WHAT IS ATHLETICS?

In athletics, do you prefer cross-country or heptathlon? Join us in discovering all the disciplines that make athletics such a varied sport!

FINDING YOUR ATHLETICS DISCIPLINE

Do you like sport? Then you will love athletics! OK, that may be an oversimplification. But you are still likely to find a discipline that you are drawn to and that is tailored to your physical abilities. Indeed, athletics is a varied sport that is made up of many disciplines.

A little too many for your taste? So, let us explain what is involved in the different athletics events and how they are broken down.

Whether they are on the track, in the pits and outside the stadium, we will cover the many activities that make up this sport.

Running, jumping, throwing

THE RACE

In these disciplines, you will use your speed and/or endurance to run quicker than your rivals… and against the clock. Indeed, during the heats and semi-finals, the places for the next round also depend on the best times achieved in all the heats, not just the ranking achieved in each race.

Sprint

As for the races, there is something for everyone. So, let's start with the short ones in terms of the distance covered as well as the time taken: the sprints.

You start your race in the starting blocks and you must stay in your lane. Apart from that, you must run as quickly as possible over one of three sprint distances: 100, 200 or 400 m.

100 m: this is the famous straight-line distance and possibly the most well-known event in athletics. It requires a combination of speed and explosiveness.

200 m: going halfway round the track, which therefore includes a bend, you must have a mix of pure speed and acceleration.

400 m: this time, you complete an entire lap of the track in this highly symbolic race. It is therefore a sprint that requires endurance and the capacity to stay concentrated and focused throughout the event.

 

Middle-distance

The distance is extended a little when stepping up to the middle distance races, i.e. the 800 m and the 1,500 m.

This time, you are stepping across the boundary between sprinting and endurance running. The 800 m involves 2 laps of the track, where you begin in a particular lane and move towards the inside lane after 120 m. And what about the 1,500 m? This adds up to 3¾ laps of the track!

In addition to your ability to withstand the physical effort required, these races demand tactical ability and anticipation in order to manage the race, place yourself in the right position, move in relation to the group and surprise your rivals.

 

Long-distance

We now move up to the long-distance races with the 5,000 m and the 10,000 m, which are still run on the track inside the stadium. This adds up to 12½ laps for the 5,000 m and…26 laps for the 10,000 m, given that the circumference of the track is indeed 400 m.

In addition to your endurance and ability to withstand physical effort, your capacity to accelerate at the end of the race in order to break free of the group can make the difference.

 

The hurdles

And if running on a flat surface was not challenging enough for you, we would recommend that you try the hurdles races!

If you like sprinting, the 100 m hurdles for women and the 110 m hurdles for men as well as the 400 m hurdles require not only good speed, but focus and very good technique, particularly concerning the stride length.

And if you prefer endurance races, the 3,000 m steeplechase, which involves obstacles as well as a water jump, requires additional technique and explosiveness in a middle-distance race.

 

Relay races

Finally, contrary to what it may seem, athletics also involves a lot of solidarity and team spirit. The relay races are one of the most spectacular examples of this.

In teams of 4 people, the relays are run over the 4x100 m or 4x400 m distance. The objective? In addition to running as quickly as possible, naturally, you must pass on a baton to your partner while running at full speed!

JUMPING

After the running events, there are the jumping events. Here you have to choose between jumping as high as possible or jumping as far as possible. For the high jump and the long jump, the name leaves little doubt as to the objective of the discipline.

As for the triple jump it uses the principle of the long jump: you do your run up on a track and jump before the limit (mark) to get as far into the sandpit as possible. The difference is that instead of jumping straight after the mark, you make a second and third stride before the sandpit. The aim is therefore to get the right balance between the height and length of your three strides.

And we finish with the most spectacular jumping event: the pole vault. We find the same principle in the high jump: jumping over a bar that is set as high as possible without making it fall. Except this time, a pole is used to propel you over the bar.

THROWING

And what if your strength is being… strong? This is when we move on to the events that require a combination of speed, power and technique: the throwing events.

This time, the objective is not about height: instead, you must throw it as far as possible. Throw what? Depending on the discipline, the object is a shot (which is shaped like a cannonball), a discus, a javelin or a hammer, which is a cannonball linked to a handle by a steel cable.

In addition to the impression of power conveyed by these disciplines, they also involve precise technique and a perfect action that is specific to athletics.

And what about indoors?

The races and distance events shown here are held during the athletics season, i.e. spring and summer. They are therefore held outdoors on the 400 m long track of an athletics stadium.

In winter, indoor competitions are held. As the enclosed stadiums are often smaller in size, so is the track: the track is 200 m long. For indoor events, the 100 m, 100 m hurdles and 110 m hurdles are replaced by the 60 m and 60 m hurdles events, and the 3,000 m is added to the middle-distance events.

COMBINED EVENTS

You now have an idea of the 3 main athletics categories: running, jumping and throwing. But if you are an all-rounder, or still have the wide range of skills you had when you started athletics, there are the combined events!

This time, the aim is to compete in a number of events. Your performance in each event is then converted into points using a points table.

How many events? 10 for the men and 7 for the women, over two days. That's why we talk about decathlon and heptathlon (from the numbers 10 and 7 in Greek). Want to know what it involves?

Decathlon

100m, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m on the first day, 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500m to finish on the second day.

Heptathlon

100 m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200 m to start, followed by the long jump, javelin and 800 m on the second day.

NON-STADIUM EVENTS

These are the disciplines that you can do in an athletics stadium. And we have some good news: you can also practise athletics outside. These are known as the non-stadium events.

Road races

refer to the long-distance races on outdoor routes. the most common formats include the 5 km, 10 km, half marathon (21 km) and the iconic marathon, which covers 42 km. These are distances where it is indeed more enjoyable to be in the countryside or an urban environment rather than repeating laps around the track.



Cross-country

cross-country events are run in the countryside, often on muddy terrain. It is a discipline that takes place in winter, over distances between 3 and 15 km. In addition to pushing yourself to the limit in a club as part of a team, cross-country is also a good physical and mental preparation for the start of the athletics season in the spring.

RACE WALK

And to finish, here is an introduction to race walking. In this endurance race, the competitor must walk: this means that at least one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times. If walking is the sport for you, you can practise this discipline over 20 or 50 km, once again in an open-air environment.

What about you, what are the athletics events you are drawn to? Share your stories with us and feel free to talk to us about your favourite disciplines!