In addition to his signature pose and iconic smile, Jamaican runner Usain Bolt is known by most people for being the fastest person on the planet. But what is the story behind Bolt’s record-breaking success? And just how fast can Usain Bolt run?
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth tour of Bolt’s incredible achievements and answer the following intriguing questions:
- What is Usain Bolt’s height, weight and other physical stats?
- What are Bolt’s world records?
- What are Bolt’s most memorable achievements?
- Is Bolt the perfect athlete?
- How can Bolt run so fast?
- Exactly how fast can Usain Bolt run?
- How does Bolt’s speed compare to the world’s fastest plants, animals and machines?
- Is Usain Bolt retired?
Let’s dive in!
Usain Bolt In-Depth Biography
Usain Bolt: Physical Stats
Weight: 94 kg
Height: 1.95 m (6 ft 4.7 in)
Maximum Heart Rate: 200 bpm
Resting Heart Rate: 33 bpm
Body Fat Percentage: 12.9%
Average Hours of Sleep Per Night: 8-10 hours
Usain Bolt: World Records
Bolt holds the title for the fastest 100-meter sprint in 9.58 seconds, as well as the fastest 200-meter sprint in 19.19 seconds.
He was also part of the team that achieved the world’s fastest 400m relay, with a time of 36.84 seconds at the 2012 London Olympics.
If Bolt could maintain his top speed for 100m with a flying start, he could finish with a time of 8.05 seconds.
Timeline of Usain Bolt’s Achievements:
At age 16, Bolt ran a 200m race in 20.13 seconds, ranking him 9th in the world.
Bolt achieved his first 100m world record in 2008 with a time of 9.72 seconds at the Reebox Grand Prix in New York.
A few months later he beat his own record with a time of 9.69 seconds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning gold in the process. It was also in Beijing when Bolt first broke the 200m record with a time of 19.30 seconds.
Before his retirement, Bolt beat his 100m 9.69-second record three more times, with his fastest being 9.58 seconds at the 2009 world championships in Berlin. At the same event, he also set the currently unbeaten 200m record of 19.19 seconds.
Even his second-fastest 100m time of 9.63 seconds remains untouched by any other runner.
Between 2008 and 2017, Usain Bolt won 134 out of 146 races. In addition to this, he’s won 8 Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles.
His achievements have paid off, as Usain Bolt’s net worth is around $90 million.
Is Usain Bolt the Perfect Athelete?
Despite having been the fastest person alive, Usain Bolt’s training and routine have not always been perfect. After moving to Kingston at age 17 in 2004 and discovering Burger King and nightclubs, Bolt lapsed slightly in his training.
He believes that if he had taken it more seriously and had known his potential, he could have won the 200m gold in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
How Can Usain Bolt Run So Fast?
Interestingly, research would suggest that Usain Bolt doesn’t actually have the ideal body for a sprinter. Usain Bolt’s height is quite tall, whereas the fastest sprinters are generally shorter and compact which allows them to accelerate quickly. This becomes very clear when you watch Bolt towering over his competitors on the track.
This means that Bolt is slower accelerating off the line. However, once he reaches top speed his long strides allow him to move faster than his competitors. In fact, Bolt tends to complete his race in 41 steps, which is three or four less than his competitors.
Just how fast can Usain Bolt run? Let’s check out that top speed
Exactly How Fast Can Usain Bolt Run?
Bolt’s top speed during his world record run was 27.33 miles per hour (mph), which he reached around the 60-80m mark. This is equivalent to:
- 44.72 km/h
- 12.42 m/s
- 2.16 minutes per mile
- 1.34 minutes per kilometer
But how does this compare to some of the other speedy organisms that live on our planet?
How Fast Can Usain Bolt Run Compared to Nature’s Top Speeds?
Usain Bolt vs World’s Fastest Plant
The bunchberry dogwood plant fires pollen into the air at a top speed of 7mph, which although relative to its size is extremely fast, doesn’t even come close to Bolt’s speedy 27.33mph.
Usain Bolt vs World’s Fastest Animals
On the other hand, Usain Bolt (and therefore the rest of us humans as well) is no match for the rest of the animal kingdom.
The fastest animal on land (the cheetah, top speed 70mph), the fastest animal in water (the black marlin, top speed 80mph), and the fastest bird (the peregrine falcon, top speed 200mph) are all much faster.
In fact, it would take a cheetah only 5.8 seconds to complete a 100m race, compared to Bolt’s 9.58 seconds.
Even the world’s fastest bird on land, the ostrich, would be likely to take home the medal in a race against Bolt, topping out at 40mph, nearly 40% faster.
Interestingly, dragonflies, the fastest insect, also can travel faster than Bolt, with a top speed of 35mph.
