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What is the toughest world record to break? You need to look no further than the men’s 200-meters. Before Michael Johnson broke Italian Pietro Mennea’s time the then World Record of 19.72 had stood for 17 years.
But the real answers of the difficult to break the deuce world record lies in the psychology rather than physiology. Of course, ridiculous speed is needed to even approach 19.32 range at 200-meters but that is just the beginning of things.
Before MJ broke the 200 record it was a tweener race and not much attention was paid to the race. There are 100 and 400 runners but neither group of runner spent a great deal of focus and resources on the 200.
MJ changed the face of the game; he brought sexy back to the 200-meters. His performance at the 1996 Atlanta Games with the big clock displaying 19.32 is an Olympic moment. And more importantly, many of today’s pro runners were in high school at the time. This feat shaped track’s perception.
In the past many of the prolific 200-meter runners were 400-meter runners that were dropping down an event. They were fast, but lacked the crazy speed required to deliver 9.99 in an open 100-meter race.
The 200 takes a unique blend of pure speed, endurance, and incredible curb running. Michael Johnson boasted a personal best of 10.09 in the 100-meters, which he ran way back in 1994. What that time tells us is if he had focused solely on the 100 then Michael probably could have produced a sub-10 second time. He shied away from the 100 after graduating Baylor because he battled injuries while training for the race.
Many of the old school 100-meter runners were notorious for despising the 200-meters. Why focus on the 200 when you can run half as far and get paid twice as much? The big money and fame belongs to the “The World’s Fastest Man” title, which typically goes to the 100-meter Olympic or World Champion.
The constant focus and mental energy required to break the 200 is steep and that’s why it makes the 200 the toughest world record to break.
About the Author
Jay Hicks of PreraceJitters.com, a.k.a. Track Evangelist is a former Missouri high school state champion at 400-meters, an all-conference 800-meter runner at Baylor University, and track’s most outrageous blogger.