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How Fast Can A Human Run?

Every four years, the premier event at the summer Olympics is the 100 meter dash, the swift sprint that you can literally miss by sneezing. In the past two summer games in London and Beijing, the man who won the race was the Jamaican phenom Usain Bolt. Bolt quickly earned the nickname of being the fastest man on earth, which no one has yet been able to take away.

His talent is simply that he generates more power than other sprinters. But he also does something else that’s fascinating. He has found a way to reduce the cross section of his body, which, in effect, reduces the aerodynamic drag while he runs. That was the finding from a study from the National University of Mexico that created a mathematical model to analyze Bolt’s running form, and the possibility that he can run even faster in future races. In fact with a few more tweaks to the way he runs down a track, the world’s fastest man can cut his world record time of 9.58 seconds to 9.46. Small decrease, but in competitive track and field, it’s a big difference. And just for anyone still unimpressed, that time would translate to 10.6 meters per second, or an average of 23.7 miles per hour.

The one thing even more interesting about Bolt isn’t how much energy he produces, but how much he wastes. Only 7.79 percent of his energy is used to move himself forward, the researchers found, leaving 92.21 percent spent in the fight against air resistance. That essentially means that for the fastest man—and any sprinter trying to break world records—that the way the weather conditions, like the way the wind is blowing, the day you compete might actually be even more important than how hard he trains.

Comments

  1. whysomad
    seat of a unicycle
    July 8, 1:40 pm

    Haha, all these comments here saying they can do it 4 seconds. Get on my level, you’re amateurs. I can do the 100 backwards on a unicycle in 2 seconds flat.

  2. Johnny Nightrider
    California,U.S.A.
    June 20, 1:25 am

    Noone at this time can run the 100 meter dash as fast as Bolt.I heard he can hit 30m.p.h. in sprints.Anything under 10 seconds in the 100 meter is incredibly fast.

  3. silver
    holland
    June 9, 1:33 am

    You people kidding or what.?
    I run 100 meters in 4.89 seconds

  4. carsyn
    oshawa,ON
    June 5, 7:10 am

    I am almost faster than usain bolt I can d it in 9.72 seconds

  5. Anthony Ramirez
    California
    June 2, 10:18 pm

    I’m 13 and I can run the 100 meter in 6.34 seconds

  6. zake
    louisiana
    April 27, 2:07 am

    soon ill be faster then bolt because im 12 year old and i can run the 100 meter dash in 9.98

  7. Jacob Fisher (Ph.D., P.E., Biomechanist)
    Philadelphia, PA
    October 4, 2013, 3:57 pm

    Your last sentence is not accurate. The implication is that his training is only important to the power (energy per time) needed to move him forward but not for the power needed to overcome air resistance. But actually it is only through rigorous training that Mr. Bolt can generate the power he needs to fight that air resistance regardless of the direction the wind is blowing. (It also takes rigorous training to make those tweaks to shave the time from 9.58 seconds to 9.46 seconds.) So in the end, how hard you train is far and away the most important factor. The direction the wind is blowing the day of the race is only nuance. Otherwise I, with minimal training, could run 100 meters in 10 seconds if only the wind was at my back, but that is not going to happen any time soon any way the wind blows.

  8. Tanujgoyal
    up
    August 15, 2013, 10:02 pm

    exercise must be compalsery h fds..

  9. JAMES STARLING
    cornelius, north carolina
    August 12, 2013, 10:53 am

    on your carp invasion three paragraphs. look up big river fishing company in Illinois. exporting 30 million pounds of arp to china this year. more in future. commercialization will wipe out in ten years. thanks, daniel

  10. George dike
    Minna nigeria
    August 11, 2013, 2:41 pm

    He didnt say anything about traction; resistance due to ground formation. Or is that not to be considered? Please ask the expert to educate me.