Usain Bolt and Paul Tergat, striding slowly


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A couple of weeks ago, I asked if anyone had footage of fast runners running slowly. The reason: I was curious to see whether the well-known fact that fast runners take rapid strides is (a) because of the way they run, or (b) because of the speed they run at. The Runblogger, Pete Larson, just sent me a couple of great links showing two of fastest runners ever, jogging along comfortably: Usain Bolt and Paul Tergat.

My rough calculations showed Bolt taking 18 steps in 6.7 seconds, for a cadence of 161, and Tergat taking 8 steps in 2.8 seconds, for a cadence of 171. You can also watch Tergat at 1/3 speed here. For the same 8 steps, I get 8.5 seconds, for a cadence of 169 — so let’s say about 170 for Tergat.

The point? Just because they run their Olympic races with a relatively rapid cadence (257 for Bolt!) doesn’t mean they maintain that same cadence when they’re jogging along comfortably. (Okay, I promise I’m done with this topic, at least for a little while!)


7 Replies to “Usain Bolt and Paul Tergat, striding slowly”

  1. Bolt is about 8% taller which means that his legs could be about 5% longer. Can this explain the 5% difference in cadence?

  2. Hello Alex,

    I came across your blog recently when trying to find information about the topic of the months – stride rate. Looking at the magic number of 180 and at my own rate, which is more at 170 I got a bit worried and tried to increase it – but realized that I would be force to make baby steps, as I am a rather slow runner.(5:30 min / km). When I run faster, my stride rate goes up.

    I wonder how speed influences your running form. For example, when running 5:30 min / km my knee hub will be different. As well the movement of my lower leg than when running with a higher pace.

    Do you know whether there are studies regarding this subject?

    Thanks a lot for posting all that stuff!!!!

    YouYou, Montreal

  3. You can go on on this topic Alex! I am so glad that someone finally says (and shows) that cadence and speed are intimately linked, and that the magic number of 180 is … well… relative to the speed that you are going. 180 when I run my half-marathon in 1h26, no problem. 180 when I run 10k with my girlfriend in 1h, that’s just doesn’t feel right.

  4. I think Tergat’s heels do come down, but it’s hard to tell because the heel of his shoe is the same color (white) as the background. Running without ever letting your heels come down would seem to be a recipe for calf/Achilles problems.

    One thing I like about these videos is how both of these guys still land on the forefoot with ankle roughly under the knee when running slowly. The next big topic that needs to be addressed is how foot strike changes with speed – clearly Bolt and Tergat do not become heel strikers when they are running easy.

  5. It seems Tergat is poing for the camera. Note: there is very little ankle flex on push off and also the rather large “bounce” this running style gives him. I suspect this is not an efficient stride for Tergat.

    He may run this way for the camera in a gym. I suspect if we catch him at the 8 mile mark of an easy run – his stride would be significantly different than what we see here. …more ankle flex, with a longer stride and quicker stride

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