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Track & Field: Terms to Know

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The last leg of a relay race, or the person who runs the last leg.


The hollow tube that is passed between runners in relay races.

Bell Lap

The final lap of a multi-lap race, named because a bell is rung to alert runners of the last lap.


Repetitive leaping across a surface, as in the triple jump.


The point on the track where runners may leave their assigned lane and use any part of the track.


The exchange of the baton from one runner to the next in a relay race.


The use of banned substances that can enhance an athlete's performance.

Exchange zone

The area in which the baton must be passed from one runner to another during a relay race. The zone is 20m (21.87 yards) long. If the baton is not passed within the zone, the relay team is disqualified.

False start

To leave the starting blocks early, as measured by an electronic starting block or as ruled by the official starter.

Field event

Term used to describe a jumping or throwing athletic event.


A race within a round of two or more races, used to cull down the field of competitors.

High hurdles

Another term for the men's 110m hurdles and women's 100m hurdles events.

Intermediate hurdles

Another term for the men's and women's 400m hurdles events.


One complete rotation around a track. Also, as a verb, to overtake a runner who is one or more laps behind.


A designated portion of a relay race.


A race walking violation where the lead leg is lifted before it is bent.

Long distance

Generally used to describe races of at least 5000m.

Middle distance

Generally used to describe races between 800m-1,500m.

Scratch line

The line indicating the center point of a relay race's exchange zone.


Shoes, fitted with spikes, that are worn by runners. Shoes are limited to 11 spikes.


A time measured at certain intervals of a race, used to judge the pace of a runner or group of runners.


A full-speed run over a short distance. In Olympic events, the 100m, 200m and 400m events are considered sprints; the finishing kick of a distance race can be described as a sprint.

Staggered start

Used in races that are run around a curve, a staggered start places runners at different points corresponding to the lane in which they are running. The runner in the outside lane starts at a point ahead of the next lane and so on. The distance between starting points is determined by the length of the race and the size of the track.

Starting blocks

Two blocks mounted on either side of an adjustable frame that provides a runner with a rigid surface against which to brace the feet at the start of a race. First used in Olympic competition at the 1948 London Games.

Tail wind

A wind traveling in the same direction as a runner or jumper.

Take-off board

The spot before the foul line from which long jumpers and triple jumpers take off. The board is 4 feet long and 8 inches wide. Jumpers may step on, but not beyond, the board.

Throwing circle

The circle from which a discus, shot put or hammer is thrown. The diameter of the circle is 7 feet for the shot put and hammer, and 8 feet, 2 1/2 inches for the discus.


A race in which the athlete must have one foot on the ground at all times and the advancing leg must be straight. Contested in the Olympic Games at distances of 20km (men and women) and 50km (men).


A term applied to times or distances (in the 100m, 200m, high hurdles, and horizontal jumps) that are achieved with the help of tail wind stronger than 2 meters per second (4.5 mph); wind-aided results are discounted for record purposes.

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