Like a bolt of lightning, Jamaican Usain Bolt charged across the finish line of the 100-meter dash at the the 2012 Olympic Games in London, winning a gold medal and striking an Olympic record with a time of of 9.63 seconds. For his efforts, Usain received a thunderous ovation from the packed stadium of more than 80,000 fortunate track-and-field fans (200,000 fans applied for tickets). Once again, living up to his name (a perfect euonym, incidently), Usain Bolt was crowned “Fastest Man in the World.” Here is a view of this historical athletic achievement by the numbers:
9.58 seconds: The world record set by Usain Bolt at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics held in Berlin, Germany in August 2009. Bolt dashed out of the starting blocks at 23.35 mph, reaching a peak speed of 27.79 mph (or 44.72 km/h).
8.05 seconds: Bolt’s time for the 100-meter dash had he run the entire race at 27.79 mph.
5.95 seconds: Time for a cheetah to run the 100-meter dash.
21.3 mph: Speed of the fastest woman in the world, Florence Griffith Joyner (known as Flo-Jo) who ran the 100-meter dash in 10.49 seconds at the quarterfinals of the 1988 Olympic trials in Indianapolis, Indiana.
2.8 mph (or 4.5 km/h): Average human walking speed for older individuals (over 65 years old).
3.3 mph (or 5.3 km/h): Average human walking speed for younger individuals (under 65 years old).
5.25-6.o mph: Michael Phelp’s top speed in swimming.
12-15 mph: Average human running speed.
40 mph: In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, scientists found that the human body has the potential to run as fast as 40 mph based on the gait and maximum force that the human muscles can generate. The key determinant of running speed is the ratio of fast-twitch muscles to slow-twitch muscles in the human body. Average humans have a 50-50% fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fiber ratio, while sprinters have an 80-20% ratio.
9.44 seconds: The fastest possible time that a human can actually run the 100 mph according to Reza Noubary, a professor of mathematics and statistics at Bloomsburg University, who has studied the data from the 100-meter races. Noubary noted a consistent trend: every second year, the time for the event is reduced by one-hundreth of a second.
60-100 mph: The cheetah can achieve an average speed of 40 mph (65 km/h), but can achieve short speed bursts of up to 70 mph (110 km/h) due to their amazingly long gait. Due to their unique anatomy and gait, cheetahs’ paws stay on the ground longer to build up tremendous force, while keeping a very fast forward momentum.
25 mph (or 40.2 km/h): A dolphin’s top speed; their average speed is 8 mph (or 12.8 km/hr).
43 mph (or 70 km/h): Top speed of a greyhound.
217 mph (or 349 km/h): Top diving speed of a peregrine falcon.
261 mph (or 420 km/h): Speed at which messages travel along human nervous system.
For further reading: Guinness World Records: 2012 edited by Craig Glenday, Guinness Publishing (2011)
Physics: A World View by Larry Kirkpatrick, Thomson Brooks (2007). berlin.iaaf.org/index.html wired.com/wiredscience/2010/02/40-mph-human