A blog by runners. For runners.

Masters track and field 101


Many runners first fall in love with the sport during high school track and field. But after high school ends, many track and field athletes stop running.

Each person has his or her own reasons. For many — especially sprinters — making the leap from the 100m or 200m dash to a 5K or 10K road race is just too much. For most track events, the 5000m is considered “distance running”. But in road running, a 5K is usually the shortest event offered.

So what’s a former sprinter to do?

If you’re between the ages of 30 and 95+, you have the opportunity to lace up your old track spikes again. Enter master’s track and field.

The basics

Masters track and field is just like the track and field you remember from high school or the events you watch during the Olympic Games. The only difference is masters track and field is for men and women over age 30, from beginners to seasoned athletes.

The USA track and field masters organization says joining a master’s track and field club may be for you if you:

  • Yearn to find a way to get fit and be healthy
  • Watch track events on TV and think it looks like fun
  • Participated in track as a kid and miss it
  • Want to try a new challenge
  • Long to renew your competitive spirit

The events

Athletes join a local masters track and field club. Through the club, you’ll have access to group training and coaching, facilities, and track meets. During meets, you will compete against other athletes your age. The best athletes from all masters track and field clubs in the U.S. go on to compete in the USA Masters Track & Field Championships each year.

There are a wide variety of events to choose from — for both indoor and outdoor track — and many athletes train for and compete in more than one event:

  • Sprints: 60m, 100m, 200m, and 400m dashes
  • Middle-distance: 800m and 1500m
  • Long-distance: 5000m and 10,000m
  • Hurdles: 60m, 100m, 110m, and 400m hurdles and 3000m steeplechase
  • Relays: 4x100m and 4x400m relays
  • Jumps: long jump, high jump, triple jump, and pole vault
  • Throws: shot put, discus throw, javelin throw, and hammer throw
  • Combined events:
    • Pentathlon: 800m, 60m hurdles, long jump, high jump, and shot put.
    • Heptathlon: 60m, 1000m, 60m hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vault, and shot put.
    • Decathlon: 100m, 400m, 1500m, 110m hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vault, shot put, discus throw, and javelin throw.

How to get involved

There are local masters track and field clubs all around the country. To find one in your area, check out the USA Track & Field’s (USATF) — the national governing body for the sport — website.

Keep in mind that many other masters track and field athletes are first timers and willing to help you, so try not to feel intimated. If you’re on the fence about joining a club, consider spectating a meet in person first. Chances are you’ll get inspired to participate! Find local events here.

Written by Jen Matz.