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Track & Field Dimensions

Some of the world’s most extravagant architectural masterpieces have been outdoor athletics stadiums. From the first stadium constructed thousands of years ago in Greece, to the Olympic tracks of today, countries have used these venues to show off the society's wealth, power, and intelligence. Regardless of whether it is a billion dollar project or the local school stadium, the dimensions of the track, runways, and throwing rings remain similar (though rarely identical).

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) sets standards for tracks used in international and elite competitions, as well as minimum standards for a track to meet the requirements for world record performances. Many tracks you are likely to encounter will never have to worry about hosting international competition, so consider what type of competition a given track is likely to host before assuming it is constructed under IAAF standards. While some high schools do use the IAAF standards, more often than not, your local track won’t. Still, IAAF standards are useful and do manage to provide a layout similar to most tracks you’ll come across.

The Track

An outdoor track measures 400 meters (m) around, with standard IAAF measurements of 84.39m for the straights and 115.611m for the curves. These distances are typically measured either 20 centimeters (cm) from the inside of the track (if no rail or curb exists on the inside), or 30cm from the inside (if there is a rail or curb in place). One straightaway is extended for the start and finish of sprint races. Two start lines exist on this extension: One for the 110m hurdle race, and one for the 100m races. Tracks should extend a minimum of 3m behind the starting line and 17m after the finish line, leaving room for sprinters to decelerate.

Typically, a track will have eight lanes. Six and nine lane tracks are also common, while two and four lane tracks are occasionally made. A tenth lane becomes too wide and gives too much advantage to the outside athlete in the 200m, since running a turn is less efficient than running a straight. Tracks used for international competition will always be either eight or nine lanes. Each lane is 1.22m wide.

A common finish line exists for all running events. Consequently, there are many starting lines on a track. See the track diagram to get an idea of how these starting lines are arranged.

The Jumps

The Horizontal Jumps

The triple jump and the long jump, at many facilities, are competed on the same runway, utilizing the same sand pit. The only difference is the takeoff board position. The takeoff board typically is placed in the same position for both men and women in the long jump, but in different positions in the triple jump.

  • The run up track must be at least 40m long.
  • The runway is the same width as a track lane: 1.22m.
  • The takeoff board is 20cm long, including a soft strip at the back that will show impressions on foul jumps.
  • The landing pit is filled with sand and must be at least 9m long and 2.75m wide.
  • The sand in the pit should be washed river sand or pure quartz sand so that it does not harden when wet.
  • In the long jump, the takeoff board must be at least 1m back from the front of the sand.
  • In the men’s triple jump, the takeoff board is 13m back from the pit. For women, the distance is 11m.

High Jump

  • The bar is raised as competition progresses. Opening heights vary from meet to meet, but the bar always spans 4.02m. This is also the width between the standards, or uprights, which are used to measure the bar’s height.
  • The foam rubber landing, or pit, for the high jump is at least 4.00m deep, 6.00m wide, and 0.70m high.
  • The runway is a semicircle with a radius of at least 20m.

Pole Vault

Like the high jump, the bar is raised as competition progresses. The standards, or uprights, used to measure the bar’s height are always set to at least 5.20m apart.

  • The landing pit must be at least 6.00m long, 6.00m wide (5.00m and 5.00m for non-international competition), and 0.80m high.
  • The pole vault runway must be at least 40m long.
  • The box at the end of the runway (where the pole is planted) is 3ft, 3in long, 8in at the deepest, and narrows to 6in wide at the bottom.
  • Uprights can be adjusted, according to athlete preference, up to 0.80m behind the box.
  • Poles may be any length or diameter and possess any degree of flexibility, but must always be round in profile.

The Throws

Discus

  • The throwing circle is 2.50m in diameter.
  • In international competition, the landing sector is marked by two radii separated by 34.92 degrees. They extend 80m from the center of the throwing circle.
  • The landing sector is marked by white lines measuring 5cm wide, the inside of which is the boundary for fair throws.
  • A protective cage must surround the throwing circle.
  • The discus is symmetrical in all the planes.
  • It is circular with edges that must also be circular.
  • The discus for men must be between 219mm and 221mm in diameter. For women, this diameter is 180mm to 182mm.
  • From top to bottom, the discus must be between 44mm and 46mm for men, and 37mm and 39mm for women.
  • The discus weight is 1 kilogram (kg) for women and 2kg for men.

