Which is harder to accomplish?
A sub 10 second 100 meters, or a sub 4 minute Mile?
That answer is easy, because the 4 minute Mile (and world record) was set in 1954 by Roger Bannister, whereas the sub 10 second 100m was set in 1968.
In June 20, 1968, Jim Hines, Charles Greene and Ronnie Ray Smith all ran 9.9 HT (10.03, 10.10, and 10.14 respectively). But at the Mexico City Olympics on October 14, 1968, Jim Hines ran an official 9.95 FAT.
Since those dates, how many have actually broken those barriers?
The Sub-4 Alphabetic Register shows 1303 runners have broken the 4 minute mile. (as of Oct 2013)
The IAAF All-Time list shows only 90 men have broken 10.00 officially. (excluding Wind-aided and known drug-aided performances)
I find these numbers surprising and it certainly brings up a good discussion on the ability of human physiology improvement.
Is endurance based training more effective? Is the secret really volume, intensity and biomechanics?
Maybe a 9.99 is really a high bar to achieve, but the list shows only 140 men breaking 10.10 seconds.
And I won’t even count the number of women who have broken 11.00 seconds either. (surprisingly, that number is 78).
For most of us, these are really high goals to achieve. Perhaps a slightly lesser goal may be in the cards, such as an Olympic A or B qualifier. But that would mean being “second best” or “being happy just to make the Games”. Maybe that is the problem with Canadian Track and Field (and perhaps UK athletics). You need a cut-throat, take no prisoners approach. Silver is not good enough. Either go Gold, or go Home.
So, what does it take to win medals, especially gold medals at the Olympics or World Championships? That would take an entire book or two, but one of the best responses is from Kevin Tyler in my Freelap Friday Five. (See question/answer number 5)
In closing off this rant, it’s onwards and upwards, goal setting, and setting newer, loftier goals.
Great post! I think, the goal should be to break 10 seconds, aim high and you may land at an Olympic A or B qualifier. As far as the UK and Canadian programs, I think there are a great deal of factors which contribute to an entire nations success in any given sport. In my opinion, public interest and support is among the most important factors. What I mean by this is not necessarily money, it’s a general culture and attitude of love / respect for the sport from the public. The countries with the most successful track athletes are those countries who’s public favors track above other sports. And so it goes for Soccer, basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Ping-Pong, etc. Take Basketball for example, in the early 90’s outside North America, basketball was not a particularly favored sport, however due to globalization, the dream-team at the Olympics and other reasons, other countries slowly began to accept and favor Basketball as a top-ranking sport within their country. As a result, the more recent Olympics are not so one sided for the American team, and the quality of foreign NBA players has risen exponentially. I guess what I’m saying is if you want your country to have great athletes in a particular sport, then your country first needs to really love that sport, and the young kids will intrinsically feel this public support and grow up with that dream and goal of becoming a great athlete within that sport. Sure that’s just one piece of the puzzle, but I believe it’s the foundation piece. It’s reminiscent of an often quoted answer to the question why does America no longer have any great heavyweight boxers? – Because they all grow up wanting to become professional football players. Without public interest and support for boxing a great deal of future prospects no longer even entertain the possibility of joining that sport.
Steven Sashen says
I agree that a sub-10 100m is harder, but to REALLY validate that we’d need to have some stats about how many people are trying to run either a sub-10 100m or sub-4 mile.
So there are now 14x more sub-4 milers than sub-10 100m runners… but if there are 14x (or more) athletes with some reasonable attempts at a sub-4 mile, then the ratio of “elite” (however we define that) to “super elite” (sub-10 or sub-4) is the same.
That would suggest that BOTH goals are equally difficult for the relevant athletes, don’t you think?
Matt Bogdanowicz says
Harder to accomplish but not as impressive.
I feel the question is a bit misleading and I’ll try to explain but make no mistake I would be making this argument if the reverse were true.
