Betting on Athletics: a brief introduction

Athletics betting is one of those sports which only occasionally comes into the big spotlight. The sport itself has to try and compete with some major forces that attract the bulk of the attention when it comes to sportsbooks, such as soccer, tennis and rugby.

But when some major international events come along, that is when Athletic betting takes on something of a life of its own. In between, there are a lot of quiet times when it comes to athletics and that can make the sport a tricky one for punters to handle.

Betting on athletics

The big events in the world of athletics are the Olympics, which come around every four years and the World Championships which happen biannually. Those are the pinnacles of the sport for the athletes involved.

They are also the pinnacle of betting action for punters because that is when the most action and variety within sportsbooks appears. Other events happen in between all of that, such as the African Championships, European Athletics Championships and the Diamond League. 

But even other top athletics events like that, don’t get the same kind of coverage the World Championships and the Olympics get. It’s just not there, not from the media and broadcasting, through to the market options available within a bookmaker. 

The nuances of athletics betting

Because there are long gaps, however, between the highlighted events, for example, a World Championship and Olympic Games, then it makes the reading form of athletes difficult. It’s not like looking at soccer teams playing week in and week out and keeping a constant eye on who is performing in well and who is not.

You watch the Olympic Games for example, and then a month later, have probably forgotten about the individual athletes. It’s not likely that they would even be anywhere near to returning to the sporting scene until the following season. If that’s not a build-up to another major event, it may be longer before you hear about them. Again in comparison with soccer, you hear about injuries daily.

So that is one of the tricky areas of athletics. However, this is actually where bookmakers and their odds presented in sportsbook can help a lot. Bookmakers have banks of traders who are analysing the sports world and if they are putting Eliud Kipchoge as the favourite to win the marathon, then they know what they are talking about.

How to approach athletics betting

Statistics can help a lot. As an example of this, you would be looking for those who ran the quickest 100m for example during the current year. You can study the form of athletes at previous major tournaments and this can help a lot in making informed decisions. Also simply scouring the internet for athletics news can be a great source of information without getting too heavily bogged down in stats.

Again, because there isn’t a steady flow of athletics delivered to consumers, it can be hard to keep up with. But the information is out there and again, even if you simply looked at bookmakers market for say the 5,000m at the Olympics and searched the top few runners at the head of the market for form and news, you probably wouldn’t be in bad standing at all. 

Common Types of Athletics Bets

There is not the variety of bets on athletics as there are on other major sports. For example, in a high profile soccer match, you may be able to find over 100 markets just for that one fixture alone. Are you going to find that many betting options on an Olympic Decathlon? No, of course not. The options are just not going to be there.

So athletics betting is very limited compared to other sports. It is mostly limited to outright winner markets, be it for the Women's 200m, the Men's 100m or whatever event it is. You may be able to find wagers that focus on times, or on bigger events, Versus The Field Markets.

Versus The Field is how the market would shape up if the outright favourite wasn’t in the frame. So it’s virtually eliminating the favourite as a betting option and selecting which of the best of the rest would “win” the race were they not there. This happens in fields where there is a strong odds-on favourite.

Another way to be creative with athletics betting is to create your own unique bets. Think multiples betting, picking the winner of several different events and perhaps throwing them together in an accumulator. Another of the nuances of athletics is that when there is a strong favourite in an event, it strips betting value away from the field because of probability. So sometimes athletics betting just needs a bit of creative thinking.

Athletics Prop bets

A way to look ahead at Athletics Betting without even looking at the stars and trying to size up winners is looking at prop bets. These are things that can be done well in advance as well. It’s not like making a selection on an athlete to win an event six months before the running of a race. That leaves a huge window for variables such as injury and a general lack of form, to creep in.

A prop (proposition) bet is something that isn’t going to be affected by anything like that. Examples of athletics prop bets would be “Will there be a false start in the 100m final?”, “Will a new world record be set in the marathon?”. A lot of proposition bets on athletics are simply going to boil down to a yes or no selection.

They are therefore not wagers which are going to offer a whole stack of value, but they serve a purpose as a nice little aside to athletics betting. They can be fun little options to consider. 


Athletics betting, as with any sport, has its own pros and cons. With Athletics, it is the long gaps between big events and the lack of general media coverage outside of anything but the top tier events that is a con. So it can be really hard for punters to make their own informed decisions about the value in athletics betting.

But among the pros, there are ways and means to successfully explore the world of athletics betting. Be it from coming up with your own creative multiples, to looking for those timely in-play wagering opportunities.

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