A sequence of hurdling images by Rodrigo Moraes.
Creative Commons licence text.

A sequence of hurdling images by Rodrigo Moraes.

Men's hurdles (standard sprint race) is over 110 meters and women's 100 meters. The standard long race is 400 meters for both men and women. All these races are run over ten fences.

Standard hurdles usually have 5 height settings, the first 5 listed below, while some rare ones have a sixth:

  • 42 inches (106.7 cm) - high
  • 39 inches (99.1 cm) - high school high
  • 36 inches (91.44 cm) - intermediate
  • 33 inches (83.8 cm)- women's high
  • 30 inches (76.2 cm) - low
  • 27 inches (68.6 cm)

High is used for men's sprint races (60 m, 100 m and 110 m).

High school high is used by masters men under age 50, high school and youth boys.

Intermediate is used for men's long races (400 m) plus some youth and masters age divisions.

The women's high is used for women's short races.

The low is used for women's long races plus many youth and masters races.

The 27 inch setting is used for some youth or masters events. This setting are uncommon.

Hurdles are designed to fall over if hit by the runner. Fallen fences do not carry any time penalty, but they have a significant pull-over weight which slows down the run.

In men's sprint races the first fence is 13.72 m (45 ft) from the start and the there is 9.14 m (30 ft) between them. In women's sprints the first fence is 13 m (42 ft 8 in) from the start and they are 8.5 m (27 ft 11 in) apart. In long events for both men and women the first fence is 45 m (147 ft 8 in) from the start and they are 35 m (114 ft 10 in) apart. Races shorter than the standard distance (such as indoor races) are run over fewer fences but use the same distances from the starting line.

There are variations on both hurdle height and spacing for different age groups.

Hurdling Technique

Many runners rely on raw speed, but correct technique and well-planned step counts up to and between fences can allow an efficient hurdler to out-perform faster opponents. An efficient athlete spends the minimum amount of time and energy going vertically over the fence.

The sprints are a very rhythmic race. Both men and women take 3 steps between each fence.

Top male athletes take 7 to 8 strides from the starting blocks to the first fence, with the 7 step variation becoming the norm.

Block Start

When preparing to race, the blocks should be set so that the athlete arrives at the first fence leading on the desired leg without inserting a stutter step. A stutter step is when the runner has to chop his or her stride down to arrive on the preferred leg for take off. Throughout the 400m race, any adjustments to stride length should be made several strides out from the fence because a stutter or being too far from the fence at take off will result in loss of momentum and speed.

Going over the hurdle

At the beginning of the take-off, the knee must drive toward the fence and the foot then extended. The knee should be slightly bent when going over. Unless the athlete has great flexibility, the knee must stay a little bent to allow a forward body lean. In long events a significant forward body learn is not as necessary due to the lower height of the fences. However, the trailing leg must be kept bent and short to provide a quick lever action allowing a fast fence clearance. The knee should pull through under the armpit and should not be flat across the top of the fence.

It is also important that the athlete does not reach out on the last stride before the fence as this will result in a longer bound being made to clear the fence. This will also result in a loss of momentum if the foot lands well in front of the centre of gravity.

Stride Length

For long events using a left lead leg on the bends allows the athlete to run closer to the inside of the lane and cover a shorter distance. Additionally, if the left leg is used for the lead, then the athlete's upper body can be leaned to the left, making it easier to bring the trailing leg through. Additionally, an athlete jumping with a right leg lead around the bends must take care that they do not inadvertently trail their foot or toe around the fence rather than passing over the top, which would lead to a disqualification from the race. At an early age, many coaches train their athletes to hurdle with both legs. This is a useful skill to learn since as a runner tires, their stride length may decrease, resulting in the need either to add a stutter stride, or to take a hurdle on the right leg. The 400 metre hurdles is a very physically demanding race. It requires intense training to get the endurance, speed and technique needed to compete.

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This page derived from wikipedia pages Hurdles and 400 meters hurdling.

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