AskDefine | Define sprinting

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of sprint

Extensive Definition

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.

Common distances

60 m

  • 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 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.
  • 60 metres is used as an outdoor distance by younger athletes when starting in sprint.

100 m

200 m

  • 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), 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 19.32 seconds, held by Michael Johnson. This is the world record with the fastest average speed (it is equivalent to two 9.66 seconds 100 m).

400 m

  • 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 4x400 m 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.

Uncommon distances

150 m

  • 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. In a duel between 1996 Olympic champions, the 100 m gold medalist Donovan Bailey (Canada) beat Michael Johnson (USA).

300 m

  • 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 run indoors by high school athletes.

500 m

  • 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 on occasion collegiate athletes.

600 m

  • This race is a CIS (Canadian Universities) indoor-only event only and run at all Canadian indoor track and field races because it is a recognized event at the Canadian University Championships. 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.


Versatile athletes

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 greater distances only for fun or money, many will compete in multiple events. 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.
There have been a few runners who have competed successfully at both the longer sprints and middle-distance events. Alberto Juantorena won both the 400 m and 800 m at the 1976 Summer Olympics, making him the only athlete ever to achieve such a double.


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.

Biological factors for runners

Some biological factors that determine a sprinter's potential are:

Other sports

  • The most common distance for rowing races is 2 kilometres. Races may be held at less than 1 km, which are known as dashes.
  • Horse Racing and Hamster racing have 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.
  • A 90 m beach sprint is held in surf lifesaving carnivals in Australia.
sprinting in Bulgarian: Спринт
sprinting in Catalan: carrera de velocitat
sprinting in Danish: Sprint
sprinting in German: Sprint
sprinting in Spanish: Atletismo velocidad
sprinting in Esperanto: Kurtadistanca kuro
sprinting in French: Sprint (athlétisme)
sprinting in Italian: Velocità (atletica)
sprinting in Japanese: 短距離走
sprinting in Lithuanian: Sprintas
sprinting in Georgian: სპრინტი
sprinting in Norwegian: Sprintløp
sprinting in Russian: Спринт
sprinting in Albanian: Sprint
sprinting in Simple English: Sprint
sprinting in Chinese: 短跑
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