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400-Meter Rules

By Linda Tarr Kent
A standard track is a 400-meter oval.

Track competitions date back to the seventh century B.C. Today’s rules are derived from 19th century university competitions held in England. People compete in running events such as the 400-meter dash worldwide, with such events considered headliners at the Olympic Games. The standard track that athletes compete on is a 400-meter oval, according to Tom Hanlon in the “The Sports Rules Book.”

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Runners go through heats, or preliminary races, to eliminate the slower competitors. This means the final race is run by the fastest competitors.


The 400-meter dash utilizes a staggered start to equalize the distance for all of the competitors. Runners must stay in their own lanes. Starting blocks are allowed in the 400-meter race. All races begin with a report from the starter’s gun after “on your marks” and “set” commands.


An athlete who makes a false start gets one warning. After that, the runner is disqualified from the race. A runner also can be disqualified for jostling or obstructing another athlete to impede her progress. A competitor who is not fouled and achieves an advantage via stepping on or over an inside lane line also may be disqualified.

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About the Author

Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.

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