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Indoor Track & Field: An Overview

Indoor track isn't just outdoor track under a roof or in a bubble. Not only are the track and events different from those contested outdoors, but these differences make indoor track attractive to track and field athletes for a number of reasons.

Different Track Size

The most obvious difference between indoor and outdoor track & field is the size of the track:

 

  • Shorter. A standard indoor track is 200 meters around, or exactly half the size of a standard outdoor track, but unlike outdoor tracks, indoor tracks vary in length depending on the floor space available.

    • Some are smaller (the track in Madison Square Garden, home for many years to the indoor National Championships and to the Millrose Games, the oldest invitational indoor track-and-field meet in America, is only 160 yards around.)

    • Some newer venues are large enough to accommodate oversized indoor tracks as long as 300 meters.

  • Fewer running lanes. Most indoor tracks have six lanes, instead of the eight or nine lanes typical of an outdoor track.

  • Banked turns. Another difference between indoor and outdoor tracks is that the better indoor tracks will have banked turns. They are bowl shaped rather than flat on the turns. In the same way that your car would slide to the outside going around corners when you drive if you didn't slow down as you begin your turn, athletes going at high speeds would experience the same thing. On flat indoor tracks with tight turns they either must slow down to negotiate the turns, or be pulled outwards. The banks help the athletes cope with these centrifugal forces so that they can maintain their speed on the turns.

Different Events

Due to the smaller track and limited area for field events, the events contested indoors are different from those contested at an outdoor track and field meet:

 

  • Fewer events. The full complement of 20 outdoor events each for men and women (excluding relays) is reduced to 12.

  • Events dropped: The following events contested outdoors are not contested indoors:

    • 100 meter dash

    • 100 meter hurdles

    • 400 meter hurdles

    • Steeplechase

    • 10,000 meters

    • Racewalk events

    • Discus

    • Hammer

    • Javelin

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