AskDefine | Define hurdler

Dictionary Definition

hurdler n : an athlete who runs the hurdles

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. An athlete who competes in the hurdling event.

Extensive Definition

Hurdling is a type of track and field race. There are sprint hurdle races and long hurdle races. The standard sprint hurdle race is 110 metres for men and 100 metres for women. The standard long hurdle race is 400 metres for both men and women. Each of these races is run over ten hurdles and they are all Olympic events. Other distances are sometimes run, particularly indoors. The sprint hurdle race indoors is usually 60 metres for both men and women, although races 55 meters or 50 metres long are sometimes run. A 60 metre indoor race is run over 5 hurdles. A shorter race may have only 4 hurdles. The long hurdle race is sometimes shortened to 300 metres or 200 metres, usually for indoor or high school races.
There are two basic hurdle heights: high hurdles and intermediate hurdles. The sprint hurdle races (60 m, 100 m and 110 m) use high hurdles, which are 42 inches (1.07 m) high (39 inches, or 0.99 m, in U.S. high school competition) for men and 33 inches (.84 m) high for women. Long hurdle races (400 m) use intermediate hurdles, which are 36 inches (.914 m) high for men and 30 inches (.762 m) high for women. Slightly lower heights (generally lower) are sometimes used in youth or high school events.

Set up

In sprint hurdle races for men, regardless of the length of the race, the first hurdle is 13.72 m from the starting line and the distance between hurdles is 9.14 m. This is different for various age groups. In sprint hurdle races for women, the first hurdle is 13 m from the starting line and the distance between hurdles is 8.5 m . In long hurdle events, whether for men or women, the first hurdle is 45 m from the starting line and the distance between hurdles is 35 m. Any race which is shorter than the standard distance is simply run over fewer hurdles. Hurdles for other age categories and distances are placed upon various coloured lines marked on the track.


There is a 'technique' that is desirable to accomplish smooth hurdling action during a race. While many runners rely mainly on raw speed, proper technique and well-planned steps leading up to and between each hurdle will allow an 'efficient hurdler' to out-run faster opponents. This applies to all hurdles races, men's and women's. As a coach, one should look for runners that are above average speed, light on their feet, have good stride length and excellent flexibility. Some of these individuals are likley to show a natural knack for the hurdling technique, after which it is a matter of practice and race-specific training.
When approaching the first hurdle, one does not want to stutter-step (a term used to refer to the cutting of your stride length before reaching a hurdle). This cuts the runner's momentum and costs valuable time. One should attack the hurdle by launching at the hurdle from 6-7 feet away (depending on runner's closing speed.) The lead leg should be extended straight out (a slight bend can work for taller runners) so that the heel just narrowly clears the barrier's height. After launching, the trail leg is tucked in horizontally and flat, close to the side of the hip. The runner should feel as if he/she is narrowly avoiding knocking each hurdle down with his/her heel. The objective is to minimize center-of-gravity deviation from normal sprinting and reduce time spent flying through the air. All effort should be made to land 'light on one's feet' and carry maximum momentum going to the next hurdle or finish line.
In order to properly "hurdle" over an obstacle and not simply "jump" over it, a runner must adjust his or her hips to raise them over the hurdles. Upon crossing over the hurdle barrier, the runner's lead leg should snap down quickly landing roughly 3-feet (1m) beyond the hurdle. The trail leg should drive forward at the knee (not swing - swinging causes the trunk to straighten up), and pull through to maintain stride length. This more applies to the Men's 110-meter high hurdles. The women's race relies more on speed and allows a runner to possess a "lazy trail leg" and still be successful because the hurdles are much lower.
In men's hurdles it is usually necessary to straighten the leg at the top of the flight path over the hurdle, however a partial bend in the knee gains a faster push of when you hit the ground. The ability to do this will depend on the runners's leg length. As soon as the foot has cleared the hurdle, the knee starts bending again to lessen the effect of a long, slow pendulum. In women's hurdles, the lead leg is usually straight and the center of gravity does not rise relative to a normal running stride. Another way to view it is the foot path: "shortest path up and shortest path down". The opposite arm reaches farther forward and the elbow travels out to the side and then behind to make room for the trailing leg. The trailing leg also leads with the knee, but the foot and knee is horizontal, tucked up as tight as possible into the armpit.
As soon as the lead leg touches down, a strong downward push is exerted to enable the trailing leg's knee to come up under the armpit and in front of the chest. This enables recovery of some of the energy expended in the flight.
Your lead leg depends on your personal preference. Some people do not know their lead leg so the best way to determine this is to have somebody push you from behind and see what leg you step forward with. This is your lead leg. Sprint hurdlers often measure the steps between hurdles such that every hurdle is taken with the same lead leg. Distance hurdlers, however, benefit greatly if they are able to hurdle from either leg, as maintaining consistent stride lengths over the longer distances (and through the exhaustion of the longer race) is difficult.

Hitting hurdles

A modern hurdle will fall over if a runner hits it. Contrary to a common misconception, there is no penalty for hitting a hurdle (provided this is not judged deliberate), although it slows down the rhythm of the hurdler. However, pushing the hurdle with one's hands or running out of one's lane as a result of hitting the hurdle is cause for disqualification. While hitting hurdles is not generally considered desirable, there have been a few sprint hurdlers who have been successful despite knocking over many hurdles.

Shuttle hurdle

There are also shuttle hurdle relay races, although they are rarely run. They are usually only found at track meets that consist entirely of relay races. In a shuttle hurdle relay, each of four hurdlers on a team runs the opposite direction from the preceding runner. The standard races correspond to the standard sprint hurdle races: 4 × 110 m for men and 4 × 100 m for women.
hurdler in Danish: Hækkeløb
hurdler in German: Hürdenlauf
hurdler in Spanish: Carreras de vallas
hurdler in French: Hurdler
hurdler in Dutch: Hordelopen
hurdler in Japanese: 障害走
hurdler in Norwegian: Hekkeløp
hurdler in Polish: Biegi płotkarskie
hurdler in Finnish: Aitajuoksu
hurdler in Swedish: Häcklöpning
hurdler in Tamil: தடை தாண்டும் ஓட்டம்
hurdler in Turkish: Engelli koşu
hurdler in Chinese: 跨欄
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