The long jump

Track and field is a sport which includes athletic contests established on the skills of running, jumping, and throwing.[1] The name is derived from where the sport takes place, a running track and a grass field for the throwing and some of the jumping events. 

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Track and field is a sport which includes athletic contests established on the skills of running, jumping, and throwing.[1] The name is derived from where the sport takes place, a running track and a grass field for the throwing and some of the jumping events. The foot racing events, which include sprints, middle- and long-distance events, race walking and hurdling, are won by the athletewith the fastest time. The jumping and throwing events are won by the athlete who achieves the greatest distance or height. Regular jumping events include long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault, while the most common throwing events are shot put, javelin, discus and hammer. There are also "combined events" or "multi events", such as the pentathlon consisting of five events, heptathlon consisting of seven events, and decathlon consisting of ten events. In these, athletes participate in a combination of track and field events. Most track and field events are individual sports with a single victor; the most prominent team events are relay races, which typically feature teams of four. Events are almost exclusively divided by gender, although both the men's and women's competitions are usually held at the same venue. If a race has too many people to run all at once, preliminary heats will be run to narrow down the field of participants.

Track and field is one of the oldest sports. In ancient times, it was an event held in conjunction with festivals and sports meets such as the Ancient Olympic Games in Greece. In modern times, the two most prestigious international track and field competitions are athletics competition at the Olympic Games and the IAAF World Championships in Athletics. The International Association of Athletics Federations is the international governing body.

Records are kept of the best performances in specific events, at world and national levels, right down to a personal level. However, if athletes are deemed to have violated the event's rules or regulations, they are disqualified from the competition and their marks are erased.

In North America, the term track and field may be used to refer to other athletics events, such as cross country, the marathon and road running, rather than strictly track-based events.[2]
The sport of track and field has its roots in human prehistory. Track and field-style events are among the oldest of all sporting competitions, as running, jumping and throwing are natural and universal forms of human physical expression. The first recorded examples of organized track and field events at a sports festival are the Ancient Olympic Games. At the first Games in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece, only one event was contested: the stadion footrace.[3] The scope of the Games expanded in later years to include further running competitions, but the introduction of the Ancient Olympic pentathlon marked a step towards track and field as it is recognized today—it comprised a five-event competition of the long jump, javelin throw, discus throw, stadion footrace,[3]and wrestling.[4][5]

Track and field events were also present at the Panhellenic Games in Greece around this period, and they spread to Rome in Italy around 200 BC.[6][7] After the period of Classical antiquity (in which the sport was largely Greco-Roman influenced) new track and field events began developing in parts of Northern Europe in the Middle Ages. The stone put and weight throw competitions popular among Celtic societies in Ireland and Scotland were precursors to the modern shot put and hammer throw events. One of the last track and field events to develop was the pole vault, which stemmed from competitions such as the Fierljeppen contests in the Northern European Lowlands in the 18th century.

Discrete modern track and field competitions, separate from general sporting festivals, were first recorded in the 19th century. These were typically organised by educational institutions, military organisations and sports clubs as competitions between rival establishments.[8]Competitions in the English public schoolswere conceived as human equivalents of horse racing, fox hunting and hare coursing, influenced by a Classics-rich curriculum. The Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt is the oldest running club in the world, with written records going back to 1831 and evidence that it was established by 1819.[9] The school organised Paper Chase races in which runners followed a trail of paper shreds left by two "foxes";[9]even today RSSH runners are called "hounds" and a race victory is a "kill".[10] The first definite record of Shrewsbury's (cross-country) Annual Steeplechase is in 1834, making it the oldest running race of the modern era.[9] The school also lays claim to the oldest track and field meeting still in existence, originating in the Second Spring Meeting first documented in 1840.[9] This featured a series of throwing and jumping events with mock horse races including the Derby Stakes, the Hurdle Race and the Trial Stakes. Runners were entered by "owners" and named as though they were horses.[9] 13 miles (21 km) away and a decade later, the first Wenlock Olympian Games were held at Much Wenlock racecourse.[11] Events at the 1851 Wenlock Games included a "half-mile foot race" (805 m) and a "leaping in distance" competition.[12]

In 1865, Dr William Penny Brookes of Wenlock helped set up the National Olympian Association, which held their first Olympian Games in 1866 at The Crystal Palace in London.[12] This national event was a great success, attracting a crowd of over ten thousand people.[12] In response, that same year the Amateur Athletic Club was formed and held a championship for "gentlemen amateurs" in an attempt to reclaim the sport for the educated elite.[12] Ultimately the "allcomers" ethos of the NOA won through and the AAC was reconstituted as the Amateur Athletic Association in 1880, the first national body for the sport of athletics. The AAA Championships, the de facto British national championships despite being for England only, have been held annually since 3 July 1880 with breaks only during two world wars and 2006–2008.[13] The AAA was effectively a global governing body in the early years of the sport, codifying its rules for the first time.

Meanwhile, the United States began holding an annual national competition—the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships—first held in 1876 by the New York Athletic Club.[14]The establishment of general sports governing bodies for the United States (the Amateur Athletic Union in 1888) and France (the Union des sociétés françaises de sports athlétiques in 1889) put the sport on a formal footing and meant that international competitions became possible.
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