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A variety of running events are held on the track which fall into three broad distance categories: sprints, middle-distance, and long-distance track events. Relay races feature teams comprising four runners each, who must pass a baton to their teammate after a specified distance with the aim of being the first team to finish. Hurdling events and the steeplechase are a variation upon the flat running theme in that athletes must clear obstacles on the track during the race. The field events come in two types – jumping and throwing competitions. In throwing events, athletes are measured by how far they hurl an implement, with the common events being the shot put, discus, javelin, and hammer throw. There are four common jumping events: the long jump and triple jump are contests measuring the horizontal distance an athlete can jump, while the high jump and pole vault are decided on the height achieved. Combined events, which include the decathlon (typically competed by men) and heptathlon (typically competed by women), are competitions where athletes compete in a number of different track and field events, with each performance going toward a final points tally.

The most prestigious track and field contests occur within athletics championships and athletics programmes at multi-sport events. The Olympic athletics competition and World Championships in Athletics, and the Paralympic athletics competition and IPC World Championships in Athletics, are the highest and most prestigious levels of competition in track and field. Track and field events have become the most prominent part of major athletics championships and many famous athletes within the sport of athletics come from this discipline. Discrete track and field competitions are found at national championships-level and also at annual, invitational track and field meets. Meetings range from elite competitions – such as those in the IAAF Diamond League series – to basic all comers track meets, inter-sports club meetings and schools events, which form the grassroots of track and field.

Official world championship track and field events
Track
Field
Combined events
Sprints
Middle-distance
Long-distance
Hurdles
Relays
Jumps
Throws
60 m

100 m

200 m

400 m
800 m

1500 m

3000 m
5000 m

10,000 m
60 m hurdles

100 m hurdles

110 m hurdles

400 m hurdles

3000 m steeplechase
4×100 m relay

4×400 m relay
Long jump

Triple jump

High jump

Pole vault
Shot put

Discus throw

Hammer throw

Javelin throw
Pentathlon

Heptathlon

Decathlon