The World’s Fastest Man Has Never Run a Mile

Jamaica's Usain Bolt is planning his campaign with the aim of defending his 100m, 200m and 4x100m Olympic crowns in Brazil

The world’s fastest man and the world’s couch potatoes share something in common.

They both demur when asked to run four times around the track.

Charles Bethea speculated on Usain Bolt’s mile time in a piece at The New Yorker. Bolt owns the world records for the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and for the 300 at altitude close to sea level. But his recorded times in the 400 (45.28) and especially 800 (2:10) make clear that although he could run as a rabbit at distance he could never keep up the pace. He runs just about two seconds off the world record once around the track. He falls short by nearly 30 whole seconds twice around. In other words, the best high school boy crosses the finish line just before him on his best day in the 400; a decent high school girl beats him every day in the 800.

Speed is fleeting. Endurance sticks around.

Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954 and 45 years later Hicham El Guerrouj improved on that by about 17 seconds by setting the current world record of 3:43.13. Could the fast-twitch Jamaican come close to rivaling the record of the slow-twitch Moroccan?

“Bolt’s agent, Ricky Simms, won’t say whether he believes that his client could run a mile in less than five minutes,” Bethea writes. “But Simms confirmed, over e-mail, that the world’s greatest sprinter has, in fact, never tried running that far: ‘Usain has never run a mile.’”

Bolt sticks to what he knows in Rio. He defends his Olympic gold medals in the 100 on August 13, the 200 on August 16, and the 4×100 on August 18. The 6-0 sprinter at the Summer Games leaves the long stuff to short, slighter men.


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