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Distance Running and the Olympics

One of the oldest track events included in the ancient Olympics is the long-distance run. By definition, any distance event of at least two kilometers is counted as distance running. Endurance is of paramount value in this competition. Like low-fuel F1 race cars, competitors must sustain their energies so as to seamlessly run towards the end of a long race.

The steeplechase originated in England in the early 19th century when only male competitors can join. It took a long wait for gender equality to succeed, and it was only in the 1928 Summer Olympics when females were allowed to compete. The only distance event women participated in, however, was the 800-meter run.

Middle and long distance races in the Olympics include the 800-meter run, 1500, 5000 and 10000, plus the marathon which is a 26.2-mile (42.195 kilometers) race. The 1500-meter event was instituted in 1972, the 3000 and the marathon in 1984 and the 10000 in 1988. In 1996, the 3000-meter run was replaced by the 5000.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is in charge of drafting and amending Olympic race rules and regulations. As in all sorts of races, Olympic distance running begins from a standing start, and runners stay on their lanes until the finish line. In longer distance events (1500 meters and up), runners are generally divided into two batches. The first batch stays across the inner half of the track and goes first. The latter group remains on the outer track until the first batch runs through the first turn.

There is such a thing as Olympic qualifying time in all Olympic distance running events. Amateur athletes must go through solid and rigorous years of training before qualifying for their countries' Olympic teams. Only three participants may compete for every event. Relative to the number of competitors, Olympic distance events generally has one or two rounds of preliminary runs. In the finals, eight runners take part in the 800-meter run, twelve in the 1500, and fifteen in the 5000. The number of finalists for the 10000-meter run is variable, depending on the number of entrants. When an athlete’s torso reaches the finish line, the race is put to an end.

Since the inspiring Greek victory in the first Olympic marathon, a significant number of distance running hall of famers were noted. One of the most popular of them (if not the most) is Deena Kastor, an American distance events champion. She holds national and world records in numerous marathon and half-marathon events, including a bronze medal in the women’s division of the 2004 distance running Olympics. In 2006, she set the American marathon record of 2:19:36, the highest ever noted since marathon was included in the Olympic track in 1984. Currently, she is one of the World’s Top 2008 Olympic Contenders along with fellow American, Dathan Ritzenhein.

Distance running is a power play. It’s all about dexterity and talent. Like any other physical activity, it requires a good combination of track and field skills, speed, strength, flexibility and stamina. It is no news that distance running dominates the Olympic scene, therefore, the pressure on runners and marathoners is really intense.

Countries are always expected to send their best-ever running athletes who are usually national and international record holders. In this case, distance tune-ups really do miracles.


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