How Fast Can We Run?


It is August, 2016. The Olympics are in full swing in Rio de Janeiro,
where Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world we know of, will be attending. So how fast could we run? Many of us dream of being able to run like
Usain Bolt, or the Flash, and we all know of Usain Bolt’s famous record-breaking sprint
at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he ran the whole of it in 9.69 seconds, averaging
around 37 km/h. So, how does he run like that? Well, really, it all has to do with a runner’s
stride. A stride is, of course, how much distance
one covers from lifting one foot off the ground to planting the next foot on the ground, if
you didn’t know. Obviously, if you can cover a greater distance
in one stride, while still maintaining the average of 4 strides per second, you will
run faster. This is important, as even the fastest elite
sprinters don’t take any more strides per second than an average person. It takes an average person around 55 strides,
touching the ground for around 0.12 seconds each stride, to complete the 100-meter sprint,
while professional sprinters take around 45, touching the ground for 0.08 seconds per stride. Sprinters, like Usain Bolt, achieve this through
a combination of important things, like shoes which give him a solid grip on the ground,
which is key. In fact, a Cheetah’s claws never fully retract
for this reason. It also helps to have longer legs, and more
muscle mass, especially fast-twitch muscles, which are generally the white meat of that
former Olympic chicken you ate [unless you’e vegetarian], and it always helps to have lots
of practice and training. So, how fast could we run? Well, Usain Bolt is not the fastest human
possible, in fact, fossilized footprints from 17,000 years ago in Australia, belonging to
an individual known simply as T8, have been calculated to have been
running across the muddy, scorpion-filled landscape of ancient Australia at around 37
km/h, but if he were running on this* track, and in modern shoes, he could have easily
clocked in at 45 km/h. In fact, research on the reactivity of human
leg muscles shows that we could run at up to around 65 km/h, which, while not able to
escape a Cheetah, is faster than the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow (40 km/h [24
mph]), and enough to escape from a Grizzly bear. Don’t try running away from one, though! So what’s really holding us back? Well, humans aren’t built for running fast,
even by bipedal standards, because our hips and legs only recently evolved for life on
the ground, they evolved for over 50 million years in the trees. However, we are good at running insanely long
distances to wear down prey, and if you’ve ever heard of the Tortoise and the Hare, you’ll
know that, in the wild, while we don’t run all that fast, that Kudu leaving you in the
dust is still a Ku-don’t.

5 thoughts on “How Fast Can We Run?

  1. Humans could perhaps run 40 MPH but we haven't been able to maximize the maximum force applied to the ground Usain Bolt ran 45 km/h for a short time in his 9.58 run (27.78~27.8 MPH)

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