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Olympic Track Events: Terms to Know

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Olympic Track Events: Terms to Know
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Baylor Track Waco, Texas

Many people watch the Olympic Games but do not know the terms that are used surrounding the track events. Listed are some of the basics terms to help follow the track events during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

1. Heats, Semi-Finals and Finals: All track races begin with the heat rounds, or prelims as some people call them. Then the semi-final rounds and finally the finals. Only the 10,000 meter race has one round which is a finals-only race.

2. False Start: When a runner leaves the blocks too early either before the starting gun is fired or .10 a second before the gun firing.

3. Sprints: Sprints are considered a race which is less than 400 meters: 400m, 200m and 100m races.

4. Relays: The two relays in the Olympic Games are the 4 x 100m relay and the 4 x 400m relay. In the 4 x 100m relay each runner completes a 100m leg of the race. In the 4 x 400m relay each runner completes a 400m leg of the race. A metal baton is passed between runners and the hand-off must be completed within the hand-off zone which is marked distinctly on the track.

5. Hurdles: Even though this is an event for both men and women the hurdle height and the distance is a bit different. Men's 110m high hurdles are 1.067 meters or 42 inches high. Women's 100m hurdles are 83.8 cm or 33 inches high. There are 10 hurdles in each of these races. The 400m hurdles race also has 10 hurdles. The runners must stay in their assigned lane the entire race and start with a staggered start. The 400m men's hurdle height is 36 inches and the women's height is 30 inches. If the lead leg of the runner falls below the horizontal hurdle height then the runner is disqualified.

6. Steeplechase: There is only one distance for the steeplechase and that is the 3000m. The height for the hurdles for men is 36 inches and 30 inches for women. The hurdles are set and cannot be knocked over. The race consists of 28 hurdles jumps and 7 water jumps. The jumps begin on the second lap after the finish line is passed. All runners must go over each hurdle and through or hurdle over the water pits. If a runner bypasses the jump or the trail leg goes around the jump they will be disqualified.

7. Middle Distance: The 800m run is a race for both men and women. All races 800m and above have no starting blocks. The runners must all stay in their assigned lanes until the first turn, then they are able to cut in. This race is two complete laps around the track. The 1500m is a race for both men and women. The runners are grouped on the track, generally on two waterfall starting lines marked on the track, if there are 12 or more runners. The group on the second waterfall behind the first waterfall starting group must run on the outer half of the track until the first curve, and then they may cut in. This race is started at the 300m mark, run 3.75 times around the track and is completed at the finish line.

8. Long Distance: The 5000m is a race for both men and women. The runners are grouped on the track generally on two waterfall starting lines marked on the track if there are 12 or more runners. The group on the second waterfall behind the first waterfall starting group must run on the outer half of the track until the first curve and then they may cut in. The 5000m is 12.5 times around the track and is completed at the finish line. The 10,000m is the longest race on the track. The 10,000m is a race for both men and women. The same starting rules apply to the 10,00m race as in the 5000m race. The 10,000m is 25 laps around the track.

9. Wind-aided: This happens when a runner's times are improved due to a tailgating wind more than 2.00 meters per second.

10. Split Time: The time of a lap during a race.

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