Get Inspired: How to get into athletics

Children doing the Mobot
Fast Answers
Why get into athletics?Athletics offers the widest range of choice of any sport as its various disciplines provide the opportunity to throw, run or jump.
Who is it for?Everyone. The different disciplines suit different body shapes and sizes.
Is there a cheap option?As long as there is space for a race, you can practise athletics.
What if I want a proper workout?If you are looking to work up a sweat, athletics is the activity for you as each discipline requires varying degrees of strength and fitness.
Can I take it to another level?Join a club and start competing for them in your preferred events.
Is there a disability option?The various impairment categories in athletics make the activities widely accessible.
Is there a family option?Running, throwing and jumping is for everyone. Grab some props, head to the park and create your own mini athletics competition.
Where can I take part?Head over to our club finder page for athletics events near you.

You might want to be the next Mo Farah, or just want to get fit and see how well you can do - either way, athletics can be the sport for you.

It includes a huge variety of disciplines, so whether you want to run, jump or throw you can find an activity that suits you.

Sprint events

Sprinters

Sprint disciplines include the short, sharp, powerful events such as the 100m and 200m. The sprint hurdles (100m for women, 110m for men) require the same explosion of speed, but with the added element of having to clear a number of barriers. There's also the one-lap 400m race and the 400m hurdles.

Middle-distance events

Get Inspired: Steve Cram on track athletics

Middle distance running relies on pacing and stamina rather than pure explosive power, but don't worry - go for a run with some friends and you'll soon see a difference in your fitness levels.

The 800m requires sustained pace around two laps of the track. In the 1500m and 3,000m tactics are everything. Go off too hard, too soon and you will fade and be out of contention in the sprint finish. The 3,000m steeplechase has the added obstacles of hurdles and a water jump.

Long-distance events

Long distance marathon runners

Going long requires stamina and mental toughness. On the track, the 5,000m and 10,000m can become a real mind game of tactics, while the marathon - a 26.2-mile course outside the confines of an athletics stadium - is athletics' ultimate test of mental and physical endurance.

Thousands of people take part in 10k races, half marathons and marathons every year, take a look on the Run Britainexternal-link website for more.

Throwing events

Javelin thrower

While upper-body strength is key to shot put, javelin, discus and the hammer throw, these disciplines require more than just power. Sound technique, allied to strong legs and a stable core are crucial so you can transfer your body weight and generate the acceleration required to secure a lengthy throw.

Your local clubexternal-link will be able to provide you with any specialist equipment to give the events a try.

Cross-country

Cross Country runner's legs

Cross-country running is a discipline that sees athletes race outdoors on grass or woodland courses. It usually takes place in the winter, outside of the track-and-field season. There is no set distance but races would usually fall into the long-distance category of running. Stamina and endurance are very important, but you also need to be ready to get muddy! While predominantly an individual sport, there is often a team element to races.

Jumping events

Woman competes in a high jump competition

Do you want to learn the polished technique of the jumping disciplines? You'll develop the strength needed for take-off in long jump and triple jump and flexibility needed in high jump, to arch your back, raise your hips and clear the bar.

And who hasn't wanted to try pole vault? The extreme sport of athletics. The discipline sees strong, fast and gymnastic competitors use a pole to launch themselves upside down and over a bar which can be higher than a double-decker bus - not for the faint-hearted!

Heptathlon and decathlon

Get Inspired: Denise Lewis on athletics

Can't decide on a single event? Perhaps decathlon (men) or heptathlon (women) is for you. The heptathlon consists of seven events, while men have to compete in 10 events.

Both competitions stretch the athlete to the limits of their endurance and skills. You'll need incredible stamina, along with strong running and fine throwing and jumping techniques to score as many points as possible over a multi-day competition.

Fortunately you won't have to try this ;-) ....

Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill's alternative heptathlon quiz

Parkrun

There are now almost 400 parkruns across the UK, as Sophie Raworth reports

From beginners to Olympians, anyone can take part in parkrunexternal-link - a phenomenon that is taking over the UK.

Parkruns are free-to-enter, timed 5km runs that take place in more than 400 parkland sites in the UK and thousands worldwide. Anyone can take part in a parkrun, whatever your ability, so follow these links to register external-linkand find an eventexternal-link near you.

Disability athletics

Rhys Jones on his journey from "hopeless case" to Commonwealth medallist

Para-athletics uses a classification system that groups athletes based on their ability. Track events include all Olympic and Paralympic distances. Field disciplines comprise shot, discus, javelin, club throwing (for athletes with a high level of impairment), plus long jump, high jump and triple jump. Some events are specific to particular classifications. If you are looking to start in para-athletics, the Parallel Successexternal-link programme from British Athletics offers great opportunities.

Caroline Buckle competed in the 100m sprint, among other things, in the Invictus Games.

DIY and youth athletics

Children competing in a sack race

Schools across the UK have their own athletics competition each year at the annual sports day where kids (and parents) can try out some of the different disciplines. By adding fun elements (who doesn't love the egg-and-spoon race?) everyone can have some fun while learning the fundamental skills of the sport. But these don't have to be a once-a-year treat. All you need is a park and some props and you can create your own mini games whenever you like.

Sportshallexternal-link athletics also gives youngsters an enjoyable way to try running, jumping and throwing activities as they take their first step into athletics.

Coaching and Volunteering

BBC Unsung Hero 2017: Celia Peerless wins Scotland title

Athletics clubs are always looking for people to coach, officiate or help out on club nights, across a range of roles - check out this UK Athleticsexternal-link.

So whether you want to help inspire children, get adults running or encourage someone to take up javelin, there will be a role for you and the uCoachexternal-link can help to get you started. Sport Coach UKexternal-link can also steer you in the right direction.

To find out about event or club volunteering opportunities across Britain, JoinInUKexternal-link can help you find a club that needs some help. You might also like to try Volunteer Scotlandexternal-link or Welsh Athleticsexternal-link and, for Northern Ireland, visit Athletics NIexternal-link and Volunteer Nowexternal-link.

What's next?

1. Find local athletics opportunities in England,external-linkNorthern Irelandexternal-link, Scotlandexternal-link and Wales.external-link

2. Share your storyexternal-link and inspire others.

Are you inspired to try athletics? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the sport by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired,external-link visiting us on Facebookexternal-link or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.