Running in Athletics

Modern Track and Road Events by distance and type

Running events are divided by distance into sprints (short-distance), middle-distance, long-distance and road events, as well as by type, which includes hurdles and relays or team races.


  • 100 metres.

This is the shortest sprint distance. Due to its fast, explosive nature it is favoured by the media and viewing public. It was included in the very first Games of 1896, although only for men. The women’s event was first included in the 1928 Games, Amsterdam. Each competitor keeps to his/her own lane.

  • 200 metres.

It is the modern version of the ancient δρόμος or 200-stride stadium race (see above). The 200m race follows the same rules as the 100m, and many athletes compete in both. The men’s event was included in the second Olympic Games, at Paris in 1900. The women’s event made its first appearance in the London Games of 1948.

  • 400 metres.

It can be considered the modern equivalent of the δίαυλος or double foot-race. It was included in the first Games of 1896 in the men’s version, while the women’s event was first run in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.


  • 800 metres.

Athletes running the 800m race use a combination of tactics to utilise speed and endurance to their advantage. It spans two laps of the stadium. It was one of the original events in the 1896 Games for men, while the women’s 800m was first run in 1960 in Rome.

  • 1500 metres.

Middle-distance runners frequently compete in both the 1500m and the 800m races. This event was included in the 1896 Games for the men. The women’s 1500m was first included in the 1972 Olympics, Munich.


  • 5000 metres.

This race could be considered the modern-day equivalent of the ancient δόλιχος, the 20 or 24 stadium lap race. It made its debut as an Olympic men’s event in the 1912 Stockholm Games. A 3000m women’s event was run at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, but today the men’s and women’s events are both 5000 metres long.

  • 10000 metres

It is the longest run held inside the stadium. For men, it was first included in the 1912 Stockholm Games, and for women it debuted at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Road events

  • Marathon

The most famous of the long-distance races, the Marathon is always run on public roads and traditionally is the final event of the Olympic Games. In addition to the Olympic competition, most major cities hold Marathon races, and many, such as the London and the Boston Marathon are famous the world over. In these events, the general public and the media have a chance to admire some of the most accomplished professional athletes, such as Britain’s Paula Radcliffe and Kenya’s Martin Lel. These major Marathon races offer high prize money, with up to $500.000 (approximately £254.000) being awarded to the winners in both the men’s and the women’s races.

  • Half marathon

The half-marathon is a road race covering half the distance of a Marathon, or approximately 13 miles (21 kilometres). It is favoured by experienced amateurs, as it does not demand the high level of training of the full Marathon but is still a serious challenge.

Hurdle races

  • 110 metres hurdles men; 100 metres hurdles women.

Each competitor must remain in his/her own lane and has to jump over ten hurdles. One of the original Olympic events for the men, the women’s race debuted in the 1932 Los Angeles Games.

  • 400 metres hurdles.

Similar rules as the above event, the ten hurdles are lower. First run in the 1900 Paris Games in the men’s case, while the women first competed at the Olympic level in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

  • 3000 metres steeplechase

The steeplechase, a men’s only event, involves jumping four hurdles of 91.4 cm in height and an artificial water hazard

Relays or team races

Originally, relays were a way to get messages across long distances via a series of couriers, each covering part of the distance to the final destination intended for the message. In modern relays, a rod or baton takes the role of the message. Each team divides the race distance equally amongst its four runners, who pass the baton to each other in turn, according to precise rules and techniques. There are two versions of this team race:

  • 4 x 100 metres

The men’s version debuted in the 1912 Stockholm Games, while the women’s race was first run in 1928 Amsterdam

  • 4 x 400 metres

The men’s version debuted in the 1912 Stockholm Games, and the women’s race was first run in 1972 Monaco.