How far can you run in 10 seconds? Around the house? Across the backyard? Well, if you're the fastest person in the world, you can cover 100 meters in 9.58 seconds.
That's what Usain Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter, did last weekend at the World Track & Field Championships in Germany. His time set a new world record, smashing the one he set last year at the Beijing Olympics.
100 meter race: In international track and field competition, the 100 meters is the shortest outdoor race. It's a flat-out sprint, meaning that runners go as fast as they can for the entire duration of the event. In longer races, athletes save some of their energy for the end. If they run too fast too soon, they will run out of strength. The 100 meters is short enough, though, so runners can push themselves the whole way. Because of this, the winner of the 100 meters at the Olympics and the world championships is called "the fastest man/woman on Earth."
10-second barrier: For many years, the world's best sprinters tried to break the 10-second barrier. No one had ever run the 100 meters in less than 10 seconds, and it became the mark of a truly great sprinter. In 1968, Jim Hines of the United States became the first person to break the barrier, running the race in 9.9 seconds. He improved on that at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, clocking a time of 9.95. Since then, the world record in the event has been broken 12 times, including this past weekend.
How Bolt did it: One of the reasons that sprinters have gotten faster and faster is that training methods have improved dramatically over time. Forty years ago, a 10-second time in the 100-meters was thought to be nearly impossible. This past weekend Bolt beat that mark by nearly half a second, which is a large amount of time in the world of competitive sprinting. Because of advancements in weight training and training practices, runners can become much stronger and faster than before. Bolt and his coaches know how to work hard to reach his maximum potential.
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