The Olympics are here!! What an exciting time to be a fan of sports, and (in my case) especially track & field. This year’s athletes are so good that it promises to be an Olympics to remember! As we get ready to watch the games, I thought I'd put together some interesting (and sometimes little-known) tidbits about our favorite sport.

Where and when was track & field invented?

The first race was held during the first Olympics in 776 BC in Greece. It was 600ft long.

The first college track meet was held in London in 1864 between Oxford and Cambridge.

The first collegiate meets in the U.S. were held in 1873, organized by (ready?) The Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America, or IC4A. They presided over collegiate meets until 1980 when the Athletic Union/USA took over as the governing body. Then finally, in 1992 the United States of America Track & Field (USATF) took over as the official governing body and officiates meets to this day. IC4A still exists, as a top collegiate meet for a group of colleges known as the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference.

How many countries participate?

Over 200 countries participate in major track & field meets such as the Olympics. Track & field is kind of a big deal.

How long is a track?

Today’s modern outdoor track is oval in shape and has eight lanes. The inside lane covers a distance of 400m. However if you ran all the way around lane 8 you would cover about 50 more additional meters, so races that require the full loop of the track usually have a staggered start so that each runner is covering the exact same distance.

A staggered start

A staggered start

What events are there?

Track & Field is divided up into two categories, track events and field events.


On the track there are 3 sprint distances (100m, 200m, 400m), a mid-distance (800m) and long distances (1500m, 1600m, 3200m and 5000m). There are also sprint and distance races where people jump over stuff, known as hurdles. For the sprints, the men race the 110m hurdles and the women race the 100m hurdles, and both sexes race the 400m hurdles. Youth and high school runners can also run the 300m intermediate (in height) hurdles but this event ends at the high school level.

The 100m hurdles

The 100m hurdles

For the distance event the men and women both race the 3000m steeplechase.

That’s a funny race. Where did it originate?

The steeplechase originated in Britain. The story is that runners would race from one town’s steeple to the next, jumping obstacles such as streams and low walls. The current event can be traced to the two-mile steeplechases run at Oxford University in the mid-19th century. It was made a track event, with barriers, at the 1879 English Championships.

The 300m Steeplechase

The 300m Steeplechase

What about the field events?

On the field there are the long jump, high jump, triple-jump, pole vault, shot put, javelin, hammer and the discus. These are some of the most technical events in all of track & field and they are contested by both men and women.

The Hammer Throw

The Hammer Throw

So which of all of these amazing events can we expect to see at the Olympics?

Well, Olympic meets contest all of the track events except for the 1600m and 3200m, and all of the field events. There is also a 10-event competition for the men called the Decathlon, and a 7-event competition for the women called the heptathlon.

Decathlon: 100m sprint, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m race IN ONE DAY! Then 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500m on the second day.

Heptathlon: 110m hurdles, high jump, shot put and a 200m sprint on day one. Then the long jump, javelin and the 800m on the second day.

The winners of these competitions are generally considered to be the best athletes in track & field and we can see why!

Who’s the oldest track & field participant ever?

That honor belongs to Hidekichi Miyazaki of Japan who had just celebrated his 105th birthday when he ran a 100m race!! Can I have some of what he’s having? It just goes to show that you can never be too old to run!

Okay, now I’m excited! When and where can I watch the Olympic track & field events?

Google put together this handy dandy viewing guide for all the events, both the prelims and the finals. Stay tuned because we may also have an Olympics viewing party coming up in the not-too-distant future. Among our favorite athletes is local legend Molly Huddle, who will be toeing the line and going for gold in the women’s 10,000m this Friday, August 12 at 10am ET. Go Molly!!!

Molly Huddle at the 2016 US Olympic Trials

Molly Huddle at the 2016 US Olympic Trials

Enjoy the games and let’s celebrate the beauty of track & field!

Coach Mwangi

Coach Mwangi6 Comments