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The Fastest Human: How Fast Can Usain Bolt Run?

Stay tuned for an in-depth tour of Bolt's running speed, how he does it, his history, and how he compares to other top speeds in the animal and human worlds

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is known by most people for being the fastest-recorded person on the planet.

During his record-breaking 9.58 second 100m sprint at the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Bolt maxed out at a top speed of 27.33 miles per hour, or 43.99 kilometers per hour.

However, it turns out that there’s more to his success than just his signature pose and iconic smile, as there are interesting stand-out physiological differences between him and other sprinters.

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 (kilometers per hour)
  • 12.42 m/s (meters per second)
  • 2.16 minutes per mile
  • 1.34 minutes per kilometer

What Is The Average Speed of Usain Bolt During a 100m Race?

His average speed during his world record run was 23.35mph.

How Fast Could Usain Bolt Run A Mile?

Usain Bolt has never officially attempted the specific mile distance in a race.

Some estimate he could run close to a four-minute mile. However, since his fitness is tailored towards running much shorter sprinting distances, this might require some additional longer-distance training.

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, crossing the finish line with a time of 36.84 seconds at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

If Bolt could maintain his top speed for 100m with a flying start, he could finish with a time of 8.05 seconds.1Zaldivar, G. (n.d.). Usain Bolt MPH: Breaking Down Amazing Speed from Olympic Sprinter. Bleacher Report. Retrieved March 18, 2024, from https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1283999-usain-bolt-mph-breaking-down-amazing-speed-from-olympic-sprinter#:~:text=Bolt%20ran%20100%20meters%20in

Usain Bolt in his signature pose
Source: Usain Bolt – The Bolt! by Nick Webb licensed under CC BY 2.0

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 world 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 IAAF 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.

Although he did not compete, Bolt believes he could have still won the gold medal if he had run at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.

a gold medal

Is Usain Bolt the Perfect Athelete?

Despite having been the fastest person alive, Usain Bolt’s training and routine have not always been perfect. Post high school, after moving to Kingston at age 17 in 2004 and discovering Burger King and nightclubs, Bolt lapsed slightly in his training.2Usain Bolt: “I would have run under 9.5 seconds with super spikes.” (2021, July 6). The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jul/06/usain-bolt-i-would-have-run-under-95-seconds-with-super-spikes

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.3Usain Bolt: “I would have run under 9.5 seconds with super spikes.” (2021, July 6). The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jul/06/usain-bolt-i-would-have-run-under-95-seconds-with-super-spikes

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.4How Fast Is the World’s Fastest Human? | Britannica. (n.d.). Www.britannica.com. https://www.britannica.com/story/how-fast-is-the-worlds-fastest-human#:~:text=In%202011%20Belgian%20scientists%20used

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.5How does Usain Bolt run so fast? (2015, August 28). BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34089451

Interestingly, although Bolt was formidable at the 400m in his early days, his dislike of long-distance endurance training played a role in pushing him into racing shorter distances.

What Is Usain Bolt’s Fitness Regime?

When training in Jamaica, Usain Bolt uses a combination of speed drills on the track and strength training in the gym to maintain his title as the world’s fastest man, with 6 days of training per week and one rest day.6Usain Bolt Workout Routine. (n.d.). Track and Field Forever. https://www.trackandfieldforever.com/sprint/usain-bolt-workout-routine

Bolt separates his speed training into four sections: starting blocks, acceleration, top end speed, and deceleration.

He spends a total of 90 minutes in the gym every day.

In total, this equates to three hours of training per day. He also has massage sessions to help with recovery.

Is Usain Bolt Retired?

Usain Bolt 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.7Usain Bolt: “I would have run under 9.5 seconds with super spikes.” (2021, July 6). The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jul/06/usain-bolt-i-would-have-run-under-95-seconds-with-super-spikes

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 short-distance running, Bolt considered a career as a professional footballer, playing for 8 months for an Australian Team and scoring in two pre-season friendlies.8Marsden, R. (n.d.). Usain Bolt on Professional Football Career: “It Was Fun While It Lasted.” Bleacher Report. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2816992-usain-bolt-on-professional-football-career-it-was-fun-while-it-lasted

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.9Marsden, R. (n.d.). Usain Bolt on Professional Football Career: “It Was Fun While It Lasted.” Bleacher Report. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2816992-usain-bolt-on-professional-football-career-it-was-fun-while-it-lasted

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.

