Would You Race A Random Stranger In A One Mile Race For $1 Million?

The catch? Your life is on the line, and you could be up against your gran...or Grant Fisher

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We’ve all heard the saying “big risk, big reward,” but is there a line to be drawn where the risk begins to outweigh the rewards, and it’s no longer worth it?

Well, the running community has taken the popular forum LetsRun by storm with a hypothetical big risk, big reward scenario.

Let’s take a look at the scenario we’re dealing with: 

“A random American is selected, it could be anyone from your Gran to Grant Fisher. Whoever it is, you must race them in the mile on the track. If you beat them you get $1 million, if you lose however, you die. Do you take the challenge?”

Now, right away, some people wouldn’t even consider taking on the challenge.

Takingadns was the first to reply and shut the idea down immediately, “Probably not, even though the odds would be in my favor. $1M wouldn’t change my life too much, but dying would.”

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Many others agreed with their sentiment:

Vaporflew said, “Agreed that $1 million is not worth the risk in a head to head competition, however I would accept the same terms for getting top 3 in a field of 30 random Americans.”

Fish Backwards agreed saying, “The one million would drastically change my life, but I still don’t think I’d do it. It’s too high of a risk, though statistically I would surely win the money.”

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These responses were as expected, as some people may not believe in their ability to run a relatively fast mile, don’t like the risk of going against someone like Grant Fisher, or just don’t think $1 million would be life-changing enough to risk their lives.

Many more would actually consider taking on the challenge but wanted to read the fine print first.

Yared N simply asked, “Can I have a personal pacer the entire way?”

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Whereas another poster had a bit more elaborate thought process: “I’m sure that if I were seriously being offered this proposition, I would want to do my research (find out whether all Americans including infants and elderly people are in the pool) and also look up as many statistics as I could find about what percentage of Americans are disabled or obese.”

“As far as reading the fine print, I would want to know, would my death be a painless death, if I were to lose the bet?”

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Fine fine print was quite keen on, well, reading the fine, fine print, “But are there consequences for the randomly selected person losing? If not, he/she throws the race, and we go 50-50. Free money for both of us.

“Or will the random person die when I send him/her home DEVASTATED? In that case, I make the random person pay me a million for declining the race.”

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And then we have those who would easily accept the challenge, quite confident in their fitness and speed.

“Yes. Odds are overwhelmingly in my favor that the random selection is not a runner and not in shape at all. I see a lot of people when I’m out, not at my gym, looks to me like most people are overweight. While I’m a Marathon/Ultra runner I am confident I could beat the average American in a one mile race to the death. Lets goooooooooooo,” said Mask off.

Definite yes for me, was, well, definitely a yes, “Absolutely. I usually finish in the top 3-6% of road races I run from 5K thru marathon. If I can always beat 94+% of runners, I’m sure I can easily beat 99+% of people. Only a small percentage of Americans run competitively. Definitely worth the risk. In fact, it isn’t much risk at all.

Another user said, “Average American can’t run a mile. I would take the challenge 10 times. Risk of death like 1% or less.”

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How fast do you likely need to run a mile to win this challenge?

Say you got the chance to accept this challenge, should you? How fast would you likely need to run a mile to earn that $1 million prize?

We found some data from 2022, which shows the mile times needed to be ranked in the top 1% and top 50% of male and female runners of various age groups.

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Top 1% MaleTop 50% MaleTop 1% FemaleTop 50% Female
17-21 Years6:308:187:489:51
22-26 Years6:308:457:4810:18
27-31 Years6:398:577:5410:51
32-36 Years6:399:247:5711:33
37-41 Years6:489:458:3012:03
42-46 Years7:039:548:42No Data
47-51 Years7:12No Data8:48No Data
52-56 Years7:21No Data9:30No Data
56-61 Years7:39No Data9:51No Data
Via Army Physical Fitness Test & Medical News Today

Based on these times, barring you don’t get pitted against a pro, if you train regularly, you have a good chance at winning this hypothetical challenge.

So, would you run the mile in hopes of winning $1 million, or is the risk not worth the reward?

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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