What is Fast?

Nick Webb/flickr.com

By Megan Cox

The fastest man at this past Olympics was Usain Bolt, who ran the 100 meters in 9.63 seconds. If a person were to run that speed for 13.1 miles, he would complete the race in about 34 minutes.

That, my friends is A LOT of math for this mama of two little ones, especially when my kiddos are getting up earlier due to daylight savings time. In fact, I really don’t want to tell you how long it took me to come up with that number. Let’s just say it’s been a long time since I studied for those SATs.

Anyway, Bolt’s Olympic record speed calculated for 13.1 miles is silly. If someone were to attempt to run this fast (which translates to over 23 miles per hour), he or she might suffer the same unfortunate fate as Pheideippides, the first very first marathoner.

For humans — and for living things in general — the shorter the distance, the faster we can go. Pure physics and stuff.

But if you do look at the speed records for the half-marathon, I assure you they are quite impressive. The world record in the half marathon for men, ratified by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), is 58:23, set on March 21, 2010, by Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea, in Lisbon, Portugal.

The IAAF world record for women is 1:05:50, set on February 18, 2011 by Mary Keitany of Kenya, in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.

So what is the average speed of these world records? While we’re on the subject of math, let’s do a little more. I’m just warning you that it will be very rough I-got-a-bachelor-of-arts-degree math.

My calculator is getting a workout today! For the 1:05:50 record, that’s about a five-minute mile. For the 58:23 record, that’s about a four-and-a-half minute mile. Holy jetpack, Batman!

My speed is just a tad over that.

I don’t have to tell you that four- or five-minute miles are pretty fast. And although they may not be “Bolt” fast (which would be just over a two-and-a-half minute mile), I’d pit these long distance runners against him in a race any day.

In fact, I’ve often told my husband that speed is relative. What’s more important? The under ten-second 100-meter dash, or the two-hour marathon? I think you could field some good debate on both sides.

Take the cheetah for example. This cat has been clocked at 70 miles per hour. The thing is, he’s not going very far when he hits top speed. A horse on the other hand, can keep up a steady, quick pace for hours.

I don’t know about you, but I’m okay with being a horse. Because no matter how slow I am, if I can keep up a steady pace, the job gets done.

This is a guest post by Megan Cox, an Oklahoma City-based novelist, writer and contributing blogger for HalfMarathons.Net. Learn more about Megan at her website.

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