Wednesday 19 August 2009

“Lightning” Bolt vs Duracell “Battery” Bekele

How fast can you run 100m and how many times can you repeat it consecutively?

I’m simply amazed at how fast elite athletes run. At the 2009 Athletics World Championships in Berlin, we have seen Usain Bolt of Jamaica running 100m in a world record time of 9.58 seconds, and then Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia running 10,000m in a championship record time of 26 minutes 45.11 seconds.

[Usain Bolt (L) and Kenenisa Bekele (R)]

Having recently started to run on the athletics track, I am in awe of what elite athletes achieve, particularly middle- and long-distance runners.

Even though Bolt smashed the 100m world record (a remarkable feat), I am more inclined to be amazed at the pace set by middle-distance runners like Bekele and fellow Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, and by long-distance runners.

To put it into context, Bekele completed 10,000m in 26 minutes 45.11 seconds. Essentially, he ran the 100m in 16.05 seconds one hundred times. That to me is incredible … non-stop sprinting for about 27 minutes. At a guess, Bolt can probably run 100m at a steady pace (say, 12 or 13 seconds) for perhaps 10 or 20 times non-stop before his pace drops dramatically.

And yes, there is a difference in body make up, with powerful explosive sprinters having a preponderance of fast twitch muscles, while middle- and long-distance athletes having a predominance of slow twitch muscles. That’s the physiological difference: explosive but short-lived performance versus endurance.

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