History of track and field

The roots of track and field, or athletics, may be traced back to the first ancient Olympic Games, held in 776 B.C. in the valley of Olympia on the southwestern coast of the Greek peninsula. The only event at those Games – the “stadion” – was a sprinting race of approximately 200 meters, or the length of the ancient Olympic stadium. Coroebus won the stadion in 776 B.C., and thus is history‘s first Olympic champion. The ancient Olympic Games, held every four years, eventually grew to contain other athletics events such as the discus, javelin and the broad jump.

After the end of the ancient Olympic Games (in about 393 A.D.), athletics competitions were rarely contested. The sport was revived sporadically in England between the 12th century and the 19th century. Cambridge and Oxford University contested the first university track meet in 1864, and in 1873 the first collegiate races in the U.S. were held. The International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), the international governing body of the sport, was founded in 1912, and in 2001 the name of the organization was changed to the International Association of Athletics Federations.

History of the marathon

The marathon has its origins in the legend of the Greek soldier Pheidippides. Legend has it that in 490 B.C., following the Greeks‘ victory over the Persian invaders in the Battle of Marathon, Pheidippides ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens with news of the victory. Upon his arrival in Athens, Pheidippides called out, ―Be joyful, we win!‖ and then collapsed and died of exhaustion. In commemoration of the messenger‘s feat, a marathon race of 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) was held on the route from Marathon to Athens at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The official marathon distance was set at 42.195 km (26 miles and 385 yards) for the 1908 London Games so that the race would begin at Windsor Castle and finish directly in front of the royal box at Olympic Stadium.

King of the sprints

From the longest distance to run in the Olympics to the shortest: the 100m. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt has reigned over the men’s sprints in track and field recently, becoming one of the most popular Olympic athletes across any sport in the process. A sprinter and a showman, Bolt is an entertaining mix of the two in his races. At the 2008 Beijing Games, Bolt pulled away from the field in 100m and began celebrating with several meters remaining. Despite his showboating, Bolt still set the world record in 9.69 seconds (his mark remains the Olympic record, but Bolt lowered the world record a year later at the 2009 World Championships with a time of 9.58). The Jamaican sprinter left Beijing with three gold medals, also claiming the 200m title and helping his country win the 4x100m relay. Four years later in London, Bolt delivered another memorable performance, capturing all three gold medals once again. What’s left for Bolt in Rio? He is attempting to become the first person to sweep the sprints three times. In fact, no athlete has won either the 100 or 200 meters at three Olympics. If he also wins gold in the 4x100m relay, Bolt would have nine Olympic golds, tying him for second on the all-time list with Paavo Nurmi, Larisa Latynina, Mark Spitz, and Carl Lewis.