games also include wheelchair racing
Wheelchair racing
Wheelchair racing is the racing of wheelchairs in track and road races. Wheelchair racing is open to athletes with any qualifying type of disability, amputees, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy and partially sighted . Athletes are classified in accordance with the nature and severity of their...

 where athletes compete in lightweight racing chairs. Athletes with a visual impairment
Visual impairment
Visual impairment is vision loss to such a degree as to qualify as an additional support need through a significant limitation of visual capability resulting from either disease, trauma, or congenital or degenerative conditions that cannot be corrected by conventional means, such as refractive...

 compete with a sighted guide
Sighted guide
A sighted guide is a person who guides a person with blindness or vision impairment.-Paralympic Games:At the Paralympic Games there are various classifications of athletes with a visual impairment....

. At the 2012 Summer Paralympics
2012 Summer Paralympics
The 2012 Summer Paralympic Games will be the fourteenth Paralympics and will take place between 29 August and 9 September 2012. The Games will be held in London, United Kingdom after the city was successful with its bid for the Paralympics and Summer Olympic Games.Even though 2012 will be London's...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, for the first time at an international athletics event, the guides will receive medals, such as the pilots in cycling, and the guides at the Paralympic Winter Games have done for a while.

World Championships

The IAAF World Championships in Athletics
IAAF World Championships in Athletics
The World Championships in Athletics is an event organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations . Originally, it was organised every four years, but this changed in 1991, and it has since been organised biennially.-History:...

 is the primary global athletics championships held by IAAF. The biennial competition was first held in 1983 and now features an event programme which is identical to the Olympics. Thus, road running, racewalking and track and field are the sports which feature at the competition. Cross country running has its own discrete global championships – the IAAF World Cross Country Championships
IAAF World Cross Country Championships
IAAF World Cross Country Championships is the most important competition in international cross country running. Held annually and organised by International Association of Athletics Federations , it was inaugurated in 1973, when it replaced the International Cross Country Championships...

 – which has been held annually since 1973. The IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics
IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics
The International Association of Athletics Federations World Indoor Championships were inaugurated as the World Indoor Games in 1985 in Paris, France and were subsequently renamed in 1987 as they are known today.-History:...

 is a biennial athletics championships which features solely indoor track and field events. The foremost separate road running event is the annual IAAF World Half Marathon Championships
IAAF World Half Marathon Championships
The IAAF World Half Marathon Championships is an annual half marathon competition organised by the International Association of Athletics Federations. It was contested from 1992 to 2005, and replaced by the IAAF World Road Running Championships, a 20 kilometres race which had its inaugural...

 (formerly World Road Running Championships). While not having official world championship status, the biennial IAAF World Race Walking Cup
IAAF World Race Walking Cup
The IAAF World Race Walking Cup is a race walking event organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations. It has been held since 1961, and generally on a biennial basis. Women first entered the 1979 edition. It was formerly known as the Lugano Cup after the city that hosted the...

 fulfils a similar role for the sport of racewalking. Outdoor track and field is the only sport in athletics that does not have a its own distinct global championship which is separate from other types of athletics, although the IAAF Continental Cup (a quadrennial competition between continental teams) is composed entirely of outdoor track and field events.

Other world championships include the IAAF World Junior
IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics
The IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics are the world championships for junior aged athletes athletes, organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations. It is held biennially since 1986.-Championships:-Men:-Women:-External links:* at...

 and World Youth Championships in Athletics
IAAF World Youth Championships in Athletics
The IAAF World Youth Championships in Athletics is a global athletics event comprising track and field events for competitors who are 17 or younger . The event is organized by International Association of Athletics Federations . It is held biannually...

, which are for athletes under-19 and under-17, respectively. World Masters Athletics
World Masters Athletics
World Masters Athletics is the worldwide governing body for the sport of masters athletics – which includes track and field, cross country, and road running events – as participated by people over 35 years of age....

 conducts the World Masters Athletics Championships
World Masters Athletics Championships
The World Masters Athletics Championships are the biannual championships for athletics events held under the auspices of World Masters Athletics, formerly called the World Association of Veteran Athletes, for athletes over the age of 35 years old....

 for athletes in 5 year age divisions over the age of 35. The now defunct IAAF World Road Relay Championships served as the global event for ekiden
Ekiden
is a term referring to a long-distance relay running race, typically on roads. The Japanese term originally referred to a post-horse or stagecoach which transmitted communication by stages.-History:...

 marathon relay races.

Elite athletes with a physical disability compete at the IPC Athletics World Championships
IPC Athletics World Championships
The IPC Athletics World Championships is an event organized by the International Paralympic Committee . Athletes with a physical disability compete, and in a few events athletes with an intellectual disability compete...

