Are there lane advantages in track and field?

25 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2021 Last revised: 20 Jul 2021

Date Written: March 10, 2021


Sprint distance events in track and field are replete with folk tales about which lane assignments on the track are advantageous. Estimating the causal effect of lane assignments on race times is a difficult task as lane assignments are typically non-random. To estimate these effects I exploit a random assignment rule for the first round of races in sprint distance events. Using twenty years of data from the IAAF world athletic championships and U20 world championships I find no evidence of lane advantages in the 100m. Contrary to popular belief, I find evidence that outside lanes in the 200m produce faster race times. However, I find no robust evidence of lane effects in the 400m. Finally, in the 800m, which is unique in having a lane break, I find some evidence that outside lanes producer slower race times, possibly reflecting the advantage of inside lanes having an established position on the inside of the track at the lane break.

Keywords: lane assignments, track and field, athletics.

JEL Classification: Z2, C13

Suggested Citation

Munro, David, Are there lane advantages in track and field? (March 10, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

David Munro (Contact Author)

Middlebury College ( email )

Munroe Hall
Middlebury, VT 05753
United States

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