Usain Bolt vs Other Animals
Despite its tiny size, the common brown hare can run at a speedy 45mph due to its powerful back legs, making it considerably faster than Bolt.
The greyhound, with a speed of 45mph and rapid acceleration, can run 100m in 5.33 seconds, beating Bolt by a long shot. At 38mph, even a tiny Jack Russell could beat Bolt (although there are a whole bunch of dog-breeds that couldn’t).
If we compare Bolt to a domestic cat, it’s a close call. Cats can run up to 30mph, about 2.5mph faster than Bolt’s top speed, so they’re likely to win over a short 100m distance. However, they’re designed as ambush predators and can’t sustain that pace for long, so there’s a good chance Bolt would win in a 200m race.
You could be mistaken for thinking that the reason why all these animals can run faster is that most of them have four legs, however, it’s mostly down to air resistance and drag, as well as having long legs.
Usain Bolt’s height is a disadvantage here as it causes him more drag. Weight also plays a key factor, with the optimal weight for running on land being around 110lb, compared to Bolt’s 210lbs. It’s no surprise then that a cheetah weighs around 110lbs.
Usain Bolt Vs T-rex
Surprisingly, despite its fearful size and huge legs, it’s estimated that the T-rex had a top speed of somewhere between 11 mph and 30 mph.
As Usain Bolt’s top speed is 27.33 mph, this means we can’t know for sure if Usain Bolt could outrun a T-rex, but there’s a pretty good chance he could. As the average human sprinting speed is around 15mph, there’s a small chance the rest of us could as well.
How Fast Can Usain Bolt Run Compared to Other Forms of Transportation?
Usain Bolt vs Car
Despite his rapid acceleration, almost any modern car would beat Usain Bolt in a 100m race, with the fastest sports cars crossing the line in under 5 seconds. These cars are designed to minimize wind resistance, whereas only 8% of Bolt’s power is actually used to accelerate, whilst most of his energy is spent fighting aerodynamic drag.
Bolt does however run faster than the Google self-driving car, which is capped at 25mph!
Furthermore, a lot of urban speed limits are now 25mph or below, meaning Bolt could outpace the average New York speed limit, or might even be caught by a speed camera in London.
Usain Bolt vs Cyclist
If Bolt went up against a top-level Olympic cyclist using a single-gear track bike in a standing start 100m race, it would likely be an incredibly close call.
Many believe that due to Bolt’s quicker acceleration off the line, he would reach the 100m mark first. However, one simulation suggested the cyclist would win by 0.16 seconds. With such close predictions, it’s impossible to tell.
In a 100m race with bike gears specifically designed for acceleration, it’s likely the cyclist would win.
In a 200m race, we can also be fairly sure the cyclist would win, as they could easily get up to speed and overtake Bolt, with the fastest 250m on a bike being 17.302 seconds, compared to Bolt’s 19.19 seconds for the 200m.
Usain Bolt vs Rollerblader
Rollerbladers can travel up to 77mph when traveling downhill. On the other hand, due to slow acceleration, the 100m standing start world record is 9.684 seconds, just shy of Bolt’s 9.58 seconds.
Usain Bolt vs Iceskater
Short track speed skaters can sometimes surpass 35mph, and downhill skaters can reach up to 77mph. However, from a standing start 100m race on flat ground, it’s a much closer call due to the fact that ice-skaters accelerate slower.
Despite this, they’re just slightly faster, with a world record of 9.37 seconds, just under Bolt’s 9.58.
Usain Bolt vs Kayak
The 200m kayak world record is 29 seconds, which is much slower than Bolt despite there being a 4-person team in the boat!
Usain Bolt vs Sailboat
Whilst the average sailboat only travels less than 10mph, the top speed record is 75mph, much faster than Bolt.
Is Usain Bolt Retired?
Usain Bolt is retired from his professional running career after tearing his hamstring in 2017 during the London world championships. Whilst he has considered a comeback, he’s decided against it due to the difficulties of training post-injury.
Despite this unfortunate injury, Bolt still looks back with optimism, stating in an interview with the Guardian: “When I look back I have no regrets. I did extremely well in my career. True, it didn’t end on the greatest note but the legacy I left is wonderful.”
After retiring from running, Bolt considered a career as a professional footballer, playing for 8 months for an Australian Team and scoring in two pre-season friendlies.
Whilst he’s stated that he enjoyed being part of a team and trying something different, he turned down the professional contract that was offered to him, opting instead to focus on career pathways outside of sport.
Despite the fact that he’s technically retired, Bolt still trains every day of the week and is aiming to improve his lung capacity even further.
Usain Bolt’s net worth remains sky-high, as he’s managed to turn his image into a huge franchise, working with international brands as part of advertising campaigns.
To learn about some more record-breaking runners, check out our bios on ultrarunners Killian Jornet and Dean Karnazes.