What Is Mass Start Speed Skating? How Does It Work?

Mass Start Skating

What Is Mass Start Speed Skating?

Mass start speed skating is a popular winter sport with a mass start in which all competitors start at the same time. This high-speed sport can be witnessed in the Winter Olympics, where skaters race around an oval track for certain distances and score points based on their performances.

One particular style of this intense event is long-track speed skating, which consists of race times ranging from 500 meters to 10,000 meters depending on the severity and skill of those competing.

Rules & Regulations of Mass Start Speed Skating 

Mass-start speed skating comprises two distinct events—men’s mass start and women’s mass start. Each competition has 24 skaters competing against each other in a 15-lap race. The skaters must complete the race in less than 11 minutes for men or 8 minutes for women, whichever comes first. During the competition, teams can form alliances to work together and draft off one another to gain an advantage over their opponents. 

The Basics of Mass Start Speed Skating 

To succeed in mass start speed skating, athletes must have a good mix of speed and endurance. Because the races are relatively short—only 15 laps—athletes need to be able to maintain their top speeds throughout the entire race while conserving enough energy to make a strong push at the end if needed.

This is why drafting off opponents is so important; it allows athletes to save energy by “hitching a ride” behind another skater without spending as much energy on their skate strokes. 

Strategy & Tactics 

Because of its strategic elements, mass-start speed skating requires athletes to think ahead and plan their strategy before stepping onto the ice. Athletes must know where their opponents are during the race and anticipate where they will move next to use those moves to their advantage. Teams may also use certain members as blockers or decoys to give other team members an edge over their competitors. 

Short Vs. Long Track Speed Skating

There are two main types of speed skating – short track and long track. Short track is typically raced on a 111.12-meter oval, while long track requires a 400-meter oval.

Both disciplines need skaters to maintain high speeds and use powerful strides to generate maximum speed. Skaters will often change their technique and tactics depending on the type of race they are competing in. For example, skaters typically employ a more overtaking-based strategy in a short-track race.

In contrast, in a long track race, skaters will focus on maintaining a consistent pace throughout the event. Ultimately, both types of speed skating require excellent fitness levels and split-second decision-making – making them both thrilling to watch and extremely demanding for those who compete.

How Long Is A Mass Start Race?

The length of the race will depend on the number of laps the skaters have to complete, as well as the size of the track. For example, a typical mass start race on a 400-meter track would involve 20 to 25 laps. Mass start races are held on indoor and outdoor tracks, and the type of surface can also affect the length of the race.

Outdoor tracks are typically longer than indoor tracks, meaning that skaters must complete more laps to cover the same distance. Mass start races tend to be shorter than other speed skating events, such as sprints or marathon races.

This is because the increased number of skaters on the track can lead to a lot of congestion, making it difficult for skaters to maintain high speeds for extended periods of time.


To summarize, mass start speed skating is an exciting sport requiring athletes to combine individual speed with tactical maneuvering to come out on top. If you want to experience it yourself or watch others compete, look no further than your local rink or the upcoming Olympic Games.