In through the outfield blog

10 July 2012

The invention of starting blocks

Starting blocks for use by sprinters are taken for granted now, but for a number of years they were rejected for official records as an unfair use of technology.

In 1927 George Bresnahan of Iowa filed for what became his Foot support patent, in which he talks of “what might be termed a starting block”. I believe this to be the first such patent, and by 1929 it was being used -- as anyone setting a record using them had the record rejected. At the time, the accepted method for getting ready to run was digging little holes in the cinder track and sticking your fingers in them. Below is the drawing from the patent.

Starting blocks patent image

It was not until 1937 that the IAAF accepted their use, so that they could be used in the next Olympics -- London in 1948. Pages 130-131 of the IAAF Competition Rules govern their usage. About one tenth of a second is saved by using starting blocks, it has been estimated.

London in 2012 is less than three weeks away...


The comments to this entry are closed.