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Braden: Top 5 Most Important Things to Know about American Track and Field. In this lesson, you’re going to learn about the top 5 most important things to know about American Track and Field.
Ann: Oh, I like track and field.
Braden: So do I. This lesson is going to be a bit different from some of our past lessons though. The main reason is because "track and field" is not a sport like hockey or basketball, it's several different sports all kind of conglomerated into one thing.
Ann: Right. We're going to talk about track and field as if you didn't know anything about it. For example, if you were watching it on the Olympics, what would we need to know in order to make sense of everything going on?
Braden: So, in this lesson, we're going to break track and field down into it's basic components, which are throwing, jumping, running long distances, and running short distances.
Ann: The number five thing you need to understand about track and field is that it comes from Greek history.
Braden: That’s right. The Greeks started an athletic event called "the Olympics" in which many people would compete in several different events. In fact, the original Olympics were what, today, we consider to be track and field.
Ann: A person would race, jump, and throw in order to show himself the Olympian.
Braden: The difference today is that now we have specialists. We have people who just run or just jump or just throw. The only thing that’s similar to the original Greek Olympics in track and field is the Decathlon which is a 10-event competition.
Ann: Each of these 10 events are in three main categories of track and field which are - throwing, jumping, and running.
Braden: And our number four thing you need to understand about track and field is throwing.
Ann: There are four main events within this category, which are the shot put, the hammer throw, the discus, and javelin.
Braden: The shot put is where an athlete will throw a 16-pound ball as far as they can. The person who throws it the farthest wins.
Ann: The hammer throw is very similar to the shot put with one exception. Instead of holding the weight and just throwing it, the 16-pound ball is attached to the end of a rope.
Braden: And so the thrower spins himself with the rope extended and then lets go of the rope at a certain time so that the ball flies as far as possible.
Ann: The discus is very similar to the hammer throw and the shot put. The difference here is that instead of throwing a 16-lbs ball, they are throwing what looks like a medium sized plate that weighs just over 4 lbs.
Braden: Last, we have the javelin throw. The word "javelin" means "spear" and it's different from the other throwing events because it's actually based on an ancient tool.
Ann: It’s thrown just like you'd throw a spear.
Braden: The number three thing you need to understand in track and field is the category of jumping.
Ann: There are several different events within this category. Those events are the long jump, the triple jump, the high jump, and the pole vault.
Braden: The long jump is the simplest. The athlete runs and at a particular point, jumps into a pit of sand.
Ann: Next, we have the triple jump which is very similar to the long jump. In the triple jump, you run and then at three particular points, you do a kind of hop-skip-step movement and then jump.
Braden: Next is the high jump. The high jump is different because instead of jumping forward, you're jumping up.
Ann: In the modern track and field events, the high jump athlete run towards a bar that is held up by posts and jumps backwards over the bar.
Braden: Last of all, we have the pole vault. The pole vault is very similar to the high jump because you're going up and not forward. The pole vault; however, as the variation that you’d use a long pole to launch yourself up over a bar.
Ann: These bars are often between 15 and 25 feet high.
Braden: Which is a very long way up, and a very long fall. The number 2 thing you need to understand about track and field is the category of long distance running.
Ann: Running in track and field is broken into two different categories based on distance - long-distance and short-distance.
Braden: So, let's take a look at long-distance running. In general, any distance over 800 m is considered a long distance event.
Ann: Some of these events would be the 800 m, the 1500 m, the mile run, the 10,000 m run and so forth.
Braden: These longer distance runs, more often than not, are the most difficult runs because of the endurance that’s necessary.
Ann: However, they also tend to be difficult to watch because they’re so long. Particularly, runs like a 10,000 m run which often lasts well over an hour.
Braden: Spectators are known to make phone calls or wander away during these kinds of races because they just take so long.
Ann: Not as as exciting as some of the other ones. And the number one thing you need to understand about track and field is the category of short-distance running, also known as sprints.
Braden: Now, these are often the most exciting races because they are so fast and so easy to watch.
Ann: Beyond that, these races are also very stressful because so much can be determined by fraction of a second.
Braden: Particularly at professional levels, you may have the first, second, and third place runners within 100th of a second of each other.
Ann: Also in the short-distance category is something called a relay. Relays are when a longer distance run is broken up into segments and then different athletes run each individual segment.
Braden: For example, the 4 x 100 m relay is a relay that has four 100 m segments and each 100 m segment is run by a different athlete.
Ann: At the beginning and ending of each segment, there is an exchange of a "baton." The baton is a typically hollow metal bar that the runners are required to carry with them during a relay. If they drop it they have to go back and get it.
Braden: To run in a relay, you must always have your baton in your hand. Because of that, the handoff of the baton (when you give it to the next runner) is extremely important.
Ann: If the handoff is not well timed, you can lose the the race.
Braden: So, that just about does it for this lesson. Thanks for listening!
Ann: See you next time.