Great Long-Distance Runners

Usain BoltI got the following information from an article in Popular Mechanics, The Animal Kingdom’s Top Marathoners. It lists the six fastest long distance running species. What I find most interesting is the comparison between the speed of these animals in the short and long distance categories. For the animals that run long distances at the same speed humans do, their short distance speeds blow us away. When it comes to short distance running, we kind of suck—even Usain Bolt.

The reason this is interesting is that our ability to run long distances quickly is how we’ve survived the last million years or so. We can barely catch any animal in the short distance, but we can chase down just about any animal over the course of a day. We tend to think of human survival depending upon our being smart. But we’ve survived as much because we can sweat as anything else.

Speed (mph)
 Animal    Short Dist       Long Dist   
 Ostrich 50 30
 Pronghorn Antelope 55 30
 Camels 40 25
 Humans 27 13
 Dogs[1] 45 10
 Horses 54 10

[1] The article provides a speed of 20 mph for long distance sled dog speeds. Looking elsewhere, this number seems to be wrong and so I put down 10 mph. It is also difficult to know which numbers to use for the short distance speed. Greyhounds can run up to 45 mph, but sled dogs can’t. With humans, we present the fastest short distance runner and the fastest long distance runner. The best short-distance runners are large and the best long-distance runners are small. So to be consistent I put the Greyhound speed in there.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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