The Fastest Dash

10 אוגוסט, 2012 בשעה 19:35 | פורסם בEnglish, ג'ון נאש, ספורט | כתיבת תגובה
Which Olympic dash is the fastest?It's clear that 400 meters is already "tactical" in strength-saving, so 200 meters is faster than it. The numbers consistently confirm this – while the record for 200 meters has been under 20 seconds for quite a while, the 400 meter record has not yet gone under 43 seconds. So we're left with two – the 200 meters and the 100 meters. (Hurdles? Come on.)

During my growing years the answer to this question seemed to be 200 meters: the second half of the 200 meter race has no start to slow it down, and apparently the runner's battery is still charged enough for the entire 200 meters. The record for 200m was continuously under twice that of 100m. Michael Johnson's 0.34-second world record improvement in the Atlanta games in 1996 could only convince me further.

Over the last few years, however, the situation has been reversed. The 100m record is 9.572 seconds, while the 200m record is at 19.19, half of which is 9.595, slower than the 100m record. Moreover, both were made by the same runner, Usain Bolt. I looked into the situation in the last 45-or-so years, since just before the accurate automatic measurement was introduced, and it turns out that even though most of the time the halved 200m record was better than the 100m record, there were several transitions from one state of affairs to the other.

Can anybody help me with this? How can it be that there's no definite physiological answer to this question? Is there a known "ideal distance" which balances the slowdown of the start with the slowdown of fatigue? Or does it depend on the strength and expertise of contemporary runners?

After unsuccessfully trying to embed the Googledocs-provided html in WordPress, here's a print screen of the largest-scale chart below, and here's a link to the spreadsheet with the data and a "playable" chart. Each data point is where either a new 100m or 200m record was set, and the y-axis represents the difference between the two. A rise is a new 200m record, a fall is a new 100m record.

Blazing dashes: the difference between the 100m world record and half the 200m world record (in seconds)

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