In the world of sprinting, no one does it better than Usain Bolt. Despite criticisms early in his career about form and focus, none could question his raw talent. As his career developed, Bolt began to leave even those faults in the dust. Today, he has cemented his position as the world’s fastest man.
Whether you’re a young runner getting ready to toe the line for the first time, or a seasoned sprinter looking to improve your times, who better to learn from than Bolt? With that in mind, we’ve broken down some of his best performances to give you the anatomy of a Usain Bolt race.
The Buildup: Running his hands through his hair, striking his famous pose and smiling all the way into the blocks, Bolt may seem like he’s goofing around, but it’s actually a key part of his success. Though it may not look like it, Bolt is getting into his most comfortable and effective running mentality. In races that last only seconds, having the right mindset can often determine the winner well before the finish.
The Start: When Bolt settles into his blocks and takes his mark, his trademark smile hardens into silent focus. Once set, his head stays down in anticipation, and he’s ready to explode off the line as the gun fires. In almost every race − aside from his disqualification in Daegu − Bolt avoids the temptation to guess on the gun. Instead, he lets his senses tell him when to spring into motion.
The Drive Phase: Watch Bolt when he’s alongside other sprinters at the beginning of a race. He seems to pick his head up and run upright earlier than the others. For most runners, this would be a fatal flaw in form, but for his size and stride length, Bolt’s timing is actually ideal. What’s more, his transition from the hard-pushing, high-torque drive phase to his wide-open, top-end speed is so smooth and effective it can be hard to detect. But it’s usually at this point in the race that he starts to pull away.
The High Gears: Many of Bolt’s races were won around the first 50 meters − this is where he seemingly shifts to a faster gear that no one can match. His already long stride lengthens even more without losing leg speed, and he rapidly pulls away from the pack. Though his size does play a big role in his speed potential, it’s his ability to run at the highest level of efficiency for his body that gives him such an advantage over other runners.
The Finish: Aside from his famous pre-finish line celebration in 2008, Usain Bolt is also the model for how to end a race as well. In his best performances for 100m and 200m finals, Bolt rarely slows up through the finish and often keeps running through the turn after crossing the line. Not only does this prevent injury in slowing down more gradually, but it also saves him precious seconds for his final results.
These are some of the most notable components of a successful Usain Bolt race. What do you think makes him so fast race after race? Feel free to share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter or in the comment box below.