Track and field competitions emerged in the late 19th century and were typically contested between athletes who were representing rival educational institutions, military organisations and sports clubs.
Participating athletes may compete in one or more events, according to their specialities. Men and women compete separately. Track and field comes in both indoor and outdoor formats, with most indoor competitions occurring in winter, while outdoor events are mostly held in summer. The sport is defined by the venue in which the competitions are held – the track and field stadium.
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 team-mate 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.