In sport, racing is a competition of speed, against an objective criterion, usually a clock or to a specific point. The competitors in a race try to complete a given task in the shortest amount of time. Typically this involves traversing some distance, but it can be any other task involving speed to reach a specific goal.
A race may be run continuously from start to finish or may be made of several segments called heats, stages or legs. A heat is usually run over the same course at different times. A stage is a shorter section of a much longer course or a time trial.
Early records of races are evident on pottery from ancient Greece, which depicted running men vying for first place. A chariot race is described in Homer's Iliad.
Running a distance is the most basic form of racing, but races may be conducted in vehicles, such as boats, cars, cycles and aircraft; or with animals such as horses or dogs. Races may also be conducted with other modes of transport such as skis, kicksled, skates or wheelchair; or other forms of movement such as swimming or walking. In a relay race members of a team take turns in racing parts of a circuit or performing a certain racing form.
Orienteering races add an additional task of using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain.
A race can also involve any other type of goal like eating. A common race involving eating is a hot dog eating race, where contestants try to eat more hot dogs than the other racers.
Racing can also be done in more humoristic and entertaining ways such as the Sausage Race and the Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix. Racing can be entertained from around the world.
In track and field, distances from 1500 metres upwards often feature sprint finishes. They can also be found in cross country and road running events, even up to the marathon distance. A runner's ability to sprint at the end of a race is also known as their finishing kick. Multisport races, such as the triathlon, often have running as the final section and sprint finish tactics are applied as they are in running-only events.
In cycling, sprint finishes are an integral part of the sport and are used in both track cyclings and road cycling. Cycling sprints are often highly tactical, with cyclists occasionally coming to a near halt at points before reaching a high speed finish. The longer track races such as, scratch races, often feature sprint finishes as maintaining a steady pace within the peloton allows opponents to conserve energy through drafting. Road races are similar in this respect, in both short criterium races and long-distance races. Sprint tactics also form a major part of points classifications in road events, where cycling sprinters specialise in reaching an intermediate point first, thus gaining extra points and resulting prizes.