The Anatomy of a Relay Changeover


Every sprinter runs the relay at some point in their career, be it at school, university, club, or international level. I have paid a lot of attention to the relay in my career, as it is a relatively easy way to win medals on the international stage. Relays have a nasty habit of looking easy on TV, and because of this, every one has their own opinion on how to do it. People also become highly critical of mistakes. It is worth remembering that the quicker your running speed, the less time you have to action an effective changeover, and so the greater the chance of error. In this blog post I will look at some basic principles to enable you to get the most out of your relay career.

Firstly, the only thing that really matters in a relay is the speed of the baton around the track. Four 10.00 athletes who have poor changeovers will lose to four 10.20 runners who have great changeovers. That is why Japan tend to do well on the World stage. To take into account this fact, you want the changeover to take place when the outgoing athlete is running as close to top speed as possible. This requires the changeover to take place as late in the box as you feel comfortable with. In the GB team, we aim to change about three-quarters of the way through the box- this gives us a fairly decent margin for error, but also allows the outgoing runner to get very close to top speed.

Another factor to consider is changeover method. There are three predominant methods:

• The Upsweep (generally used to France)• The Downsweep (used by most countries)• The Push-Pass (used by GB, and becoming more popular)

Each changeover method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it is up to the coach to decide which works best for the team.

Finally, the incoming runner has to control the changeover. This is because he can see everything, particularly where he is in relation to the outgoing runner. The outgoing runner is effectively running blind with regards to the changeover- he cannot see the incoming runner. Therefore, if the incoming runner feels the outgoing runner has gone off to early, or is too far ahead in the box for a safe exchange, he needs to slow the outgoing athlete down.

There are plenty more advanced techniques I could talk about, so if you have any specific questions regarding the relay, I will try and answer them in the replies
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Craig Pickering
Craig started athletics in 2000. He has ran successfully in multiple European and World events. Craig represented his country at the Olympic Games, and in 2009 he ran a very slightly wind assisted time of 10.08 (+2.1) to finish second to Usain Bolt at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava. Craig is also a Sports and Exercise Science graduate from the University of Bath.
Craig Pickering


Olympian. Micro-celebrity. Scaremonger. Sports scientist at @dnafitHQ. Looked after by @big_suze. All views somebody else's. Always trolling.
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