Usain Bolt of Jamaica just set the world record in a 100 meter footrace at 9.58 seconds. 9.58. That’s 23.35 miles per hour — on foot. The next to last 20 meters of the race peaked at over 27 mph. Let’s give this achievement some perspective.

10.0 was first run in 1960.
9.95 was first run in 1968 (8 years to drop 0.05 s)
9.86 was first run in 1991 (23 years to drop 0.9 s)
9.79 was first run in 1999 (8 years to drop 0.07 s)
9.69 was first run in 2008 (9 years to drop 0.10 s)
9.58 was first run earlier today (exactly 1 year to drop 0.11 s)
9.49 — ?

This is a reminder to everyone to extrapolate wildly from these data to see when a runner will instantaneously cross the finish line.

Of course, anyone who saw Bolt’s Beijing performance knew he was capable of more, with some speculating 9.50 or even 9.40. In a recent interview, American record holder Tyson Gay has often said that he wouldn’t be surprised to see 9.5 fall sometime soon. It’s looking more and more likely to happen within my lifetime. Bolt himself thinks that 9.4 is possible but not much more than that, whatever that means. Amazing.

I’m pretty sure Bolt can set the WR in the 200 m as well in Berlin, though Bolt himself knows his training has been more focused on the 100 m race at the expense of the 200 m. I look forward to seeing that!


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