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Sprints are short running races in athletics. They are roughly classified as events in which top runners will not have to "pace themselves", but can run as fast as possible for the entire distance. These are among the most glamorous events in the Olympic Games.
- The 60 metres is normally run indoors, on a section inside an indoor athletic track (which is only 200 m long). As the races last between six and seven seconds, having good reflexes and thus getting off to a quick start is more vital in this race than any other.
- This is roughly the distance required for a human to reach maximum speed and can be run without breathing. It is popular for training and testing in other sports (e.g. speed testing for American football, although 40 yards is more common there).
- The World record in this event is held by American sprinter Maurice Greene with a time of 6.39 seconds.
- The 100 metres is the best-known sprint distance, and it is athletics' most prestigious event. It takes place on one length of the home straight of a standard outdoor 400 m track. Often, the world-record holder in this race is considered "the world's fastest man/woman". The current world record of 9.77 seconds is shared by Asafa Powell of Jamaica and Justin Gatlin of the United States. However, Gatlin's record is likely to be revoked after a positive doping test and its resulting 8-year competitive ban.
- This race distance would be hugely different indoors, as the need to go round a tight bend would slow runners down significantly.
- The 4x100 m relay is another prestigious event, with an average speed that is quicker than the 100 m, as the runners can start moving before they receive the baton.
- World Record progression 100 m men
- This begins on the curve of a standard track (where the runners are staggered in their starting position, to ensure they all run the same distance), and ends on the home straight. The ability to "run a good bend" is key at this distance, as a well conditioned runner will be able to run 200 metres in an average speed higher than his 100 m speed.
- This race is run indoors, as one lap of the track, with only slightly slower times than outdoors.
- Four-person relays are occasionally run at this event.
- A slightly shorter race (but run on a straight track) was the first recorded event at the Ancient Olympics.
- The World record in this event is 19.32 seconds, held by Michael Johnson a former American sprinter.
- 400 metres is one lap around the track on the inside lane. Runners are staggered in their starting positions to ensure that everyone runs the same distance. While this event is a sprint, there is more scope to use tactics in the race; the fact that 400 m times are considerably more than four times a typical 100 m time demonstrates this. The world record is currently held by Michael Johnson, with a time of 43.18 seconds.
- The 4x400m relay is often held at track and field meetings, and is by tradition the final event at major championships.
- Common tactics include exploding out of the blocks and continuing to run hard through the curve. Then, the runner transits to a more "relaxed sprint" on the 1st straightaway. Once the second curve is reached, he/she starts to accelerate more , sending the body through the last 100 .
- Because the 400 is the longest sprinting event, lactic acid often builds up. The result is a lead-like or numb feeling in the runner's muscles, from just their legs to their entire body (lactic acid is caused by not having enough oxygen to reach the muscles). Athletes often prevent this by practicing "lactic acid" simulations. A simulation might consist of a 600 m run , slightly slower than race pace.
- This informal distance can be used to work on a 100 m runner's stamina, or a 200 m runner's speed, and has been used as an exhibition distance. The last famous duel was held between 1996 Olympic Champions Donovan Bailey (Canada) and Michael Johnson (USA).
- Another informal distance, which could be used to aid a 200 m runner's stamina, or a 400 m runner's speed. This is usually ran in indoor by high school athletes.
- More common (or less uncommon) than 300 m and 150 m, because this can be seen as the half-kilometre. This could aid 400 m runners' in their stamina, or help a middle-distance runner to gain speed. The borderline distance between sprints and middle distance. This is usually run indoor by high school athletes.
- This uncommon indoor-only event is typically run by high school athletes. It is often run by 400 m runners looking to build endurance, or 800 m runners looking to build speed. It is a demanding race, with many athletes running at a pace just below their 400 m pace. The 600 m is sometimes considered a middle distance event.
Most athletes will not be able to compete exclusively in one sprint event. Reasons for this could be pragmatic: only being willing to race over one distance might not earn an athlete enough prize money (or media exposure, which can lead to more money) to survive on. Where this doesn't apply, such as for more high-profile (i.e. rich) runners, an athlete may feel that running over two events is more enjoyable and varied, and gives them a better chance of success.
The indoor season is often not run by certain high-profile athletes, who may not like the atmosphere, different distances or extra corners involved. Again, some will have to run in this season in order to make a living.
While certain athletes will be strictly 100 m runners, and will run further distances only for fun or money, many will compete in multiple events. Namibian Frankie Fredericks was successful over 100 m and 200 m (and ran the 60 m and/or 200 m in the indoor season). Michael Johnson won gold medals over 200 m and 400 m in the 1996 Olympics, and also in the 4 x 400 m relay. Runners can do well in relays when they are competitive in the individual event.
Sometimes 100 m and 400 m runners have competed in the hurdles events at the same distances, and there is a certain amount of interchangeability between the flat and hurdle events, although it is difficult to be a world class competitor in both events. Sometimes runners will start off as a hurdler and then, catalysed by an event such as injury, will switch to flat races. It is more common for hurdlers to go to the flat than for runners to start hurdling.
Often a 400 m hurdler will be able to run the 4 x 400 m relay, Chris Rawlinson of Great Britain being a good example. This is possibly partly because the hurdles and the relay involve a less "controlled" environment, containing obstacles such as opposing teams jostling for position (after 600 m of the relay, the runners break lanes, and are allowed to take the inside lane) or the hand-over of the baton, or physical obstacles - the 91 cm/76 cm (men's/women's) hurdles.
Biological factors for runners
Some biological factors that determine a sprinter's potential are:
- Muscular strength (more important than in longer events)
- Adrenaline use
- Anaerobic respiration capacity (not as important in longer events - some of the shorter sprints can be run without having to breathe at all)
- The most common distance for rowing races is 2 kilometres. Races may be held at less than 1 km, which are known as sprints.
- Horse Racing has sprint distance events.
- Track cycling features a sprint event, in which usually two riders compete over a distance of 1000 metres, though only the final 200 m may be timed. However, the time is normally immaterial - the aim is to be first across the line and win two races in a 'best of three races' match.
- The term sprinting can be applied in any racing sport, such as swimming.
- Athletics (track and field)
- Athletics middle distances
- List of sprinters
- Athletics long distances
- Relay race