.

Commonwealth Games

Athletics is one of the sports at the quadrennial Commonwealth Games
Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games is an international, multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930 and takes place every four years....

 competition. It has been a Commonwealth Games sport since the inaugural edition of the event's precursor, the 1930 British Empire Games
1930 British Empire Games
The 1930 British Empire Games were the first of what later become known as the Commonwealth Games, and were held in Hamilton, in the province of Ontario in Canada from August 16–23, 1930....

. It is a core sport and must be included in the sporting programme of each edition of the Games.

Universiade

Athletics is one of the sports at the biennial summer Universiade
Universiade
The Universiade is an International multi-sport event, organized for university athletes by the International University Sports Federation . The name is a combination of the words "University" and "olympiad"...

 competition. It has been one of the event's competed sports since the inaugural edition.

Culture and media

Athletics, and its athletes in particular, has been artistically depicted since ancient times – one of the surviving instances include runners and high jumpers in the motifs of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian tombs dating from 2250 BC. Athletics was much respected in Ancient Greece and the events within the ancient pentathlon provided inspiration for large statues such as the Discobolus
Discobolus
The Discobolus of Myron is a famous Greek sculpture that was completed towards the end of the Severe period, circa 460-450 BC. The original Greek bronze is lost...

 and Discophoros
Discophoros
The Discophoros, also spelled Discophorus, was a bronze sculpture by the classical Greek sculptor Polyclitus, creator of the Doryphoros and Diadumenos, and its many Roman marble copies...

, and for motifs on countless vase and pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 works. Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 discussed the significance of the pentathlon in his treatise
Treatise
A treatise is a formal and systematic written discourse on some subject, generally longer and treating it in greater depth than an essay, and more concerned with investigating or exposing the principles of the subject.-Noteworthy treatises:...

 Rhetoric
Rhetoric (Aristotle)
Aristotle's Rhetoric is an ancient Greek treatise on the art of persuasion, dating from the 4th century BC. In Greek, it is titled ΤΕΧΝΗ ΡΗΤΟΡΙΚΗ, in Latin Ars Rhetorica. In English, its title varies: typically it is titled Rhetoric, the Art of Rhetoric, or a Treatise on...

and reflected on the athlete aesthetic of the period: "a body capable of enduring all efforts, either of the racecourse or of bodily strength...This is why the athletes in the pentathlon are most beautiful".

Films about athletics are overwhelmingly focused on running events: the 1962 film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (film)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a 1962 film, based on the short story of the same name.The screenplay, like the short story, was written by Alan Sillitoe....

(based on the book of the same name
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" is a short story by Alan Sillitoe which was set in Irvine Beach, and published in 1959 as part of a short story collection of the same name. The work focuses on Colin, a poor Nottingham teenager from a dismal home in a blue-collar area, who has bleak...

) explores cross country running as a means of escape. Chariots of Fire
Chariots of Fire
Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British film. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice....

, perhaps one of the most well-known athletics films, is a fictionalised account of Eric Liddell
Eric Liddell
Eric Henry Liddell was a Scottish athlete, rugby union international player, and missionary.Liddell was the winner of the men's 400 metres at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris...

 and Harold Abrahams
Harold Abrahams
Harold Maurice Abrahams, CBE, was a British athlete of Jewish origin. He was Olympic champion in 1924 in the 100 metres sprint, a feat depicted in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire.-Early life:...

's chase for sprint gold medal
Gold medal
A gold medal is typically the medal awarded for highest achievement in a non-military field. Its name derives from the use of at least a fraction of gold in form of plating or alloying in its manufacture...

s at the 1924 Olympics
Athletics at the 1924 Summer Olympics
At the 1924 Summer Olympics held in Paris, 27 athletics events were contested, all for men only.-Medal table:-Medal summary:-Participating nations:657 athletes from 40 nations competed. Ten nations competed in athletics for the first time...

. Track and field has been the subject of American films such as Personal Best (1981) and Across the Tracks
Across the Tracks
Across the Tracks is a 1991 American independent film drama about track and field. It was directed and written by Sandy Tung.-Plot:Across the Tracks is the story of two brothers who have gone very different ways in their past, and who now must learn to deal with each other again. Joe is the older...

(1991). Biopics are found within the genre, including Prefontaine (regarding Steve Prefontaine
Steve Prefontaine
Steve Roland "Pre" Prefontaine was an American middle and long-distance runner. Prefontaine once held the American record in the seven distance track events from the 2,000 meters to the 10,000 meters...

