Hurdles events join the athletics circuit as one of the most exciting events to watch. As with relay racing, this is due to the risk factor in the event. The point of the hurdles event is to jump over a series of obstacles that look a bit like gates throughout the race, until they cross the finishing line and a winner is decided. The risk, therefore, is in the jumping. If one were to stumble or trip on a hurdle, even if you didn’t fall over, it would take seconds out of your race time and could cost you a place in the race or more.
The hurdles events come in four parts: the women’s 100m, the men’s 110m, and both the men and women’s 400m. The 100m and 110m races are referred to as sprint hurdles as they take place on a sprinting strait, with ten hurdles along the track. In the men’s event, the first hurdle is 13.7m from the starting line, and each hurdle in roughly 9m apart from then on out. In the women’s event, the first hurdle is 13m from the starting line, and then 8.5m between each from then on.
In the 400m hurdles, the obstacles are also ten in number and are roughly 35m apart from each other. Also, the hurdles are often slightly lower in height in this event than in the sprint. The 400m hurdles is also different in that the athletes start from staggered points on the track, their positions depending on their lane number.
The hurdles athlete needs to, above all, be flexible with quick reaction to be able to clear the hurdles in quick succession. In addition to this, they need speed, power and stamina – and lots of it! Another important training focus for hurdlers is to train their steps. It is important in this event to not change your step or stride for upcoming hurdles. Instead, hurdlers need to try and make their jumps part of their stride as this maximises the speed and effectiveness of their race.
As with most athletic events, if you like the sound of this one, it’s likely you’ll be able to do it at school! I know my first experience with hurdles was in an athletics class at school, and you might have already had a go! Similarly, a local athletics club is bound to have a hurdles event you can train, and possibly compete in! How cool would that be? Let us know about your sporting endeavours – we love to hear your stories!