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The running speed of humans and animals has long been a subject of fascination. Certain humans can achieve remarkable speeds and have been improving upon these performances through various training techniques.

Read on to learn more about the top speed of humans and how that compares to the average person, as well as different animals. You’ll also learn about the factors that impact running speed along with things you can do to run faster.

The top speed for men was set by Usain Bolt during the 100-meter sprint during the World Championships in Berlin on August 16, 2009. He finished with a record time of 9.58 seconds, and has been referred to as the best human sprinter of all time.

Florence Griffith-Joyner has held the record for the fastest woman for more than 30 years. On July 16, 1988, she ran the 100-meter dash in 10.49 seconds at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Take a look at how the top speed of humans compares to the average person and that of other animals. The speeds for the average man and woman are calculated using the average running speed per mile in a 5K.

Animal Running speed (MPH)
fastest man 23.35
fastest woman 21.32
average man (age 20–40) 5.9
average woman (age 20–40) 5.0
cheetah 70
horse 40
bear 30
dog 20
cat 30

Several factors can influence running speed. Take these into consideration as you take steps to run faster.

Your clothing

The clothes you wear can affect your speed. For optimum running performance, consider investing in lightweight clothing that fits well and is weather-resistant.

Look for high-quality sweat-wicking fabrics that will keep your body cool and dry. These include nylon, polyester, and bamboo. Other options include polypropylene, spandex, and wool.

It’s also wise to invest in cushioned running socks.

Your shoes

Lightweight shoes that provide support and comfort can help prevent injury.

As shown by this 2019 study, certain types of running shoes may also help you achieve greater speed by improving your running economy, form, and technique.

To get started in your search, check out some of the best running shoes for women and men.

Your weight

Body weight is another factor that can influence your running speed. The more you weigh, the more energy it takes to propel you forward.

This has a lot to do with gravity. Every time you raise a leg off the ground, you’re pulling against gravity. The difficulty increases with the amount of weight your legs are carrying.

If you’re carrying extra weight, it may also affect your VO₂max, which can affect your running performance. VO₂max is the maximum (max) rate (V) of oxygen (O₂) your body is able to use during exercise.

Running can help promote weight loss

Running helps to promote weight loss, so you may find that a lower weight goes hand-in-hand with the ability to run faster. Your body fat percentage can also affect your running time.

If you want to lose weight, it’s important to do so in a healthy manner. Follow a healthy diet that provides optimum nutrition, energy, and protein-building sources.

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Strength and endurance

Strength and speed-endurance training is a key component of a running program. A strong body makes it easier to use correct body mechanics and improve endurance, both of which help to build speed.

Strong legs create more power while a strong upper body and core help you to maintain energy while using correct form.

Do sports to stay active along with bodyweight exercises, weight training, and HIIT workouts. Include tempo runs, hill training, and sprints.

To increase endurance, do at least one long run per week.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to ways you can run faster. While implementing all of these techniques at once may be extreme, you can certainly add a few to your routine every so often.

Ways to boost your running speed:

  • Follow a healthy diet that helps you to maintain and improve your fitness level.
  • Stay hydrated with water and healthy drinks such as coconut water, herbal teas, and electrolyte drinks.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and track performance measurements including body composition.
  • Consider working with a personal trainer to improve your form.
  • Set goals around which you can create your training program. Keep track of your progress, mileage, and personal bests.
  • Do self-massage using your hands or a foam roller. This can help to correct muscular imbalances and release muscle knots.
  • Improve your mobility and range of motion to develop optimum movement patterns, lengthen muscles, and improve flexibility. This also helps to prevent muscles from shortening and tightening.
  • Learn breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic or rhythmic breathing.
  • Stay mentally strong and resilient.
  • Slowly build up your workouts to prevent injury, fatigue, and burnout.
  • Allow for rest days, relaxation, and plenty of sleep.

With the right approach, human beings have an amazing capacity to run quickly. Consider factors that will affect your running speed and make appropriate changes as you see necessary.

Along with strength training, do high-intensity interval, hill, and tempo training. Always work within your limits and slowly build up the intensity of your workouts. Stop your running routine if you develop any pain or injuries.

Keep track of your growth and consider reaching out to a fitness professional if you’d like additional support.