Sprints are short running races typically less than 800m.
Starting blocks are used for all sprint and relay events, not as a material aid to the runner, but to protect the track and to expedite the execution of the meet. The starting blocks consist of two adjustable footplates attached to a rigid frame. Races commence with the firing of the starter's gun. The starting commands are "On your marks" and "Set" or "Get Set". Once all athletes are in the set position, the starter's gun is fired, officially starting the race. For the 100m, all competitors are lined up side-by-side. For the 200m, 300m and 400m, which involve curves, runners are staggered for the start.
In the rare event that there are technical issues with a start, the referee shows a green card to all the athletes. The green card carries no penalty. If an athlete is unhappy with track conditions after the "on your marks" command is given, he must raise his hand before the "get set" command and provide the track referee with a reason for raising their hand. It is then up to the Track referee to decide if the reason is valid. In the extremely rare event that the track referee deems the reason invalid, a yellow card (warning) is issued to that particular athlete. In the event that the entire field, or just that athlete, is already on a warning, the athlete is disqualified.
If a sprinter commences their starting motion from the set position within 0.1 seconds of the starter's gun being fired, it is deemed a false start. The first false start of a race results in a warning to the offending runner, indicated by a yellow card shown to the field by the track referee. After the yellow card, any athlete who commits a false start will be disqualified.
The IAAF rules deem that any athlete who commences their starting motion between 0.00 and 0.099 seconds after the starter's gun is fired, is deliberately guessing the start of the race rather than waiting for the signal to start.
100m Olympic Gold and Silver medallist, Linford Christie of Great Britain famously had frequent false starts that were marginally below the legal reaction time of 0.1 seconds. Christie and his coach, Ron Roddan, both claimed that the false starts were due to Christie's exceptional reaction times being under the legal time. His frequent false starting eventually led to his disqualification from the 1996 Summer Olympics 100m final due to a second false start by Christie.
For all Olympic sprint events, runners must remain within their pre-assigned lanes, which measure 1.22 meters (4 feet) wide, from start to finish. The lanes can be numbered 1 through normally 8 or 9 rarely 10, starting with the inside lane. Any athlete who runs outside the assigned lane in order to gain an advantage is subject to disqualification. If the athlete is forced to run outside of his or her lane by another person, and no material advantage is gained, there will be no disqualification. Also, a runner who strays from his or her lane in the straightaway, or crosses the outer line of his or her lane on the bend, and gains no advantage by it, will not be disqualified as long as no other runner is obstructed.
For events that are not a complete lap (e.g., 100m), a wind gage is used to determine whether the prevailing wind affected performances. If the average wind velocity is greater than 2.0 meters/second in the direction of the running, a record will not be accepted.
The first athlete whose torso reaches the vertical plane of the closest edge of the finish line is the winner. To ensure that the sprinter's torso triggers the timing impulse at the finish line rather than an arm, foot, or other body part, a double Photocell is commonly used. Times are only recorded by an electronic timing system when both of these Photocells are simultaneously blocked. Photo finish systems are also used at some track and field events.
- The 60 metres is normally run indoors, on a straight section of an indoor athletic track. Since races at this distance can last around six or 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 with one breath. It is popular for training and testing in other sports (e.g. speed testing for football, although 40 yards is more common there).
- The world record is held by American sprinter Maurice Greene with a time of 6.39 seconds.
- 60 metres is used as an outdoor distance by younger athletes when starting to sprint.
- The 100 metres sprint 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 9.58 seconds is held by Usain Bolt of Jamaica and was set on August 16, 2009, at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics. The women's world record is 10.49 seconds and was set by Florence Griffith Joyner.
- 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. The world record is 37.10 seconds, held by the Jamaican team as set August 22, 2008 at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
- The 200 metres begins on the curve of a standard track (where the runners are staggered in their starting position, to ensure that they all run the same distance), and ends on the home straight. The ability to "run a good bend" is key at the distance, as a well conditioned runner will be able to run 200 m in an average speed higher than their 100 m speed.
- Indoors, the race is run as one lap of the track, with only slightly slower times than outdoors.
- A slightly shorter race (but run on a straight track), the stadion, was the first recorded event at the Ancient Olympics and the oldest known formal sports event in history.
- The world record in this event is 19.19 seconds, held by Usain Bolt and was set on 20 August 2009, at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics.
- The 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 (according to some), 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 held by Michael Johnson with a time of 43.18 seconds.
- The 4x400 m relay is often held at track and field meets, 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, relaxing in the middle 200 meters and kicking hard on the homestretch.
- 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 distance was used in a race between 1996 Olympic champions, the 100 m gold medalist Donovan Bailey (Canada) and 200m gold medalist Michael Johnson (USA). It was to decide who of the two, was really the 'fastest man on earth'.
- The informal distance was used for an exhibition race during the Manchester Great City Games in as part of the 2009 Great Manchester Run (UK). Competitors included Triple Olympic Champion Usain Bolt (Jamaica) alongside Ivory Williams (USA), Simeon Williamson (UK) and other elite runners. The female race included 400 m Olympic Champion, Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain alongside Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie (Bahamas). Bolt ran the distance in a record time of 14.35 seconds.
- This is the length of the straight at the Ancient Olympic Stadium. It was original short sprint length at the Ancient Olympia distance of 1 stadion.
- Another informal distance, which could be used to aid a 200 m runner's stamina, or a 400 m runner's speed.
- More common than 300 m and 150 m, because this is half a 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 and collegiate athletes.
- This race is a CIS (Canadian Universities) indoor-only event and run at all Canadian indoor track and field races because it is a recognized event at the Canadian University Championships. It is also run at some United States high school indoor competitions. 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.
Biological factors for runners
Some biological factors that determine a sprinter's potential are:
- Muscular strength
- Adrenaline use
- Anaerobic respiration capacity
- Proportion of fast twitch muscles
- Leg Length
- Pelvic width
- ↑ 2009 USATF Competition Rules, Rule 161
- ↑ 2009 USATF Competition Rules, Rule 162(12)
- ↑ 2009 USATF Competition Rules, Rule 160(1)
- ↑ 2009 USATF Competition Rules, Rule 163(10)
- ↑ 2009 USATF Competition Rules, Rule 262(4)
- ↑ Bolt runs 14.35 sec for 150m; covers 50m-150m in 8.70 sec!. IAAF (2009-05-17). Retrieved on 2009-05-17.
- ↑ Quinn, Elizabeth (2007-10-30). Fast and Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers About.com. Retrieved on 2009-02-01.