The very first race of the modern Olympics in 1896 was the men's 100m sprint.
Athletics is still seen as the centrepiece of both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, with millions of devoted athletes of all ages and standards around the globe.
Whether you want to sprint, become a distance runner, throw the javelin or compete in the high or long jumps - or mix them up, like heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill - athletics can find a home for you.
Why is it good for you?
Get Inspired: Steve Cram on track athletics
Athletics offer the widest range of choice of any sport as its various disciplines provide the opportunity to throw, run or jump.
Immense core physical strength is required to throw a shot put that weighs 16 pounds for men and 8.8 pounds for women.
The test of endurance posed by the marathon sees athletes burn up to 3,600 calories running a 26.2-mile course.
For those looking to follow in Usain Bolt's footsteps, research has found sprinting offers a harder workout than slow and steady cardiovascular work such as long-distance running.
It is also an efficient way to reduce body fat and strengthen the heart muscles.
As training sessions are often carried out in groups, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people. Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.
Great Olympic moment
Great Britain's Kelly Holmes became the oldest winner of the women's 800m when clinching gold in 2004. The 34-year-old had plenty more to give though - five days later she produced a memorable sprint finish to win the 1500m.
If you want to run, jump or throw, athletics provides the perfect platform to compete. The
British Athletics Grassroots scheme
provides information on how you can begin taking part whether as an athlete, coach, official or volunteer.
Take the first step by
finding your local club
on the BA website, with over 1,400 throughout the country.
Your local club will also be able to tell you what equipment you will need for the event you wish to try.
The UKA Academy provides a great source of schemes, with
on hand to put on a variety of training courses aimed to excite and challenge people of all ages and abilities. A
packed calendar of events
happening in stadiums and running tracks throughout the UK can be found on the Academy's website.
Further information is also available on the
Athletics Northern Ireland,
More on the British Athletics website
The word athletics is derived from the Greek word 'athlos,' which means 'contest' or 'task,' and the sport was first run in an Olympic format in that country.
Before then, running, walking, jumping, and throwing-based sports had all been performed in a variety of different guises far back into antiquity. Ancient Egyptian tombs dated to approximately 2250 BC have been found to contain depictions of running and high-jump competitions.
Did you know?
Discus thrower Jules Noël of France was denied a medal in 1932 when the judges were distracted watching the pole vault and didn't see where his best throw had landed; it would likely have won him gold. Noël, who sneaked off to drink champagne during the competition, was awarded an extra throw but was unable to improve on fourth place.
The first event contested in the ancient Olympic Games was the "stadium" race, a sprint of about 192 metres, with recorded winners dating back as far as 776 BC.
The modern format of athletics, competed at a single meeting involving numerous disciplines, evolved in the late 19th Century, with the earliest recorded meeting in 1840 in Shropshire, England.
The formation of the Amateur Athletic Association in England in 1880 provided the sport with its first national governing body.
The American Amateur Athletic Union and French Union des sociétés françaises de sports athlétiques followed before the end of that decade.
Athletics has been on the programme of each edition of the Games since 1896, with women's events appearing for the first time at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.
More on the IOC website