The relay race comes in two forms: 4x 100m, and 4x 400m. It involves 4 athletes as part of a team, running and passing a baton between them over one of the distances mentioned above. It’s likely you’ve seen or competed in the relay at school, as it’s a great team sport that involves a number of people and so is perfect for school athletic events.
Relay races are a well-known part of the Olympics. However, the first relay races were held in America by firemen who passed on a red pennant between them, rather than a baton. The relay was first part of the Olympics in 1908 and has been a stable athletics event since.
4x 100m is the most popular of the two relay options, as it is fast-paced and often holds the most mistakes. Similarly, the runners in the 4x100m are often individual runners too in the 100m and 200m events. These are possibly the two most popular athletic events, meaning when the athletes come together for team relay, it has the same effect as, say, your four favourite popstars collaborating on a new song. Now imagine that, but in every country that competes in the sport, competing against each other in a much cooler version of Eurovision. Sounds cool right?
The 4x 400m on the other hand, is a slower event as the distance between handovers is longer. The main difference, other than the distance of course, between the 400m and 100m event, is that in the 400m relay, the runners can merge into the first lane together between handovers. In the 100m relay, like in the individual event, the runners must stay in their own lanes, and stepping in other teams lanes will lead to penalisation.
The relay races are also arguably the most tactical athletic events. The teams need to consider carefully which runner to put in which position on the grid. For example, usually the anchor (the last runner) is the fastest runner on the team in the hope that they can make up any ground the team may have lost throughout the race. The handover is also key in making decisions as to who runs where.
Relay racing has all of the positives of running, but with a team to support and help you. It’s often a lot of fun too! If you want to get involved in a relay sport, you could ask your school if they have a team you could join. If not, your local athletics club is sure to have one!