Relay Starts / Changeovers

Obviously the first leg of a relay race will be from a crouch or block start, so please look at the section for this to help here.

Here we are going to concentrate on the position you need to adopt for running one of the three remaining legs of a relay when performing changeovers.

The way you start is different between the two relay races (the 4x100m and the 4x400m), so we will deal with them separately.

4x100m Race

The sprint relay requires fast explosive starts and lots of changeover practice. We are not going to deal with the technique of handovers here, but just the way you start.

What is important here though is that you practice with your changeover partner, so that you can put a marker on the track (roughly 5-7m behind your starting position). When the incoming runner reaches this point, it is your trigger to start running.

Video Sprint Training - How to do a 3-Point Start

Generally, you will use a 'three point start' or a standing start for this; either is fine, and generally athletes will use the one they are more comfortable with.

Elite athletes often use the three point start, as it is more similar to the block start, but still allows you to look behind and go when your team mate reaches the check mark.

In order to be at the optimum speed for a smooth changeover, begin running normally and only stick your hand behind you when your teammate shouts (this is usually either "Hand!" or your name).

Generally, the best position for your hand to be in is with a wide palm facing upwards, and your arm parallel to the ground. This gives your teammate a large target to aim at, which is important when they are running at speed and have difficulty steadying their arm.

4x400m Race

Here you will be jostling for position (unless you are second leg and there is a long 500m stagger). Also, your incoming runner will be very tired and slowing dramatically.

Therefore there is no reason to get as explosive a start as in a 4x100m race.

To receive the baton you will stand facing the inside of the track with your left arm out-stretched to receive the baton. Hold the hand nice and high so your tired team mate has a good target to aim at. It is important you take the baton in your LEFT hand as it significantly reduces the chances of it getting knocked out of your hand as you go into the first bend. It is okay to switch hands during your run if you wish, but it will cost you a few hundredths of a second.

Further Reading - Race Starts »