Thursday Thoughts: How fast is fast?

299 792 458 m / s

If physics is correct, nothing can exceed the speed of light*, so there is a limit to how fast we can go. But I’m not talking about that limit.

The first book about running that I read was about breaking the four-minute mile. At the time, people thought it was impossible. They were wrong. Some people, mostly men, also thought that if women ran marathons, their uterus would fall out, so that was wrong too.

How fast can the human body go, powered only by the human body?

One of the most sought after speed records was the 4-minute mile. After Roger Bannister broke it in 1954, it didn’t take long for John Landy to shave off 1.4 seconds that same year. Three years later, the mile was sub 3:58.

Eight years between 1967 and 1975 had no new record set, then Filbert Bayi broke the 3:51.1 record by 0.01 sec. The next target was 3.50.

John Waker broke that barrier by 0.6 seconds, followed quickly by Sebastian Coe, who hit 3.49, then 3,48.53 two years later,  and 3.47.33 that same year.

Steve Cram broke 3.47 (3.46.31) in 1985, then we had to wait another eight years for that record to be broken by almost 2 seconds by Noureddine Morceli.

Six years later, in 1999, Hicham El Guerrouj set the current record of 3.43.13.

But wait. Do people run the mile competitively anymore? Now, the 1500 meter distance is the norm, but I recently watched the World Track and Field meet held in Eugene, Oregon, and to my surprise (and delight) there was the Bowerman Mile event, named for the founder/inventor of all things Nike. So the mile is still run. Not all runners competed, but if you can run the 1500m what’s another 100m? No new record was set, but it was nice to see.

If we want to talk fast, what about the 100m? American runner, Jim Hines, broke the 10 second mark in 1968. After that, the record fell after standing for over 10 years. Runners from the US, Canada, and Jamaica kept up the task.  Usain Bolt still holds the record of 9.58. Will someone run faster or is this the undisputed fastest time ever?

Maybe I should go out for a run . . .


*But people thought the Earth was the center of the universe, so who knows.

Leon Stevens is a multi-genre author, composer, guitarist, songwriter, and an artist, with a Bachelor of Music and Education. He published his first book of poetry, Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures in January 2020, followed by a book of original classical guitar compositions, Journeys, and a short story collection of science fiction/post-apocalyptic tales called The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. His newest publications are the novella trilogy, The View from Here, which is a continuation of one of his short stories, and a new collection of poetry titled, A Wonder of Words.

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Published by Leon Stevens

I am an author, composer, and an artist. I published my first book of poetry: Lines by Leon – Poems, Prose, and Pictures in January 2020 and a book of original classical guitar compositions. My latest book is a short story compilation of science fiction/post-apocalyptic tales called, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

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