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What is the Long Jump?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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The long jump is a track and field event in which an athlete tries to jump as far as possible. Competition in the long jump is open to both men and women, although they usually compete in separate events. It is also an ancient Olympic event, among the original events at the Olympic competitions held in Ancient Greece. The basic format of the long jump has changed little since then, although a deeper understanding of physics and human anatomy has led to improvements in technique and training.

Both running and standing starts are used for the long jump, although the majority of events use a running start. The athlete builds up a short burst of speed with a run on a track before launching him or herself from the takeoff board located directly in front of a large patch of sand. The spot where the athlete first touches the ground is known as the mark, because of the mark left in the sand by the athlete's feet, and it is used to measure the distance that the athlete jumped.

Training for the long jump requires building up stamina and speed so that the athlete can perform well in multiple attempts at the long jump and run as fast as possible towards the jumping area, thus building up momentum. Working on approach to the takeoff board and form in the air is also an important aspect of training. Learning to approach properly is one of the most challenging parts of training for the long jump.

In competition, an athlete is given several attempts at the long jump, with the longest legal jump serving as the athlete's final score. The number of attempts can vary, depending on the venue, but three is typical. A long jumper will be disqualified if any part of his or her feet goes past the takeoff board before jumping, as the distance of the jump is measured from the foul line directly in front of the takeoff board. Getting part of the body over the board before initiating the long jump could confer an unfair advantage on the athlete.

The long jump used to be called the broad jump, probably to further distinguish it from the high jump. However, many athletes compete in both events, as they require similar athletic abilities and physical control. Numerous combination events such as the decathlon also include both jumps. As of 2007, the record for the long jump was almost 30 feet (8.95 meters), by Mike Powell of the United States.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Sports&Hobbies researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By jcraig — On Sep 15, 2011

I've tried doing the long jump before when I was just playing around at the track at school one time. The one thing I really hated about it was getting sand in my shoes after the jump. Do the athletes wear special shoes to stop this, or do they have some way to get all of the sand out in between jumps?

Also, what are some of the tips for getting a farther jump. When I watch on TV it seems like one of the tricks is to get your legs as close to your body as you can. I guess that would get rid of some wind resistance and give more distance between you and the sand. I'm sure there are several other things the long jumpers do that I haven't caught onto.

By jmc88 — On Sep 15, 2011

I had to compete in the long jump one time when I was in track in high school. One of the normal long jumpers was sick, and I volunteered to take his place even though I had never done it before.

It was a pretty neat experience even though I had never done it before. I definitely didn't do very well, but I wasn't last which was exciting.

I can't believe that the long jump record is 30 feet. Think about it. That is like jumping across 2 or 3 rooms of a house or jumping the distance of a three story house on its side.

By John57 — On Sep 15, 2011

When I was in track I had a good friend who was good at most of the field events. I was a fast runner and spent most of my time working on improving my speed.

I would watch her compete in the long jump whenever I had the chance. There never seemed to be very many people watching these events and cheering them on.

When I competed in a running event there would be crowds of people at the finish line yelling and cheering. The long jump area was always pretty quiet, but maybe it was less distracting that way too.

I remember that they would have three tries at this event, and were able to take the jump that was the farthest. I guess nobody knows if they are good at the long jump until they try it and keep practicing. It is just something that I never had any interest in pursuing.

By andee — On Sep 14, 2011

I ran track when I was in high school, but the long jump was something I have never tried. I have pretty short legs and can't imagine that I would be very good at it.

I was always amazed by how far some of the people at the meets could jump. It was interesting to watch them pick up speed as they ran towards the spot where they would make their big jump.

There was one girl on our track team who was very good at both the long jump and high jump. It seems like these events don't get as much attention as the running events, but they certainly require a lot of skill and ability in order to do them well.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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