You are here

A Beginner’s Guide to Athletics

A Beginner's Guide to Athletics

If your knowledge of athletics is limited to how to do the Mobot, then this guide is for you.


Running, jumping and throwing are some of the oldest sports in recorded history. These simple tests of speed, strength and agility featured at the ancient Olympic Games. By running faster, jumping higher or throwing further than anyone else, these ancient sporting heroes hoped to both pay tribute to the Greek gods, but also copy their superhuman powers.

Watching today’s modern athletics stars like Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis, one could be forgiven for thinking there was something a little bit superhuman about them as well…

What It’s All About

There are four main strands to Athletics:

  • Track – Sprints, middle distance and long distance running events, as well as those that include obstacles such as the hurdles and the steeplechase.
  • Field – Throwing and jumping events such as shot put and high jump.
  • Combined – The decathlon for men and the heptathlon for women combine a number of different track and field events.
  • Road – Events like the marathon.

Why You’ll Love Watching Athletics

It’s impossible not to get caught up in the drama of athletics. There’s no fancy kit, no expensive bikes and no complicated rules. Just athletes. Athletes that take elementary human skills and elevate them to a superhuman level.

Golden Moment in Athletics

At the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, two runners – England’s Roger Bannister and Australia’s John Landy – made history by both running the race in under four minutes. Landy had led until the final curve, at which point he glanced over his left shoulder to gauge Bannister's position and Bannister overtook him on his right, going on to win with a time of 3:58.8 minutes. This meeting of the world’s fastest mile runners was dubbed "The Miracle Mile” and it was heard over the radio by 100 million people.


  • Scotland has won 66 Athletics medals at Commonwealth Games
  • Up until 1924, “Tug of War” was an athletics event at the Olympic Games

What Are Those Field Athletes Chucking?

  • A shot put – a heavy round sphere.
  • A discus – the one that looks like a disc (no surprises there).
  • A javelin – a long stick.
  • A hammer throw – another heavy round sphere. This one’s connected to a flexible wire and the athletes spin around on the spot to work up momentum before letting loose.

Can’t wait to see history made at the Athletics? Register for ticketing information and get ready to be part of the action.

The Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games are now over. This website is closed and for reference purposes only. Some external links may no longer work. For the latest news and information, please visit the Commonwealth Games Federation website.