The 7 Events of Heptathlon

(in proper order, of course)


Day 1:


10 flights of hurdles over 100m, 33″ high

10 flights of hurdles over 100m, 33″ high
(photo: rhinocorp)

PB (Personal Best): This is my highest scoring event. My best time is 12.97s.

Interesting fact: Unlike individual eventers (ie: sprint specialist), combined-eventers (heptathletes and decathletes) do not get the “no false start rule” (you false start once, you are disqualified). Instead, if a competitor false starts, the entire field gets a warning, and the next person to false start is automatically disqualified.

Track lingo: It’s not “jumping” the hurdle, but “hurdling” the hurdle (you’d be surprised at how many don’t think this one through) – wait until we get to shot put…


High Jump (HJ)

just call it the " flop "or a "back over"
(photo: Helmut Ploberger)

We’ve all have had a bad childhood experience with this event… Landing on the  dreaded bamboo cross-bar-ouch!

PB: This event is very generous in points. My pb is 1.79m.

Interesting fact: The bar moves up by 3 cm, unlike in an individual High Jump competition, in which case the bar moves up by 5cm.

Track lingo: Want to refer to that “Flosbury thing”, just call it the ” flop “or a “back over”  versus the ancient technique of scissoring or straddling (which quickly went out of style in the 1970s (Ok, not so “ancient” for some of us).



Shot Put (SP)

A shot putter "puts the shot"
(photo: Helmut Ploberger)

Get three attempts, implement weighs 4kg

PB: The least generous event to accumulate points.  My best is 14.97m.

Interesting fact: Is there a perfect body type for heptathlon? Not if you can make most of what you got! No good being able to throw like a maniac, if it means you have to drag those same heavy legs around the track for two laps at the end of the day. It’s all about being consistent through all 7 events (preferably consistently good at all the events!).

Track lingo: Careful, this might blow your mind: A shot putter “puts the shot” versus “throws the ball”- It hurts my ears to hear the latter!


200 m

Half the track
(photo: Athletics Canada)

Half the track, starting at the start of the curve. In heptathlon, heats are selected based on seasonal best times. This way, they try to match the fastest group of athletes together, since it’s just one race (no semis or finals).

PB: One of my stronger events, best time is 23.64s.

Interesting fact: Heptathletes never feel fresh running this event at end of day one. Taking that into account, heptathletes don’t usually train on fresh legs for this event (so not being fresh is “normal” for us).

Track lingo: The starting commands for sprint races (under 400m) are:  “take your mark”, “set”, – gun.  Does it change depending on country you’re competing in? Yes! “A vous mark!” (french). Though, in most major competitions, I believe they stick with the English commands.




Day 2:

Long Jump (LJ):

3 attempts
(photo: Helmut Ploberger)

3 attempts.

PB: 6.19 (right foot), 6.09 (left foot)….
Let me explain:
Partially ruptured my plantar fascia on right foot at Pan American Games in 2007. For just the following year (for the 2008 Olympics), I changed take-off feet to the left foot!

Interesting fact: Long jump is one of the more common events that the occasionally exceptional heptathlete will also compete in individually at the world-class level.

Track lingo: This is more track etiquette than lingo – “the clap”. Some jumpers like to get the crowd behind them for their jump. They’ll start clapping in a slow rhythm until the crowd catches on. Then it’s the crowd’s job to continue clapping at an even rhythm until the jumper begins their approach run. At this time, the crowd is suppose to gradually increase the rhythm of the clap, as the athlete gradually accelerates.  The clap speed at the end of the approach is very fast, but still rhythmic.


Javelin throw (JT)

mommy instincts to hunt food?!
(photo: Helmut Ploberger)

3 attempts, 600g

PB: 44.24m   (achieved in my 1st session after having baby – mommy instincts to hunt food?!)

Interesting fact: The javelin is a lot different from all of the other events in heptathlon. Some heptathletes find the side movements and torque very awkward. Even with that being said, we’re still starting to see many many heptathletes exceeding 50m, which is very impressive.

Track lingo: A javelin doesn’t have to land into the ground to count, it doesn’t even need to mark the ground. The only criteria is that the front end lands down first, and in this case they will measure from the grip (not the tip). Otherwise, if it lands with the backside down first, or completely flat, it’s called “flat”, and it’s marked as a fault.



2 laps of the track
(photo: rhinocorp)

More of a speed event,than an endurance event… Actually, it’s a “speed endurance” event.

PB: 2:07.95 another high scoring event for me.

Interesting fact: For those who first experience watching the last event of a heptathlon (or even worst – a decathlon), you may wonder why only a few feet after the finish line, lies a flock of athletes sprawled out on their backs and then take forever before to peel themselves off the track. Ok, it’s a bit pathetic, but you have to understand that we don’t train much for this event and so after 2 days of competition, running the 800m at the end is basically to totally empty out our tanks!

Track Lingo: For distance above 400m, the commands are “Set”, “go” (gun). When they ring the big bell at the finish line, this means there’s one lap to go. In an 800m (2 laps), I don’t think any of the runners would lose count, but it’s still makes it more exciting to hear the bell!


Heptathlon Comradery

I think it’s important to mention the unique competitive environment of combined events. The great part about combined events is that every athlete has their own stronger and weaker events. This takes the focus off of trying to directly beat the competitor next to you. Instead, heptathletes tend to focus on their own individual performances, trying to gain as many points as possible in each event, and hopefully coming up on top in the end.

After the last event, there is a TRADITION that only combined event athletes do. I’m not sure how it got started, or even what it’s called. Once we peel ourselves off the track, the winner leads the entire group of heptathletes for one last lap of the track, holding hands and stopping to take a bow every so often. It’s a way to say “thank you” to the spectators for joining us and supporting us during the two, long days. As an athlete, it’s special to join the other competitors for this final lap, as I think it symbolizes our respect for each other (for completing the heptathlon) and an appreciation for competing together and pushing each other to be the best athlete we can be.



photo credits: Athletics Canada , Helmut Ploberger , rhinocorp

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2 Responses to The 7 Events of Heptathlon

  1. Congratulations on winning the hurdles and qualifying for the Olympics. Your hard word is inspiring. And your abs are inspiring me to go on a diet.

    Good luck in London,


  2. I’ve always been an all-around athlete (Varsity Hockey, Fencing, Nordic Ski, Team Ontario Track Cycling, Competitive Soccer, Spartan Races, etc), but deep down, it all started with Track & Field competitions in elementary school… And I miss it!! Especially shot put, javelin and 400m :D

    Seeing this post (and your performances on the international stage!) has really inspired me to get back on track (pun-intended) and join my local athletics club’s competitive program to begin training as a heptathlete.

    Do you have any advice for a hopeful comrad?

    Thanks! And good luck in London!!


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