Athletics is an unusual concoction of a sport that tends to drift by in the background for most of the year, before exploding into life at the Olympics and World Championships. During these special events, the world suddenly stops to watch and appreciate the finest exponents of physical activity that the best participants have to offer. In essence, athletics is sport in its purest form - the winners are those who can run the fastest, jump the highest and endure the strain the longest.
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Athletics itself covers a range of individual and team events, with the most famous being the 100m sprint. The marathon also holds great prestige with athletics betting fans, as do the likes of the 200m, 400m, 4x100m relay and 1500m. These are all track events, while the jumping and throwing disciplines are known as 'field' events.
As each major tournament goes by, athletics has the unfortunate tendency of drifting back out of focus. There are numerous chances to see a number of athletic sports, though, with plenty to keep spectators entertained as they wait for the Olympics. The World Championships are the next biggest in terms of grandeur, and this is now held every two years instead of every four. There is also the continental and national championships that are usually held on an annual basis. Then there's the annual series of athletics meetings, known as the Diamond League. These began as recently as 2010 and allow athletes to travel the world competing over a regular season of race meets.
All of these competitions are available to bet on, although with the results in these events being so black and white, there isn't the kind of variety of markets you find in sports like football or tennis. Outright Winner is the most popular market, where you simply back an athlete to win. These do have a tendency to attract remarkably short odds, though, especially if a clear favourite is taking part. For example, Usain Bolt will usually be the heavily odds on favourite in any race he competes in, leading most bookmakers to offer a 'Without' market, where your bet technically excludes that athlete from the race and your choice only has to beat the rest of the field. This is a great way of extracting value from your bets.
For the bigger competitions such as the Olympics and World Championships, there'll also be the opportunity for some group and special bets for things such as new World Record, or for an athlete to win multiple events - Mo Farah to win both 5,000m and 10,000m for example.
When betting on athletics, the key issue is usually injuries. Athletes can be blighted by injury as they push to go quicker or longer, so be sure to check their recent activity and be careful of competitors coming back from recent lay-offs. Form is a tricky one to judge in athletics too, as athletes tend to spend the season trying to hit their peak at the major championships of that year, so times and results beforehand aren't always consistent with an athlete's reputation. This makes it more unpredictable, but can be rewarding for a punter if you can stay informed of how far a favourite is away from their peak condition.
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