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.10published, M. S. (2005, May 12). World’s Fastest Plant: New Speed Record Set. Livescience.com. https://www.livescience.com/252-world-fastest-plant-speed-record-set.html

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.11Zaldivar, G. (n.d.). Usain Bolt MPH: Breaking Down Amazing Speed from Olympic Sprinter. Bleacher Report. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1283999-usain-bolt-mph-breaking-down-amazing-speed-from-olympic-sprinter#:~:text=Bolt%20ran%20100%20meters%20in

a cheetah running

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.12published, J. B. (2012, July 30). Usain Bolt vs. The Cheetah: Olympians of the Animal Kingdom. Livescience.com. https://www.livescience.com/21944-usain-bolt-vs-cheetah-animal-olympics.html

Interestingly, dragonflies, the fastest insect, also can travel faster than Bolt, with a top speed of 35mph.13Institution, S. (n.d.). Incredible Insects. Smithsonian Institution. https://www.si.edu/spotlight/buginfo/incredbugs#:~:text=The%20Fastest%20Flying%20Insect%3A%20Dragonflies

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.14published, J. B. (2012, July 30). Usain Bolt vs. The Cheetah: Olympians of the Animal Kingdom. Livescience.com. https://www.livescience.com/21944-usain-bolt-vs-cheetah-animal-olympics.html

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 many slower dog-breeds couldn’t).15Cheetah vs Greyhound, a speed test in slow-motion. (2020, October 20). The Kid Should See This. https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/cheetah-greyhound-speed-test-slow-motion-video 16Pierce, B. (2021, June 25). 30 Slowest Dog Breeds in the World (They Never Hurry!). Puplore.com. https://puplore.com/slowest-dog-breeds/

a greyhound running

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.17Miller, K. (n.d.). Why Even the Fastest Human Can’t Outrun Your House Cat. Wired. Retrieved March 18, 2024, from https://www.wired.com/story/why-even-the-fastest-human-cant-outrun-your-house-cat/#:~:text=Bolt%20ran%20the%20100%20meters

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 relative to the rest of their body.18Miller, K. (n.d.). Why Even the Fastest Human Can’t Outrun Your House Cat. Wired. Retrieved March 18, 2024, from https://www.wired.com/story/why-even-the-fastest-human-cant-outrun-your-house-cat/#:~:text=Bolt%20ran%20the%20100%20meters

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.19Miller, K. (n.d.). Why Even the Fastest Human Can’t Outrun Your House Cat. Wired. Retrieved March 18, 2024, from https://www.wired.com/story/why-even-the-fastest-human-cant-outrun-your-house-cat/#:~:text=Bolt%20ran%20the%20100%20meters

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.20Actually, You Could Have Outrun a T. rex. (2017, July 18). Science. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/tyrannosaur-trex-running-speed

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 reasonably 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.21Toofan, K. (2019, July 24). Discover the Average Human Athlete Running Speed. Engineer Calcs. https://engineercalcs.com/average-human-running-speed/

a Ferrari

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 most of Bolt’s energy is spent fighting aerodynamic drag (only 8% of Bolt’s power is actually used to accelerate).22Lüchinger, B. (2016, August 5). Usain Bolt versus sports cars. Edel & Stark – Blog. https://www.edelstark.com/esmagazine/en/usain-bolt-versus-sports-cars

Bolt does however run faster than the 2014 Google self-driving car, which is capped at 25mph!23Thomas-Mason, L. (2014, July 21). 5 surprising things slower than Usain Bolt. The Mirror. https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/row-zed/5-surprising-things-slower-usain-3890020

