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That dashing question

india Updated: Jun 08, 2008 22:24 IST

The fastest human is the one who makes the swiftest dash over 100 metres. This also happens to be the most glamorous track and field event around. (No, sorry, cricket is not a track and field event.) Watching a 100 m sprint can be frustrating as it gets over in a blur. Runners blast off the blocks and by the time you figure out who is who, you’ve got a winner. It is only in slow motion that the full power of the runner manifests itself. Typically, nothing really separates contestants for the first 30-50 m, after which the eventual winner begins to pull away from the pack.

The aptly surnamed Usain Bolt of Jamaica is now the world’s fastest man clocking 9.72 seconds, a race that was run under perfect conditions. But for how long will this record last? The thing is that over 96 years since 1912, the record has been shaved off by only 0.88 seconds — from 10.6 to 9.72 seconds. The first sub-10 second mark was made by Jim Hines when he breasted the tape at 9.95 seconds in 1968. Over the next 40 years, more and more milliseconds have been nipped — but by only 0.23 seconds. So what is the physical limit for a 100 m dash?

Going by the last 40 years, it should take more than 120 years for someone to run under nine seconds. That is, if that someone goes without a little help from his or her friends.