Athletics – How to Play?

According to the International Association of Athletics Federations, athletics includes the following disciplines −

  • Track and Field
  • Relay Races
  • Field Events
  • Road Running
  • Race Walking
  • Cross Country Running
  • Mountain Running

All these forms of athletics are individual sports except relay races in which athletes participate in a team.

Track and Field

The track and field competitions came up in the late 19th century and typically athletes who represented rival schools and colleges, military organizations, and sports clubs participated in it. Athletes participated in one or more events according to their choice and favored sport.

Track and Field

In these events, men and women compete separately. These are played in indoor and outdoor formats. All the indoor competitions are held in winter while the outdoor events are held in summer. Therefore, the name, track and field competitions was defined by the venue of sport.

A variety of running events are held on the track and are categorized according to distance −

  • Sprints
  • Middle-distance
  • Long-distance

Some combined events like decathlons are organized for men and heptathlons for women, where the athletes compete in various track and field events.

The prestigious track and field competitions are held within athletic championships at multi-sport events like the Olympic Athletics Competition and World Championships. The Paralympic Athletics Competition and the IPC World Championships are also organized.

These track and field events have become the most prominent part of the major athletic championships. Many famous athletes come from the world of sports to this discipline.

Relay Races

In relay races, there are four runners in each participating team. When the race starts, the runner has to run to his milestone where he has to pass the baton to his teammate and then he will pass on to the next teammate, with the aim of being the first team to finish.

Running events with hurdles and steeplechase are variations of the flat running themes where the athletes must clear all the obstacles on the track during the race.

Field Events

The field events include jumping and throwing competitions.


In throwing events, the athletes have to throw an instrument like javelin, discus etc. and the distance to which the instrument is thrown will be measured. Events like shot put, discus throw, javelin throw, and hammer throw are throwing events.



There are mainly four types of jumping events −

  • Long jump
  • Triple jump
  • High jump
  • Pole vault


In long jumps and triple jumps, jumps are measured by the distance to which the athlete has jumped. In high jumps and pole vaults, the measurement is done according to height up to which an athlete has jumped.

Road Running

In road running competitions, the athletes have to run long distances on roads which are conducted on course of tarmac roads or paved roads. Most of these races finish in some track of a stadium. The most popular form of this event type are marathon races.

Road Running

These can be of any distance, but mostly are classified into marathon, half marathon, 10 km, and 5 km races. The marathon races are only one of these events which are held at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics and also in the Summer Olympics.

Half marathon races are held in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships annually. The marathon races are the only running event held in the IPC Athletics World Championships and in the Summer Paralympics.

The five most prestigious marathon races at the elite level are conducted in the World Marathon Majors series which include the Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, and the New York City marathons.

This road running sport originated among the male servants who ran alongside the carriages of the aristocrats in the 18th century, and also the people who ran errands for long distances for their masters.

The first modern marathon was held in the 1896 Summer Olympics and this event led to the growth of road running competitions into yearly events like the Boston Marathon, the Lake Biwa Marathon, and Fukuoka Marathons.


Just like it sounds, race-walking is a form of competitive walking which takes place in the open air − on roads and on running tracks as well. Race-walking is the only sport in athletics which is judged on the basis of the technique used by the athletes.

Race Walking

The athletes must have one foot on the ground with the other advancing leg straightened as to not get an advantage by running a little bit. If the advancing leg is bent at the knee, the athlete is disqualified from the race.

Race-Walking Competitions

The common race-walking events are 10-kilometers, 20-kilometers, and 50-kilometers on roads. In indoor tracks, 3-kilometers race-walking is held for women and 5-kilometers for men.

The topmost level of race-walking competitions is held at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics and also at the Summer Olympics. Race-walking also has its own major competition called the IAAF World Race Walking Cup held since 1961.

In the seasonal competition of the IAAF World Race Walking Challenge, the athletes earn points regarding their performances in the ten selected race-walking competitions. The highest scoring athletes enter into the year’s IAAF Race Walking Challenge Finals.

Cross Country Running

This is the simplest and the most naturalistic sport in athletics. Cross country running events take place in open air courses over surfaces like grass, woodland trails, and normal ground. It can be held either as an individual or as a team sport.

Runners are judged based on their individual performance and points-scoring methods are used in case of teams. These races are held over long distances, as of 4 kilometers or more in the season of autumn and winter.

The first recorded instance of an organized cross country competition was the Crick Run in England, in 1838. Then it gained popularity in British schools and then in American schools in the 19th century. This popularity led to the formation of the International Cross Country Championships in 1903.

Many cross country competitions are held in Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. The cross country competitions were held in the athletics program of the Olympics from 1912-1924, but they are no longer held at the Olympics ever since. However, it is still present as one of the events in the modern pentathlon competition since the Summer Olympics of 1912.

There are various forms of cross country running like mountain running, fell running and orienteering.

Mountain Running

Mountain running also known as Fell Running and Hill Running where racers race with each other off road. The participants must have mountain climbing skills in order to participate in this race. Mountain Running has some common characteristics with cross country and orienteering. In comparison to cross country running, the race courses of mountain racing is long and steep. In comparison to orienteering, the courses are longer but steepness is less.

The participants shall have the capability to navigate the mountains as choosing the route and determining poor weather condition can increase time to reach the destination. In most races, route is published and runners can observe the route which helps them to complete the race in less time. Trail racing is a type of mountain racing in which the course is easy to follow.