Athletics formed part of the original Olympic Games back in ancient Greece. Much like today, the original Games included a variety of field and track events including running, jumping, throwing the discus and throwing the javelin. Throughout Europe local festivals would include some form of athletic events such as running races and throwing competitions into the medieval period and beyond. In the 18th and 19th centuries in Great Britain there was a tradition of walking or running races upon which people would place bets. The modern form of an Athletics 'meet' where a variety of events took place was dates back to the 19th century with the earliest recorded meet taking place in Shropshire in 1840. Since 1896 Athletics have been a central part of the modern Olympic Games. Although at the beginning women were only involved in some of the events, currently their programme is almost identical to the men's.
Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre holds the archives of the Wiltshire County Athletics Association which dates back to 1924. It is somewhat amusing to see that advertising in the early days did not always promote a healthy lifestyle! Programme for the annual championships, 1929 includng advertising for Usher's pale ale. (Reference 3511/3)
A distinctly more sober front cover of the programme for the Wiltshire County Athletic Association annual championship for 1996 (Reference 3511/3)