Sports Science: How Fast Can Humans Run?

August 18, 2009

After Usain Bolt of Jamaica broke the world record for the 100M with an unbelievable time of 9.58s, the question has now come up: how fast can humans run? We’ve got the answer here, along with photos and video.

Usain Bolt

Sports Science: How Fast Can Humans Run?

It all started when Usain Bolt won the gold medal in Beijing for the 100M dash—his time then: 9.69s. That performance broke the world record, with an outrageous average of nearly 34 feet per second. It was absolutely incredible, especially considering that athletes his height aren’t generally in the upper echelon of sprinters.

So when he beat his own time this week in Berlin, he once again set a new world record. The story has now swept the sports world, but can it ever possibly be beaten? Is there a maximum physiological limit to how fast humans can run?

For that answer, we turn to scientists who study the fastest sprinters in the animal world, namely the African cheetah, which can easily pull of the 100M dash in 6 seconds! That’s a ridiculous 55 feet per second average.

An article in The Science of Sport cites scientists who feel confident that humans are far from reaching their maximum potential for sprinting. Researchers point to the steady progression of world records set by humans. A good example is Bolt’s ability to set two consecutive world records on his own, one 0.11 seconds faster than the other.

So where does it end. Is there a limit to how fast humans can run? One scientist in the article said:

“By definition, that’s unknowable. It’s intrinsically speculative, and there is no way around that.”

When given the chance to speculate though, he said he feels strongly that humans have the potential to continue to reach greater speeds over time. But could we one day catch up to the fastest land-based animal in the world, and pull off a 6 second 100M dash? The same researcher thinks it’s possible one day, here’s why:

“… cheetahs have the same muscles, tendons and bone structure as humans.”

What do you think? Have humans maxed out on the 100M dash? Could Bolt’s new record possibly be beaten?
Let us know your opinion in the comments section below.

See more photos and video below.

Usain Bolt Usain Bolt Usain Bolt Usain Bolt

Photos: Mills

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3 Responses to “Sports Science: How Fast Can Humans Run?”

  1. 1
    Keith Says:

    That begs the question: At what speed does a sprint become a supernatural sprint?

  2. 2
    Julian Futcher Says:

    so what is the limit for the 100m, a time between 8 and 9 seconds?
    People say there is no limit, the record will be reduced bit by bit as time goes on.
    There has to be a limit, for example a human can’t run the 100m in 1 second, the athlete would have to be able to run faster than 223 mph. Air resistance would be a major problem at such speeds. What about 100m in 1/10 of second ?
    That is 2,236mph – faster than any jet plane. You know this is not possible for a human, it is not possible for any creature on this planet.
    It’s a tough thought to accept but there will be a time set than can only be equalled, it could never be bettered.

  3. 3
    jacob Says:

    well i am not trying to be conceited but i run 32 mph and well i wasn’t super close to beating his time but i was close i had no training and someday i will become the fastest sprinter in history i will do it. I am learning how to get and be faster and can i do it i don’t but i would say i believe his record can be beat and i will be the one to beat it