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April 2017
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Running has always been a necessity for humans, even since prehistoric times when the outcome of hunting and war depended on running; running was surviving. In athletics, running is the most popular and followed event.

100m sprint

This is the shortest running race in the Olympic Games. Running is natural to humans so this event is not particularly difficult, however, it becomes complex at a professional level because many factors play a role in one’s success, including physical capabilities like:

  • the ability to accelerate very quickly;
  • increasing and maintaining a high speed;
  • the acquisition of an efficient running technique and precise synergy in moments of contraction and relaxation of the propulsion system.

There are 3 parts to a race:

The start: at the beginning, the sprinter is in a static position on the starting blocks. Being in this position allows them to take best advantage of their explosive skills.

The acceleration: continuing their movement in a low position, the athlete accelerates whilst progressively increasing both the frequency and length of their strides until this speed has become continuous. Subsequently, whilst carrying out this quick and dynamic action, the body straightens out, almost completely. This explosive force eventually becomes elastic and the athlete runs with a constant movement that is now more agile and relaxed.

The extention: after approximately 50m, the sprinter will have reached their maximum speed (the best runners can run up to 12m a second; 43km/h!) and so the actions become relaxed and fluid so as to maintain a constant speed until arriving at the finish line.

Considerations: in competitions, athletes do not always reach their highest speed but instead an ‘optimum’ speed, reached by finding the right balance between the length and frequency of their strides. Their distribution of strength is also important during the entirety of the race and the ‘ability to withstand’ the reached, optimum speed is fundamentally related to 2 factors:

  1. The ability of the central nervous system to ensure, with a very high frequency and for about 10 seconds, maximum neurostimulation of the muscular system during the race.
  2. The speed/quality of the enzymatic processes of the anaerobic alactacid system for the re-synthesis of ATP (adenosine triphosphoric acid).

Men: Usain Bolt (Jamaica): 9.58 seconds in 2009.
Women: Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA): 10.49 seconds in 1988.

200m sprint

A very high speed is also needed for the 200m sprint, however the distance is doubled and so the acceleration phase cannot be as high (also because the start is on a curve). Indeed, accelerating very fast during the first 100m can waste energy and therefore cause a reduction in speed during the next 100m, as well as making it difficult to turn the corner (centrifugal force). 200m sprinters therefore need to be able to resist accelerating to their top speed and need to be capable of distributing their strength. This race requires a lot of alactacid energy, even up to 98%, according to some sources.

Men: Usain Bolt (Jamaica): 19.19 seconds in 2009.
Women: Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA): 21.34 seconds in 1988.

400 metre sprint

This race is equivalent to a whole lap of the track. It is considered a sprinting race as it requires moments of sprinting plus a high, constant speed, kept up throughout the whole race. This event is quite complicated as it requires an average speed to be maintained (as mentioned) without wasting any energy during the initial part, which is done by using a relaxed running technique. A particular quality of 400m runners is their ability to continue pushing themselves, even when fatigue hits them, which is caused by the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles.
Most sports authors agree that the 400m race is completed by using lactic acid as an energy source, making up 30% of the total amount of required energy. Lactic acid is a waste product that effects the efficiency of a runner and which causes the feeling of fatigue. The legs become heavy, the mind blurs and coordination is not as precise. A 400m runner’s psychological requirements are very demanding and this is why this race is sometimes called the ‘killer event’.


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