Useful Terminology

Anchor – the athlete who runs the last leg in a relay race.

Bend – the curved parts of the running track.

Bend runner – the athlete who runs the first or third leg in a relay race which goes around the bend of the track.

Blind pass – an exchange of the baton between runners which does not necessitate the athlete to look at the baton when passing. The blind pass is usually used in shorter relays known as sprint relays.

Break line – an arch marked on the track which denotes the point where runners may change lanes as desired.

Boxed in – usually occurring in a middle or long distance track race, a runner is boxed in when other athletes surround them and they are unable to maintain speed without changing rhythm.

Cage – the marked area used for discuss and hammer events. The cage is a metal frame covered with netting to prevent the throwing implements being thrown out of the competition area.

Changeover – the process of passing the baton from one runner to the next in a relay race.

Countback – the process used to determine the winner when more than one pole vaulter or high jumper reach equal heights. A countback involves counting the amount of failed jumps of each athlete, either at a given height or in the whole competition.

Crouch start – the crouching position required of all athletes at the beginning of the race before the starting gun is fired.

Curb – a rail marking the inside of the track.

Decathlete – an athlete who takes part in a decathlon.

Decathlon – a mixed athletic event made up of ten different track and field events with the winner being the athlete who attains the highest score when the results of each event are combined.

DNF – did not finish.

DNS – did not start.

DQ – disqualified from an event.

False start – so named when an athlete begins a race before the starting gun is fired. If an athlete makes two false starts in a race they are disqualified from the competition.

Field event – an athletic event which takes place on the field, inside the track. All jumping and throwing events are classified as field events.

Fosbury flop – named after former high jumper Dick Fosbury, this is a method of twisting backwards over the high jump bar with the athlete landing on the mat on their back.

Foul – a move in an event which classifies the attempt as a fail. A foul is most commonly committed in field events when an athlete steps over the take-off line in a jumping event or outside the marked circle in a throwing event.

Fully Automatic Time – an electronic method of timing a race in which a sensor is attached to the device used to start the clock and an image is used, in order to accurately assess the finishing time of an athlete.

Hammer throw – a field event in which athletes compete to throw a metal ball, known as a hammer, as far as possible across an enclosed space.

Heat – an early race in a competition in which the top athletes go through to the semi-finals.

Heptathlete – a contestant in a heptathlon.

Heptatholon – a mixed athletic event made up of seven different track and field events with the winner being the athlete who attains the highest score when the results of each event are combined.

High jump – a field event which requires athletes to jump over a horizontal cross-bar without knocking it down, with the height of the bar increasing as the competition progresses.

Hurdles – a track event in which athletes are required to jump over a series of fences over a given distance.

Javelin– a field event which requires athletes to throw a long spiked pole as far across a given space as possible.

Jump the gun – also known as a false start, so-called when an athlete begins a race before the starting gun is fired.

Jump-off – the final stage of a high jump or pole vault competition if there is a draw between two athletes and it is impossible to determine the winner from a countback. In a jump-off, the final athletes get one attempt to jump specified heights and the first to knock the bar off is eliminated from the competition, leaving the other athlete the winner.

Landing area – the area an athlete lands in after making a jump. The landing area is either a sandpit in the case of the long jump or triple jump or a mattress in the case of the high jump or pole vault.

Lane – the designated section of a track which an athlete must start in and may be required to stay within, depending on the distance of the race.

Lap – the distance of one circuit around a 400 m track. To ‘lap’ a runner is when an athlete overtakes another runner by the distance of one lap.

Leg – the section of a relay race run by a singular athlete.

Lifting – in the walking race lifting is a violation in which the athlete lifts the foot before the leg has bent.

Long distance – a race which is at least 10000 m in distance.

Long jump – a field event in which athletes compete to jump the longest distance from a specified take-off point.

Marathon – a race measuring the distance of 42.195 km.

Middle distance – a race which covers a distance between 800 m and 5000 m.

On your mark – the phrase called by the starter of a race to signify that contestants should move to the starting line and assume the crouched position ready to begin the race.

Pentathlete – a contestant of a pentathlon.

Pentathlon – an early version of the heptathlon, this was a combined female competition made up of five different track and field events with the winner being the athlete who attains the highest score when the results of each event are combined.

Pole vault – a field event which requires athletes to compete to jump over a horizontal cross bar with the aid of a long vertical pole.

Rabbit – also known as pacesetter, this is a contestant who enters the race with the intention of beginning a race extremely quickly in order to assist another athlete to achieve a world record score.

Relay – made up of four legs, the relay requires a team of athletes to take a leg each to cover a specified distance.

Road Race – a running race that is run on the road or footpath as opposed to a track, grass or other soft ground.

Runway – a space designated in field events which enables athletes to sprint to the take-off line, gathering speed and strength to be converted into a jump or throw.

Set – the call made by the starter or a race, indicating that the athletes should take their final starting position and wait for the gun to fire, signalling the beginning of a race.

Shot put – a field event which requires athletes to compete to throw a shot as far as possible across a given area.

Spikes – a special type of running shoes with spikes in the soles used to improve grip during races.

Sprint – race of 400 m or less requiring the athlete to begin well and maintain consistent power throughout the race.

Starter’s gun – the instrument used by the starter of the race which fires blanks into the air signalling the beginning of the race.

Starting blocks – a pair of supports for the feet to rest on during a crouch start, adding extra power to a runner’s take off.

Steeplechase – a track event usually 3000 m in distance which requires athletes to negotiate a series of obstacles constructed out of barriers or water.

Stop board – a box located in front of the landing mattress in the pole vault for the athlete to slot the pole into before jumping.

Sudden death – an extra round when there is a tie between more than one athlete.

Take-off board – the point at which an athlete is required to jump, marked by a board on the runway in the long jump and triple jump.

Take-off line – a plasticine line at the end of the take-off board.

Take-over zone – the section of the track in a relay race in which the runner must exchange the baton with the athlete running the following leg.

Track – the oval course used for running events.

Uprights – the vertical poles which hold the cross bar in place in the pole vault and high jump.

Wall – the point, usually in running, when an athlete’s legs become heavy and they can run no further.

Water-jump – an obstacle in the steeple chase consisting of a miniature pool of water up to 70 cm deep.

Wind assisted – when wind speeds reach up to 2m/s in the direction of the race, record times are invalid in the 100 m and 200 m track races and the long jump and triple jump.