While medals always come first, track and field athletes always strive to break new ground when it comes to the fastest times in their discipline.
World records, which must be ratified by World Athletics and meet strict competition regulations, can become the defining achievement of a top runner’s career.
Below is a list of major track events and the fastest official times ever recorded by men and women in outdoor competition.
MORE: 2022 IAAF World Championships results: Updated list of winners for each athletics event at Oregon22
100m world record
Men: Usain Bolt (9.58 seconds)
Women: Florence Griffith-Joyner (10.49 seconds)
Perhaps the most exciting and well-known run in all of athletics, the 100-meter dash has been held since the 1896 Olympics for men and since the 1928 Olympics for women.
The men’s world record is currently held by Usain Bolt from Jamaica, who ran it in 2009 in the Berlin Olympic Stadium in 9.58 seconds. American Florence Griffith-Joyner holds the women’s 100m world record after running 10.49 seconds in 1988.
200m world record
Men: Usain Bolt (19.19 seconds)
Women: Florence Griffith-Joyner (21.34 seconds)
Both Bolt and Griffith-Joyner also hold their respective world records in the 200m. In both cases, both athletes also broke the 200m record in the same year they previously broke the 100m record.
Bolt ran the fastest 200m ever, 19.19 seconds, and claimed gold at the 2009 World Championships just four days after his exploits in the 100m. Griffith-Joyner ran a record time of 21.34 seconds at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
400m world record
Men: Wayde van Niekerk (43.03 seconds)
Women: Marita Koch (47.60 seconds)
South African athlete Wayde van Niekerk holds the 400m world record he set at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He ran the race in 43.03 seconds, beating Michael Johnson’s longtime best time and coming tantalizingly close to the 43-second mark.
The women’s 400-meter world record is held by the East German Marita Koch, who ran a time of 47.60 seconds in 1985.
800m world record
Men: David Rudisha (1:40.91)
Women: Jarmila Kratochvilova (1:53.28)
Kenyan David Rudisha holds the world record for the first of the races categorized as ‘middle distance’. At the 2012 London Olympics, he ran the 800m in 1:40.91.
Meanwhile, Czech athlete Jarmila Kratochvilova set the women’s record in this discipline in 1983 when she ran 1:53.28.
1500m world record
Men: Hicham El Guerrouj (3:26.00)
Women: Genzebe Dibaba (3:53.07)
Two African athletes hold the world records in the men’s and women’s 1500m.
Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj ran his world record run of 3:26.00 in 1998, while Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba clocked a time of 3:50.07
5000m world record
Men: Joshua Cheptegei (12:35,36)
Women: Letesenbet Gidey (14:06.62)
African athletes, who first ran at the 1912 men’s and 1996 women’s Olympic Games, hold the world records for the 5000m, both set in 2020.
Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda ran 12:35.36 while Ethiopian athlete Letesenbet Gidey clocked a time of 14:06.62.
10,000m world record
Men: Joshua Cheptegei (26:11.00)
Women: Letesenbet Gidey (29:01.03)
Cheptegei and Gidey also hold the respective world records in the 10,000 m.
Cheptegei made 2020 a memorable one when he set a new record of 26:11.00 to follow his 5000m effort, while Gidey set her record in 2021 when she clocked 29:01.03 ran.
World record over 100 m hurdles
Women: Kendra Harrison (12.20 seconds)
The 100-meter hurdles, the women’s short-distance steeplechase, was first run at the 1972 Olympic Games.
The world record holder at this event is the American Kendra Harrison, who ran a time of 12.20 seconds in 2016. This broke the previous record of Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova by just 0.01 seconds.
World record over 110 m hurdles
Men: Aries Merritt (12.80 seconds)
The men’s short hurdle sprint was held in 1896 at the first modern Olympic Games.
The world record holder of this event is American Aries Merritt, who ran it in 2012 in 12.80 seconds.
World record over 400 m hurdles
Men: Karsten Warholm (45.94 seconds)
Women: Sydney McLaughlin (51.41 seconds)
The only Scandinavian on this list, Norway’s Karsten Warholm, holds the world record for the men’s 400-meter hurdles. His record is 45.94 seconds – the first time under 46 seconds in the discipline – and was set in 2021.
In the women’s race, American Sydney McLaughlin broke her own world record at the US Championships last month with a time of 51.41 seconds, although World Athletics has yet to ratify the time.
World record over 3000 m steeplechase
Men: Saif Saaid Shaheen (7:53.63)
Women: Beatrice Chepkoech (8:44.32)
Arguably the most physically demanding race on this list, the 3000m steeplechase has been part of the men’s Olympic running competition since 1920. Qatar’s Saif Saaeed Shaheen is the record holder with a best time of 7:53.63 set in 2008, although Kenya’s Brimin Kiprop Kipruto missed his 2011 time by just 0.01 seconds.
Kenya’s Breatrice Chepkoech holds the women’s world record with a time of 8:44.32 in 2018.
4x100m relay world record
Men: Jamaica (36.84 seconds)
Women: USA (40.82 seconds)
Established during the London 2012 Olympics, Jamaica holds the world record for the men’s 4x100m relay. The four runners – Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt – completed this event combined in just 36.84 seconds.
The USA holds the world record for women, which was also set at the 2012 Olympic Games. Her team, consisting of Tianna Bartoletta (née Madison), Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter, ran the 4x100m relay in 40.82 seconds.
4x400m relay world record
Men: USA (2:54.29)
Women: Soviet Union (3:15.17)
The United States holds the world record in the 4x400m relay, which was set in 1993. Her team, consisting of Andrew Valmon, Quincy Watts, Butch Reynolds and Michael Johnson, ran the race in just 2:54.29, a time that was over a second faster than any other relay team had ever done.
In the women’s 4x400m relay, the Soviet Union still holds the world record from 1988. Their quartet ran the race in 3:15.17 at the Olympic Games in South Korea that year.