Greetings, athletics aficionados! Are you ready to race into action?
Stride into the realm of track and field triumphs with our adrenaline-pumping, speed-chasing, and record-breaking list of athletics sports, sorted by popularity.
From lightning-fast sprinters to tenacious long-distance runners, there’s a challenge for everyone.
Did you know that kangaroos can leap up to three times their body length?
Unfortunately, you can’t!
But fear not, as our ultimate list will have you racing, jumping, and throwing like a champion in no time.
So lace up your sneakers and let’s embark on this exhilarating journey – just remember to pace yourself!
Table of Contents
#1 Track and Field
Track and field, often referred to as athletics, is a collection of sporting events that includes running, jumping, and throwing disciplines.
Its origins can be traced back to Ancient Greece’s Olympic Games in 776 BCE.
Today, track and field is popular worldwide, with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) serving as the global governing body. The biggest events in track and field include the Olympics, the IAAF World Athletics Championships, and the Diamond League series.
Track and field has been an integral part of the modern Olympic Games since their inception in 1896.
The marathon is a long-distance running event covering 42.195 kilometers (26.219 miles).
Its origins are rooted in Greek history, commemorating the legendary run of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier who reportedly ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory in 490 BCE.
Today, marathons are hugely popular around the world, with prestigious races such as the Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, and New York City Marathon drawing thousands of participants and spectators.
Marathon running has been an Olympic event for men since 1896 and for women since 1984.
Cross-country running is a sport where individuals or teams compete on natural terrain courses, typically covering 4 to 12 kilometers (2.5 to 7.5 miles).
It originated in 19th-century England and gained popularity through the annual English Cross Country Championships, first held in 1876.
Today, cross-country running is popular around the globe, with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) governing the World Cross Country Championships.
Cross-country was included in the Olympic Games from 1912 to 1924, but is no longer an Olympic discipline.
#4 Road Running
Road running involves racing on paved roads, usually covering distances from 5 to 42.195 kilometers (3.1 to 26.2 miles).
It originated in the early 20th century, with mass-participation races becoming increasingly popular over time.
Today, road running events are held throughout the world, including the renowned London Marathon and the Chicago Marathon.
The half-marathon (21.0975 kilometers/13.1 miles) was added to the IAAF World Athletics Championships program in 1993, and the marathon has been an Olympic event since 1896.
#5 Race Walking
Race walking is a long-distance event that requires competitors to maintain contact with the ground at all times, meaning one foot must always be touching the ground.
It originated in 18th-century England as a form of competitive pedestrianism, later gaining popularity in other European countries and North America.
Today, race walking events take place around the world, with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) governing race walking championships.
Race walking has been included in the Olympic Games since 1904 for men and 1992 for women.
Sprinting comprises short-distance running events, including the 100, 200, and 400-meter races.
Sprinting can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman competitions, and it remains a popular sport worldwide.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) governs sprinting events held globally, such as the Olympic Games where it has been a core event since 1896, and the IAAF World Athletics Championships.
Sprinting legends like Usain Bolt and Florence Griffith-Joyner remain iconic figures in the sport, holding numerous world records.
#7 Middle Distance Running
Middle-distance running events cover distances between 800 and 3,000 meters, including the 800, 1,500, and 3,000-meter races.
Ancient Greek and Roman foot races featured similar distances, laying the groundwork for modern middle-distance running.
Today, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) governs middle-distance events globally, with races featured in the Olympic Games since 1896 and the IAAF World Athletics Championships.
Middle-distance running continues to be a popular discipline, producing standout athletes like Hicham El Guerrouj and Sebastian Coe.
#8 Long Distance Running
Long-distance running encompasses racing events over distances greater than 3,000 meters, including the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races.
Its origins can be traced back to ancient Greece and Roman competitions, where endurance foot races were popular.
Today, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) governs long-distance events, such as the Olympic Games, where the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races have been held since 1912 and 1916, respectively.
Notable long-distance runners include Haile Gebrselassie and Mo Farah, who have achieved multiple world records and Olympic gold medals.
Hurdles involve sprinting or middle-distance running races where athletes must clear a series of barriers called hurdles.
Hurdle racing originated in 19th-century England, with the first 110-meter hurdle race held at Oxford University in 1837.
Today, hurdles are contested worldwide under the governance of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), with events like the 110-meter (men) and 100-meter (women) hurdles featured in the Olympic Games since 1896 and 1932, respectively.
Hurdlers such as Edwin Moses and Sally Pearson have left lasting legacies in the sport.
The steeplechase is a long-distance running event featuring barriers and water jumps, typically held over 3,000 meters. It has its origins in 19th-century England, where it was inspired by horse racing events.
