How Many Runners in a Relay Race

The relay events in major athletics competitions are always adrenaline-charged and extremely exciting. Relay races are run in the men's and women's 100 meters and in the men's and women's 400 meters. The dual task facing the sprinters is to get the baton around safely whilst also running extremely fast.

100 meters relay

There are four sprinters per team in both the men's and women's 100 meters. The first three runners are tasked with each running 100 meters and then handing the baton over to their next team mate. The sprinter on the final leg then has the task of bringing the baton home in a mad dash for the finishing line. With an athletics track being 400 meters in length, it means that the final runner finishes back round where the lead runner started off.

400 meters relay

The 400 meters is a very tough physically punishing event, so the 400 meters relay can be thought of as four times the pain. Each of the four runners must run a whole lap of the track, with the first 500m meters run in lanes. Thereafter the runners tend to move to the inside lane and races can become quite tactical as a chasing runner sits in behind an opponent, waiting for the chance to overtake them near the finishing line. As with the 100 meters, the athletes must get the baton around safely.

The unpredictability of relay races

For the most part, athletes race as individuals. They might be proudly representing their country but the vast majority of athletics medals are awarded for individual brilliance rather than teamwork. The relay races offer something different. Athletes who might normally be fierce rivals come together to be part of a team and success in a relay is as much about slick teamwork as it is about individual foot speed. One bad baton changeover can cost a team dearly, either in seconds lost or in disqualification if they drop the baton or fail to hand it over within the prescribed handover zone. As a result, the relay races sometimes see big shocks and it's no wonder that they are so adored by fans. Indeed, the 400 meter relay is often chosen as the final event in major championships, such as the Olympics and World Championships.

Current relay race champions

The London 2012 Olympics provided plenty of excitement in the athletics relay races. First, the United States broke the world record to win gold in the women's 100 meters relay, with a team comprised of Allyson Felix, Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter. Not to be outdone, Jamaica became double Olympic champions in dramatic fashion in the men's 100 meters, as Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohann Blake and the unstoppable Usain Bolt set a new world record as they powered past a strong United States sprint team.

There was more success for the United States women in the 400 meters relay as the team of DeeDee Trotter, Allyson Felix, Francena McCorory and Sanya Richards-Ross made it 20 years of Olympic success for the U.S. team. That just left the men's 400 meters relay, which served up something of a shock with the quartet from the Bahamas beating the United States to the line to claim a famous gold for the Caribbean island. The winning team was comprised of Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon Miller.

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