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Can you dive across the finish line in track? All your track-related questions, answered

The first Olympic track race was in Greece in 776 B.C. The track was 600 feet long.

TOKYO, Japan — Track and field is one of the oldest sports in history. It was one of the original ancient Olympic events when the sport first started in Greece, and has been a part of the Game for centuries. So, here's some of the most-asked questions, about the suspenseful and exhilarating sport.

Can you dive across the finish line in track?

Yes, it is legal for runners to dive across the finish line, but it's dangerous. The Olympic rules state, a runner crosses the finish line when their torso crosses, which is different from their head. That's why some runners lean forward when they cross the line, so their torso crosses first.

But, it's not much faster than just running those last few steps. In ESPN's Sports Science feature, they found the jump is faster when the runner first takes off, but acceleration actually decreases while they're in the air.

What is track cycling?

Track cycling is just what it sounds like. It's cycling on a track. In the Olympic Games, track cycling consists of 6 events – the Sprint, the Keirin, the Madison, the Team Sprint, the Team Pursuit, and the Omnium.

The Sprint is about pure speed over a short distance. The winner of this event is usually considered the fastest rider across all disciplines of cycling. Riders will first compete in a 200-meter time trial to determine seed times, then advance based on their times.

The Keirin puts riders against each other in mass sprints after initially being paced by a motorized bike called a “derny." The pacer will begin at about 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) per hour and gradually increase the speed to over 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) per hour. For the last 600 meters, the derny pulls off the track, for the cyclists to race to the finish.

The Madison has 18 two-people teams race over a distance of 50 kilometers (200 laps). The winner is determined by scoring the most points of the teams who cover the greatest distance.

The Team Sprint is a test of speed and teamwork as three-man teams work together to post the fastest time over 750 meters.  

Team Pursuit involves teams of four riders who work together to achieve the fastest time. The competition begins with a 4-kilometer (16-lap) qualifying round. The fastest eight teams advance to the first round and are seeded accordingly as the number-one seed is matched against the number-eight seed, the number-two seed is paired against the number-seven seed and so on.

The Omnium is the decathlon of track cycling. It strings together several events to award a best all-around rider.

How long is the Olympic track?

An Olympic-sized track is 400 meters around, which is just shy of a quarter of a mile.

How many laps around a track is a mile?

4 laps across the track is a mile.

How many meters in a mile?

1610 meters are in a mile.

How many miles is 10,000 meters?

A 10,000 meter race is about 6.2 miles.

How many miles is 400 meters?

Four hundred meters, or one lap around a track equals about a quarter mile.

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