Track and field is considered one of the oldest sporting contests. Scholarly finding predict the first track and field contest to have been held at around 776 BC. Other archeological findings have predicted the Olympic festivals to have been held as early as the 9th century in Olympia. After 776 BC, the track and field tournaments were held regularly for 11 centuries.
Track and field tournaments were reserved for men only. During the reign of emperor Theodosius I, the games were completely banned in ancient Rome. After 394 AD, track and field competitions weren’t held until 12th century England where some events were held.
The 19th century saw a revival of track and field events in modern England. This saw modern track and field come to birth. The events involved public school and university students with the first organized meeting held at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1849.
The 1860s saw the flourishing of the sport as it spread to other parts of the world. In England, the first English championships were held in 1866. They were held by the Amateur Athletics Club and were for gentlemen only. Participants weren’t compensated. Track and field gained momentum in 1868 with the formation of the New York Athletic Club. The first national championship in the United Sates were held in 1876 and, in 1888, the Amateur Athletics Union of the United States held its first competition.
The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896. This saw the introduction of the marathon as a track and field sport. The marathon was run between Marathon and the Olympic stadium, a distance of 42.195 kilometers. This distance was later standardized during the London Olympic Games held in 1908.
As the sport flourished, an international body to govern it was paramount. In 1913, the International Amateur Athletic Federation was formed and has the mandate of setting rules for the sport, ensure athletes follow these rules and, approve world records. Interestingly, it was during IAAFs first year that they stripped Jim Thorpe of his Olympic medals after the organization discovered he played semi-pro baseball. Athletics were still considered an amateur sport.
It was not until 1921 that women started participating in track and field competitions. During this year, the Athletic Federation for Women was formed and it later merged with the IAAF 15 years later. Track and field events for women were first held in the 1928 Olympics. Women participation soon gained momentum with women from many parts of the globe participating today.
Track and field races can be held both outdoors and indoors. The sport has developed with new events being added during the years. Common events included in track and field today include the following.
Track events include outdoor sprints of 100m, 200m and 400m; indoor sprints of 47.5m to 500m. The middle distance races range between 800m and 2000m. Long distance races range between 3000m and 30000m. The track events are further subdivided into steeplechase, hurdle, relay and race walking.
Field events include long jump, pole vault, triple jump, discus, shot put, javelin and, hammer throw.