Everyone has a different running pace, which is when our bodies use up the least amount of oxygen when running over a certain distance. We run with a faster pace if the distance is a short one. An average man can jog at 8.3mph, so he could run 100m in 27 seconds. A woman can jog at 6.5mph and run 100m in 34 seconds.
A non-elite athlete can run 100m in 13-14 seconds or at 15.9mph. However, Olympic qualifying times are much lower. The men’s qualifying time for London 2012 was 10.18 seconds and the women’s was 11.29 seconds.
About 100 years ago, the time of 10.6 seconds in the men’s 100m event would have earned a gold medal. They thought it wasn’t possible to run it under 10 seconds, until Jim Hines ran it in 9.95 seconds at the 1968 Olympics. This record has since been reduced to 9.58 seconds by Usain Bolt at the 2009 World Championships. This proven that sport science is developing and athletes are evolving, meaning that this time could go even lower. Studies have shown that athletes are trying new techniques to enable them to run faster, which could lead to the world record being reduced again at the 2020 Olympics.
One example of these techniques is plyometrics, or “jump training”. In particular, Jamaican athletes do hurdle drills to strengthen their calves and hips. This is because studies prove there is a connection between calf size and the quality of sprint performance. They state that the calf muscle can help the athlete to accelerate more over the first few metres, which is when they are slowest.
We could also be seeing taller athletes in the future. Usain Bolt is 6ft 5ins, which makes his stature perfect for sprinting. The length of a stride is often considered more important than speed. If an athlete is slightly taller, they would have a shorter contact time with the ground and would then run faster. The only negative is that taller sprinters use more energy to bring their longer limbs forward.
The 100m record in the men’s event has been broken many times, but it’s a different story for the women’s record. U.S athlete Florence Griffith-Joyner set the 100m record in 10.49 seconds at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. The only person who has come close since is fellow U.S athlete Carmelita Jeter, with 10.64 seconds in 2009.
To break the world record, tall sprinters need to continue strengthening their hips and shorter ones must contact their muscles more quickly. However, studies say it won’t be lowered below 9.2 seconds, or athletes’ bones would become heavier and would cause them to gain weight.