This weekend the track and field events, formally called “athletics” by the Olympic Committee, will be in full force in Tokyo. When I was younger I hated going to and watching high school track meets because it’s boring and because I was athletic enough at the time to believe I could have done a lot of what the athletes were doing. I know, I know…that’s a egotistical and false outlook to have, but I was 18 years old, 6’3″, and 200 pounds of mostly muscle, and there is no one on earth more arrogant than an above-average athletic high school senior.
The older I get the more I appreciate track and field events. My wife and I were watching the men’s 400 meter hurdle qualifiers last night, and it’s absolutely insane that a human being can run a quarter mile while jumping over ten obstacles, and do the whole thing in less than 50 seconds. Fifty seconds! Less than a minute to go 1,312 feet, while clearing ten hurdles along the way. I can barely get from the kitchen to the garage in 50 seconds and it’s like 35–40 feet at the most and the only obstacle I’ll find is a dog toy or something.
But I do think track and field could be improved upon, so here are my proposed new track and field events.
Texan Biathlon: The winter games have the biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting. The Texan biathlon would combine the 3,000 meter steeplechase with pistol shooting. Participants would wear a holster around their waist and after each lap participants would have to stop, load their pistol, and shoot six pistol rounds at a target. Each miss of the target adds five seconds to your lap time. Running with a loaded weapon is an automatic disqualification. I’m also picturing a six-shot revolver like Yosemite Sam would use instead of an automatic.
Modern Dodecathlon: The current decathlon involves: 1) 100 meter sprint; 2) long jump; 3) shot put; 4) high jump; 5) 400 meter sprint; 6) 110/100 meter hurdles (for men and women, respectively); 7) discus; 8) pole vault; 9) javelin; and 10) 1,500 meter run.
The modern dodecathlon would include all ten of those events and add two more: the Boxer Fire arcade game and the wine and service salesmanship portion of the master sommelier exam. The Boxer Fire arcade game is straightforward: punch the bag, highest score wins. But the wine service would involve having each participant serve as the sommelier to two judges and must recommend wine pairings for the menu, properly uncork and decant a bottle of wine, and try to upsell to more expensive bottles. I just want to see these athletic freaks do a wine tasting for some reason.
Backwards Sprint: Simple premise. For each non-obstacle race under 1600 meters, have an equivalent race where the participants run backwards. Even the relays. It’d be great. I bet Usain Bolt could probably still do the 400 in under a minute running backwards, and that would be fun to see.
The Floor is Lava: In the floor is lava race, mats (I’m picturing those cheap rubber baseball bases that elementary schools put down when the PE class plays kickball) would be placed every eight feet or so in each lane of the track, and the participants must run a 400 without actually touching the track. Each touch of the track adds three seconds to the time. Picturing this reminds me of that alligator scene from Live and Let Die.
Under Hurdles: The under hurdles would require runners to go under evenly spaced hurdles rather than over them. Crawl, slide, limbo, whatever. However you decided to get under the hurdles is up to you. I think for the longer races the number of hurdles can stay at ten. But for the 100/110 hurdles, I think the number would have to be eight or so instead. If the hurdles stayed that close together, it would be exceedingly difficult to watch because people would only be taking about two steps between crawling efforts, and that would get old fast. Maybe someone would figure out a way to sort of side-step and go under them like you do in those hurdle agility exercises I hated so much in high school.
Axe Throwing: I know axe throwing has been a sort of cultural phenomenon recently. There are literally places you can go to throw axes at targets. It’s a group-outing/first date kind of activity I think, but it would make a great field event. It’d be like the javelin meets darts. The only problem I see is that I could picture Canada being the dominant force behind this sport. Sure, some backwoods Kentucky farm boy could probably do alright, but I picture a bearded, polite Canadian who for whatever reason has grown up throwing axes at his grandad’s farm in Edmonton just coming in and destroying all other competition. Maybe there could be different distances, you know? Five meter, ten meter, fifteen meter, maybe? I’d watch it.
Backwards Long Jump: Exactly what it sounds like. Long jump, except you take off backwards.
Rock Wall Free Climbing: Okay, this sounds simple, but I have an idea for a twist. A large, four-sides rock wall would be placed in the middle of the field. It would be 30 feet tall and would have three flags placed at various heights on each side of the rock wall. Participants would have to collect all 12 flags without the use of ropes and without touching the ground. Once the climb started, if the participant touches the ground they are disqualified. After picking up the final flag, the climb is to the top to ring a bell or touch a buzzer or whatever to stop the clock. This would be fun because it would make the athletes climb up and down several times before going back up to the top, or otherwise climbing in a corkscrew motion to get each flag without having to climb down. This is actually my favorite fake event I invented besides the Texan biathlon.
Targeted Javelin: Here’s what I’m picturing: the infield would have maybe five targets on it, each with three rings of ascending point value going from the inside out, with each target also increasing in point value as it gets farther from the throwing area. Participants get three rounds of 5 throws each, highest cumulative score wins, and your three lowest scores are dropped. It’s kind of like lawn darts but much, much safer. Think of it like the range at a Top Golf, with different areas being worth different amounts of points.
Airplane Throw: Participants get a light wood or plastic airplane, maybe three feet long, and throw it as far as they can. Think of it like trying to throw a paper airplane as far as you can. It would be tough because participants would need to balance strength with precision and launch angle. It would be easy to accidentally throw the plane way too far left or right, or too high, or too low. Sometimes throwing the lightweight stuff is more challenging than the heavy stuff because of how much influence external forces like wind can have on the lightweight stuff. Plus, wouldn’t it be hilarious to see some 6’9″, 350-pound Norwegian Viking looking dude go up there and throw a 3-pound airplane as hard as he can only to have it nosedive after about five yards?
So what do y’all think? What other events would you like to see in the track and field competition?