The modern steeplechase gained popularity worldwide and is now governed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase has been part of the Olympic Games since 1900, with the women’s event added in 2008.
Athletes such as Ezekiel Kemboi and Emma Coburn have achieved significant success in the event at the international level.
More Sports with Athletics
- High Jump: A track and field event in which athletes leap over a horizontal bar set at various heights. Originating in ancient Greece, the high jump is popular globally and has been an Olympic event since 1896.
- Pole Vault: A field event in which athletes propel themselves over a horizontal bar using a flexible pole. The modern pole vault developed in the 19th century and became an Olympic event for men in 1896 and women in 2000.
- Long Jump: A track and field event where athletes leap for distance from a takeoff board into a sandpit. With origins in ancient Greece, long jump has been a part of the Olympic Games since 1896.
- Triple Jump: Similar to long jump, but athletes take a hop, step, and jump sequence. Also originating in ancient Greece, the triple jump has been an Olympic event for men since 1896 and for women since 1996.
- Shot Put: A throwing event in which athletes push a heavy metal ball from their shoulder for distance. The modern shot put evolved in 19th-century Europe and has been an Olympic event since the 1896 Games.
- Discus Throw: An ancient Greek event in which athletes throw a disc-shaped object to achieve the greatest distance. Discus has been an Olympic event since the first modern Games in 1896.
- Hammer Throw: A field event where athletes throw a metal ball attached to a wire and handle for maximum distance. With Celtic origins, hammer throw became an Olympic event in 1900.
- Javelin Throw: In this event, athletes throw a spear-shaped object for distance. With origins in ancient Greek and Roman warfare, javelin has been an Olympic event since 1908 for men and 1932 for women.
- Decathlon: A combined event featuring ten track and field disciplines, including sprinting, hurdles, jumping, and throwing events, held over two days. The modern decathlon has been an Olympic event since 1912.
- Pentathlon: A multi-discipline event comprising long jump, javelin throw, 200 meters, discus throw, and 1,500 meters. While the ancient Greek version included different events, the modern pentathlon was introduced in the 1912 Olympics.
- Indoor Athletics: Track and field events held within enclosed venues, commonly featuring shorter track distances and adapted field events. Indoor athletics gained popularity in the late 19th century and has worldwide competitions, including the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
- Mountain Running: A long-distance, off-road race over mountainous terrain with significant elevation changes. Popular in countries with notable mountain ranges, mountain running events include the annual World Mountain Running Championships.
- Trail Running: A long-distance race held off-road on trails, varying in terrain and elevation. Trail running events have gained popularity worldwide, including renowned races like the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and Western States 100.
- Ultrarunning: A long-distance running event that exceeds the traditional marathon distance of 42.195 km (26.219 miles). Ultrarunning races are held worldwide, with famous races like the Badwater Ultramarathon and the Comrades Marathon.
- Skyrunning: An extreme form of mountain running that takes place at high altitudes and features significant elevation gain. The International Skyrunning Federation governs the sport, organizing competitions like the Skyrunner World Series.
- Orienteering: A navigation sport that combines running and map reading, often taking place in both urban and natural environments. Orienteering has its origins in 19th-century Sweden and is now popular globally, with the International Orienteering Federation overseeing the sport.
- Fell Running: A running sport that involves racing over upland country, often in hilly and mountainous terrain. Fell running is most popular in the UK, particularly in England’s Lake District and Scotland’s Highlands, with multiple races held annually.
- Snowshoe Running: A winter sport similar to cross-country running, but athletes wear snowshoes for traction on snow-covered terrain. Regional and global competitions are held, including the World Snowshoe Championships.
- Adventure Racing: A multi-discipline race that typically includes trail running, mountain biking, and kayak or canoe paddling, often involving navigation skills. First developed in the 1970s, adventure races are now held worldwide, like the Adventure Racing World Championships.
- Multisport Races: Races that combine two or more disciplines, such as swimming, cycling, and running. Multisport races include triathlons, duathlons, and aquathlons, with the International Triathlon Union governing the sport worldwide.
- Triathlon: A multisport race combining swimming, cycling, and distance running. Triathlons vary in length, with the most famous being the Ironman race. Triathlon has been an Olympic event since 2000, with the International Triathlon Union overseeing the sport.
- Biathlon: A winter sport combining cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. It originated as a military training exercise in Scandinavia and has been part of the Winter Olympic Games since 1960. The International Biathlon Union governs the sport.
What are the most popular athletics sports?
The most popular athletics sports include track and field events such as sprinting, middle distance running, long distance running, cross country running, and marathons, as well as jumping events like high jump, long jump, triple jump, and pole vault, and throwing events like shot put, discus throw, hammer throw, and javelin throw.
How many different athletics sports are there?
Our athletics sports list includes 40 unique athletics sports.