Our second lap around the track to learn all we can about Olympic running events starts with middle distance running. Olympic Games middle distance running is officially classed as any race that is not a sprint, and is less than three thousand meters in length.
At present two Olympic Games events qualify:
- One thousand five hundred meters.
- Eight hundred meters.
Middle distance events are notoriously difficult to compete in, as they do not allow for a gentle pace as the long distance events. In fact they are more of a lung-busting elongated sprint, and if you get your tactics wrong at the start you have very little time to recover. In the modern Olympics the eight hundred meters was introduced in 1928, but was scrapped until 1960 as it was considered too brutal and it gave the athletes bodies too much strain and shock. Early eight hundred meter runners were almost expected to run themselves into a complete state of exhaustion, and many collapsed on the track after each event.
The fifteen hundred meters is arguably the most tactical of middle-distance races. It is a complete test of mental and physical strength and many of these races are won in the last seconds. To win this race you almost have to sprint the whole way, and any sprinter would tell you that is almost impossible. Indeed the current world record for this event is three minutes and twenty six seconds, which is an astonishing average lap time of fifty-five seconds. This is held by a Moroccan athlete Hicham El Guerrouj.
The eight hundred meters is basically a two-lap sprint race, and is at the extreme limits for one and two hundred meter sprint-athletes to try and compete in. In the history of the modern Olympics two nations have dominated this event, Great Britain and the USA. But recent records do not tell the whole picture as neither nation won gold until 1956, when Tom Courtney won gold for America. More recently between 1988 and 2012, Kenya has been dominating this middle distance event winning four gold’s in seven games. With the highlight in 2012 of a world record breaking time of 1:40:91. There are other great running races in the Olympic Games that capture the Olympic spirit and bring spectators to the edge of the seats and the most anticipated has to be the sprints.
The true pin-up boys and girls of Olympic running are the sprinters. Sprinting events are held over three distances, the one hundred, two hundred, and four hundred meters, as well as the various team relay races. To win a sprint you must be explosive off the blocks as the start is the most important part of this event. Because the race is so short there is little time to regain lost ground if you are slow starting. The greatest sprinter of all time is the amazing Usain Bolt, who has only just retired from Olympic competition. These great Olympic running events are also joined by the hurdles and steeplechase and every event is warmly anticipated at subsequent games.