Introduction to Track and Field Events

Female athlete clearing hurdle, low angle view, sunset
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Attending a track and field meet is a lot like watching a three-ring circus, with a variety of action happening at the same time. Runners stride around the track, sometimes sprinting, other times pacing themselves. Some athletes leap over obstacles while others pass silver batons to teammates. There are horizontal and vertical jumpers, as well as throwers tossing a variety of objects. Above all, there are men and women, or girls and boys, competing in many unique events.

Here's where you'll find basic introductions to the most popular track and field running, jumping, throwing, race walking and multi-sport events.

Sprints and Hurdles

The shortest events in terms of time are the sprint, relay and hurdle races. Competitors require speed, of course, but also need good technique when leaping hurdles, passing a baton or beginning a race from starting blocks.

Middle Distance Running

Balancing speed, stamina, and race strategy are key components for middle distance runners. Events range from 800 meters to two miles.

Distance Running

From 2000 to 10,000 meters, distance races require a combination of stamina and strategy.

Marathon Running

Track and field's longest running event, marathoners run thousands of miles to train for each 42.195-kilometer (26-mile, 385-yard) race.


Races between cities - running from one church steeple to another - eventually morphed into this hybrid running event featuring hurdles and a treacherous water pit.

Throwing Events

A category that includes some of track and field's oldest events, the discus throw, hammer throw, shot put and javelin throw competitions require strength as well as nimble footwork and sound technique.​

Jumping Events

Whether they leap vertically over a bar or horizontally into a sand pit, competitive jumpers must combine speed with proper form to score big in these events.

Multi-Sport Events

The 10-event decathlon and 7-event pentathlon are challenging tests of stamina and athletic skill