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.24New 20mph limit rolls out in central London – find out where it applies | RAC Drive. (n.d.). Www.rac.co.uk. Retrieved March 18, 2024, from https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/news/motoring-news/new-20mph-limit-rolls-out-in-central-london-find-out-where-it-applies/

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.25Usain Bolt vs bicycle 100m race, who wins? (2012, December 16). Road Bike, Cycling Forums. https://www.roadbikereview.com/threads/usain-bolt-vs-bicycle-100m-race-who-wins.297161/ 26Streep, A. (2010, June 7). Who would win in a 100: Usain Bolt or a top sprint cyclist? Outside Online. https://www.outsideonline.com/uncategorized/who-would-win-100-usain-bolt-or-top-sprint-cyclist/#:~:text=In%20his%20most%20recent%20world

In a 100m race with bike gears specifically designed for acceleration, it’s likely the cyclist would win.27Usain Bolt vs bicycle 100m race, who wins? (2012, December 16). Road Bike, Cycling Forums. https://www.roadbikereview.com/threads/usain-bolt-vs-bicycle-100m-race-who-wins.297161/

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.28Cyclists- you vs Usain Bolt in the 100m. (n.d.). TexAgs. Retrieved March 18, 2024, from https://texags.com/forums/48/topics/2938063

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.29Mercuri, S. (2018, September 19). Ioseba Fernandez is the Faster Skater in the World once again. Www.worldskate.org. https://www.worldskate.org/speed/news-speed/2953-ioseba-fernandez-is-the-faster-skater-in-the-world-once-again.html

an ice skater going faster

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.30Harris, A. (2019, August 31). How Fast Do Speed Skaters Go? World Record Holders and Ice vs. Road. https://inlineskateworld.com/how-fast-do-speed-skaters-go-world-record-holders-and-ice-vs-road/

Despite this, they’re just slightly faster, with a world record of 9.37 seconds, just under Bolt’s 9.58.31Masaaki Kobayashi fastest opening 100m in 9.37 during 500m speed skating – Berlin 2003. (n.d.). Www.youtube.com. Retrieved March 18, 2024, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq_wYaXJwcA&ab_channel=Tjarkv

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.32Speed sailing record. (2022, July 28). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_sailing_record

Other FAQs:

Is Mbappe Faster Than Usain Bolt?

Some may have speculated that Kylian Mbabbe is not just the fastest footballer alive, but also the fastest person alive, however, Mbappe’s recent 100m time of 10.9 seconds wouldn’t even put him in the top 400 fastest 100-meter times for 18-year-old boys in 2023.33Usain Bolt teases Kylian Mbappe after 100m time comparison. (2024, March 6). The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/usain-bolt-kylian-mbappe-100m-time-b2508085.html

Can Knighton Beat Usain Bolt’s World Record?

Although Erriyon Knighton, the American sprinter, has the number 4 record for the fastest 200m time behind Bolt, Yohan Blake (Jamaica), and Noah Lyles (USA), he has not yet beaten any of Bolt’s records. However, it should be noted that Knighton has achieved times at age 17 and 18 that Holt didn’t achieve until the age of 21.34https://olympics.com/en/news/erriyon-knighton-can-he-break-usain-bolts-world-record

This sets him in good stead as a potential future new world record breaker and beater of Bolt’s fastest times.

Wrap Up

To learn about some more record-breaking runners, check out our bios on ultrarunners Killian Jornet and Dean Karnazes.

References

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Hailing from Brighton, UK, Felix is a lover of running, cycling, and all things active. When he's not exploring a remote corner of the globe on a bike-packing trip, Felix enjoys meditating, making music, and running as far as his legs will let him!

1 thought on “The Fastest Human: How Fast Can Usain Bolt Run?”

  1. I like your comparison of animals/other transportation!
    Not sure a cat could maintain 30mph for 100m, so I think Bolt would win. 🙂
    Also, he is faster or as fast as the average horse, which runs 25-30mph top speed. That is so cool!
    (There are faster horses bred for running like Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred, though, that go up to 45mph. But being able to run as fast as most horses is amazing!!!)

    Thank you so much for your great articles.

    Reply

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