Sprint (race)

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Sprints are short running events in athletics and track and field. Races over short distances are among the oldest running competitions. The first 13 editions of the Ancient Olympic Games featured only one event – the stadion race, which was a race from one end of the stadium to the other.[1] There are three sprinting events which are currently held at the Summer Olympics and outdoor World Championships: the 100 metres, 200 metres, and 400 metres. These events have their roots in races of imperial measurements which were later altered to metric: the 100 m evolved from the 100 yard dash,[2] the 200 m distances came from the furlong (or 1/8th of a mile),[3] and the 400 m was the successor to the 440 yard dash or quarter-mile race.[4]

At the professional level, sprinters begin the race by assuming a crouching position in the starting blocks before leaning forward and gradually moving into an upright position as the race progresses and momentum is gained. The set position differs depending on the start. Body alignment is of key importance in producing the optimal amount of force. Ideally the athlete should begin in a 4-point stance and push off of both legs for the most force production.[5] Athletes remain in the same lane on the running track throughout all sprinting events,[4] with the sole exception of the 400 m indoors. Races up to 100 m are largely focused upon acceleration to an athlete's maximum speed.[5] All sprints beyond this distance increasingly incorporate an element of endurance.[6] Human physiology dictates that a runner's near-top speed cannot be maintained for more than thirty seconds or so as lactic acid builds up and leg muscles begin to be deprived of oxygen.[4]

The 60 metres is a common indoor event and it is an indoor world championship event. Other less-common events include the 50 metres, 55 metres, 300 metres and 500 metres which are used in some high school and collegiate competitions in the United States. The 150 metres, though rarely competed, has a star-studded history: Pietro Mennea set a world best in 1983,[7] Olympic champions Michael Johnson and Donovan Bailey went head-to-head over the distance in 1997,[8] and Usain Bolt improved Mennea's record in 2009.[7]

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