) and Jim Thorpe – All-American (1951) featuring Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster
Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster was an American film actor noted for his athletic physique and distinctive smile...

 as Thorpe. Documentaries are also common with examples such as 2007 film Spirit of the Marathon
Spirit of the Marathon
Spirit of the Marathon is a 2007 documentary film directed by Jon Dunham. The film chronicles the journey six marathon runners experience while training and competing in the 2005 Chicago Marathon...

, which follows runners' preparations for the 2005 Chicago Marathon
Chicago Marathon
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a major marathon held yearly in Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. Alongside the Boston, New York, London and Berlin Marathons, it is one of the five World Marathon Majors. Thus, it is also an IAAF Gold Label race...

.

Books on the subject are predominantly non-fiction, and tend towards the forms of training manuals and historical accounts of athletics. The story of the four-minute mile
Four-minute mile
In the sport of athletics, the four-minute mile is the act of completing the mile run in less than four minutes. It was first achieved in 1954 by Roger Bannister in 3:59.4. The 'four minute barrier' has since been broken by many male athletes, and is now the standard of all male professional...

 has been a particularly popular subject, spawning books such as The Perfect Mile
The Perfect Mile
The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb is a non-fiction book about three runners and their attempts to become the first man to run a mile under four minutes. The runners are Englishman Roger Bannister, American Wes Santee, and...

and 3:59.4: The Quest to Break the Four Minute Mile.

Athletics journalism
Journalism
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

 has spawned a number of dedicated periodicals including Athletics Weekly
Athletics Weekly
Athletics Weekly is the world's only weekly athletics magazine.It is published in the United Kingdom by Athletics Weekly Limited and covers news, results, fixtures, coaching and product advice for all aspects of athletics, including track and field, cross-country, road racing and race walking.-...

and Race Walking Record
Race Walking Record
Race Walking Record is a nonprofit magazine about the sport of race walking, and walking events, primarily aimed at a UK audience. The magazine was founded in London in 1941 by Alf McSweeney in order to keep athletes serving as soldiers in World War II informed about their sport back home...

, both of which were first published in England in the early 1940s, and Track & Field News
Track & Field News
Track & Field News is a magazine founded in 1948 by brothers Bert Nelson & Cordner Nelson, focused on the world of track and field.The magazine provides coverage of athletics in the U.S.A. from the high school to national level as well as covering the sport on an international bases. The magazine...

which was first published in the United States in 1948. Runner's World
Runner's World
Runner's World is a globally circulated monthly magazine for runners of all skills sets, published by Rodale Press in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, in the United States...

has been in print since 1966 and the Track & Field Magazine of Japan (Rikujyo Kyogi Magazine) is another long-running publication.

Athletics events have been selected as a main motif in numerous collectors' coins. One of the recent samples is the €10 Greek Running commemorative coin, minted in 2003 to commemorate the 2004 Summer Olympics
2004 Summer Olympics
The 2004 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, was a premier international multi-sport event held in Athens, Greece from August 13 to August 29, 2004 with the motto Welcome Home. 10,625 athletes competed, some 600 more than expected, accompanied by 5,501 team...

. In the obverse of the coin, a modern athlete figure appears in the foreground, shown in the starting position, while in the background two ancient runners are carved in a manner that gives the appearance of a coin that is "worn" by time. This scene originally appeared on a black-figure vase of the 6th century BC.

See also

  • List of Olympic medalists in athletics (men), (women)
  • World
    World records in athletics
    World records in the sport of athletics are ratified by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Athletics records comprise the best performances in the sports of track and field, road running and racewalking....

    , US, UK, Canadian
    Canadian records in track and field
    The following is a list of national outdoor athletics records for Canada maintained by Canada's national athletics federation: Athletics Canada .-Men:-Women:-Men:-Women:+ = en route to a longer distance# = not recognised by federation...

     and European records
  • World records, athletes with a disability
  • Association of Track and Field Statisticians
    Association of Track and Field Statisticians
    The Association of Track and Field Statisticians was founded in 1950. It is an international organization run by volunteers whose goal is to collect and disseminate the statistics of track and field athletics.- Yearbook :...

  • Masters Track & Field (athletics)
    Masters athletics (track and field)
    Masters athletics is a class of the sport of athletics for veteran athletes in the events of track and field, road running and cross country running. The competitions feature five-year age groups beginning at age 35. Men as old as 104 and women in their 100s have competed in running, jumping and...

  • Running in Ancient Greece
    Running in Ancient Greece
    The history of Greek running goes back to 776 BC. Running was important to members of ancient Greek society, and is consistently highlighted in documents referencing the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games hosted a large variety of running events, each with their own set of rules. The ancient Greeks...


External links

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