Hammer Throw

  • Throwing circle is 2.135m in diameter.
  • In international competition, the landing sector is marked by two radii separated by 34.92 degrees. They extend 90m from the center of the throwing circle.
  • The landing sector is marked by white lines measuring 5cm wide, the inside of which is the boundary for fair throws.
  • A protective cage must surround the throwing circle.
  • The hammer itself consists of the metal head, a wire, and the handle.
  • The head is solid iron (or another metal no softer than brass). Mixed metals are allowed.
  • The wire is no less than 3mm in diameter, made of steel, and cannot stretch while being thrown.
  • The handle must be rigid and without hinging joints of any kind. Handle grips can be a maximum 110mm in length.
  • For open international competition, the men’s shot weighs 7.260kg and must have a diameter between 110mm and 130mm. For women, the weight is 4.000kg with a diameter between 95mm and 110mm.

Shot Put

  • The throwing circle is 2.135m in diameter.
  • A stop board of 1.21m by 0.112m by 0.10m is used at the edge of the throwing circle.
  • The landing sector is marked by two radii separated by 34.92 degrees. They extend 25m from the center of the throwing circle.
  • The landing sector is marked by white lines measuring 5cm wide, the inside of which is the boundary for fair throws.
  • The shot itself must be made of a metal no softer than brass and must have an extremely smooth surface.
  • For open international competition, the men’s shot weighs 7.260kg and must have a diameter between 110mm and 130mm. For women, the weight is 4.000kg with a diameter between 95mm and 110mm.

Javelin

  • The javelin runway is 30m minimum in length, and 4m wide.
  • The landing sector is marked by two radii separated by 29 degrees, extending outward from a point on the runway 8m before the curved throwing arc. In international competition, the radii extend 100m from the inside of this throwing arc.
  • The landing sector is marked by white lines measuring 5cm wide, the inside of which is the boundary for fair throws.
  • The men’s javelin weights 800 grams (g) and is between 2.60m and 2.70m long. For women, it weighs 600g and is between 2.20m and 2.30m long.
  • The grip of the javelin must cover the center of gravity, which must be between 0.90m and 1.06m behind the tip for men and between 0.80m and 0.92m behind the tip for women.

The Hurdles

  • The long and short hurdle races have 10 hurdles each.
  • The hurdles themselves are adjustable to accommodate for the various heights required for each hurdle race.
  • 100m hurdles, women: The hurdles are 0.838m high, with 13.00m from the start line to the first hurdle, 8.50m between hurdles, and 10.50m from the last hurdle to the finish.
  • 110m hurdles, men: The hurdles are 1.067m high, with 13.72m from the start line to the first hurdle, 9.14m between hurdles, and 14.02m from the last hurdle to the finish.
  • 400m hurdles, women: The hurdles are 0.762m high, with 45.00m from the start line to the first hurdle, 35.00m between hurdles, and 40.00m from the last hurdle to the finish.
  • 400m hurdles, men: The hurdles are 0.914m high, with 45.00m from the start line to the first hurdle, 35.00m between hurdles, and 40.00m from the last hurdle to the finish.

Steeplechase

  • After a flat segment from the start line to the first crossing of the finish line, each lap consists of five barriers. One of these barriers is the water jump.
  • The steeplechase is seven laps. In total, a steeplechaser will clear 35 barriers in a race.
  • Barriers are 36 inches high for men and 30 inches for women.
  • It is desirable that these barriers are equal distances apart on the track.
  • The water jump consists of a standard barrier followed immediately by the water pit.
  • The water pit measures 3.66m by 3.66m, with a depth of 0.50m to 0.70m. Its deepest point is immediately after the barrier, and the surface rises to the level of the track from there.
  • The water jump is typically placed inside one of the turns of the track, but can also be placed outside of one turn of the track. This placement either shortens or lengthens the distance of one lap for the steeplechase.
  • For a standard IAAF track with a water jump placed on the inside of the track according to the IAAF’s recommendations, the length of one lap is 3.916m shorter than 400m to account for the runners cutting inside the track for each water jump.

More Resources

For a more in depth look at the rules and regulations of track and field, visit the following sites:

From the width of a lane to the javelin, check out this guide to learn the dimensions of track & field.
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