If we were running 7 second 100’s and were truly built for speed, this question may be more along the lines of which is harder to accomplish a sub 8 sec. 100 meters or a sub 5 minute mile?
There would be less humans capable of a sub 5 minute mile which would be harder to accomplish but I wouldn’t say it were more impressive a performance because we would be inferior endurance athletes.
Harder to accomplish but not as impressive.
Because the human as a species is built for endurance you will find more sub 4’s.
Which is harder to accomplish? To truly answer that question you have to look at that from another perspective.
If we were built for speed we would be running 7.58 for 100 meters by now. As amazing as Bolt is, he is not truly built for speed; he has just overcome certain disadvantages compared to most other humans. We hold and advantage over most other species when it comes to stamina and endurance. NOT speed.
I could argue that a 5 minute mile is as impressive a performance as a 10 flat 100 meters when looking at the larger picture. For a human, it is almost certainly more difficult to achieve a sub 10, but a sub 10 is not more impressive a performance than a sub 4 minute mile in its right. There is a difference. We are talking about what’s more difficult to accomplish compared to what is truly a more impressive performance. Accomplishment does not equal impressiveness.
We are inferior in the sprinting realm, and so 9.58 is much more difficult to accomplish for us. However it is not as impressive as a 3:49 mile as an example.
A tiger can carry 1200lbs 10’ up a tree, an eagle can pick up and fly away with something 4 times its bodyweight, a gorilla can lift over ten times its bodyweight and an African elephant can carry over 15,000lbs – Impressive most certainly! Yet, it is much harder for an African elephant to climb a tree with 1200+lbs. I think we would all find that a much harder accomplishment. Again, accomplishment does not equal impressiveness. I’m impressed by the miracle performances they are truly built for.
The reason there are so many more sub 4 milers isn’t because it is harder to accomplish than a sub 10 second 100 meters, even though it is just as impressive if not more so, it is because we are genetically predisposed for it.
Even Bolt has more endurance than most other animals in nature, he just happens to be on the extreme human end when it comes to how quickly we can self propel our bodies over 100-400 meters. If the 100 or 200 didn’t exist as races and Bolt were trained professionally from a young age to be a middle distance runner, he would be running maybe a 9:00 2 mile by now. Now that would be much more impressive to me then watching him run a sub 10.
As for human potential in the sprints or distances, it is a difficult argument to make. Perhaps we are about 96% at best for both sprints and distances. Potential -9.19 100 meter/ 3:35 mile/ 1:58 marathon.
It may be harder for us to accomplish a sub 10 second 100 meter but it will never be more impressive than the incredible genetic ability we posses to run a sub 4 minute mile. Some may say that is a matter of opinion, but I beg to differ- running a sub 10 second 100 meters is like forcing a 370 pound muscled up strongman to swim 100 meters for time. Of course it is difficult, but no matter his accomplishment it will fall short of how impressive he is on the power lifting stage.
I don’t mean to diminish all those incredibly fast sprinters and their performances that exist, because their accomplishments and hard work are well deserved.
I believe the human body is at its best when performing at what it was truly meant to do. I love watching sprinters and it is amazing, but humans are not primarily sprinters and never will be. We are limited by our design and form.
A greyhound can reach 45mph in just its first 6 strides and can easily run 100 meters in 5.33 seconds! On the other extreme a Siberian husky sled dog covering 70 miles in 6 hours is just as impressive. Training each to excel in something they truly weren’t designed for may prove interesting sport but whatever the outcome of attempting to find out how fast a Siberian husky can cover 100 meters or a greyhound running a half marathon it will always pale in comparison to that miracle athletic performance they achieve in their respective areas.
The same goes for humans. The sprint times we have achieved over the decades continue to validate how poorly we perform when it comes to pure speed and power. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for sprinters, because obviously certain body types wont’ be able to compete against the best middle distance or distance runners in the world no matter how hard they train and sprinting is certainly where they should compete and excel- against other sprinter types.