One hundred years ago, at the Olympic Games in Stockholm of 1912, the world records of 100 meters, 1500 meters and marathon were placed in 10. 5 seconds, 3: 55. 8, and 2: 40: 35, respectively.
Today the records are 9. 59, 03:26 and 2: 03: 30. Clearly, runners are getting faster and faster. In fact, women have been improving at an even higher rate than men, probably because they had few opportunities until the last 50 years.
Since humans have evolved little in the last 100 years, runners, unlike cars, do not get faster, due to more powerful engines. Instead, their improvements depended on a variety of other factors.
"Superiority in sports performance implies the integration of cooperative muscle, cardiovascular and neurological factors,"
-Michael Joyner, MD, co-author of "The Physiology of Champions".
"Superiority in sports performance involves the integration of muscle, cardiovascular and neurological factors that work cooperatively," says Michael Joyner, MD, co-author of an article in the Journal of Physiology entitled "The Physiology of Champions", which it was published just before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Runners themselves use slightly less academic terms. Deena Kastor, reflecting on her record performance (2: 19: 36) in the London Marathon of 2006, says: "My personal best marks come from a combination of mental and physical acuity." On the physical side, I adapted to twenty years On the mental side, it was fun to run with my husband, my training partner and my coach.
The fastest marathon runner in US history, Ryan Hall, with 2: 04: 58, puts more emphasis on mental preparation. "There are many factors that lead to significant performance," says Hall, who is currently training for his second Olympic marathon. "But I think the greatest is the mind.
Physiologists, coaches, statisticians, and runners often list the following reasons to explain the fastest of these times.
From your local 5K marathon to large urban marathons to poorly organized rally races in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, more people are running more than ever. When this happens, many talented athletes come to light. This is particularly true for groups that have been underrepresented previously, that is, women and third-world runners. The Olympic Games no longer belong to teams like the British team that became famous in "Chariots of Fire", in the Olympic Games of 1924.
"More participants from other regions is critical for faster times," says Michael Joyner. "The boy who represents this is Abebe Bikila." Bikila won the Olympic marathons in 1960 and 1964, warning the world about the talent of East African long distance runners.
More opportunity, better prize
Never before have there been so many high-performance races with lots of money prizes. The money can not be compared to what professional soccer, baseball and basketball players offer, but it is amazing for a young boy from Jamaica and Kenya. A veteran racer estimates that the Jamaican Usain Bolt, Olympic champion and holder of the world record in the 100 meters and 200 meters, will win around US $ 12 million this year. That dwarfs the US $ 100. 000 of the prize to the first place in many important marathons, often increased in fees by appearances of the most famous runners. However, in Kenya, with an average annual income of US $ 780, the prizes of the races are enough to make you run long and hard.
Although the physiology has not changed, the training methods did. A century ago, runners only ran around a dirt track or through local forests. Today, he trains more, and more scientifically, than runners ever trained. Some live in height, others sleep in tents at high altitude, both hope to improve the capacity of blood oxygenation. They also use low-gravity tapes (developed by NASA) and heart rate monitors, and religiously perform trunk muscle training and stretching regimens. The sprinters understand as never before the importance of strength training to produce the maximum muscle spring and minimize the contact of the feet on the floor.
In East Africa, European coaches are teaching their riders new workouts that increase the time spent in the pace of the race. "Workouts that make you go very fast, recover, and then go fast again produce important benefits, "says Bill Pierce of the Furman Institute of Career and Science Training (FIRST).
Some experts think that nutrition has played an important role in faster rider rhythms, but all the big runners pay attention to hydration and smart nutrition. Fifty years ago, runners were told to avoid drinking, since it supposedly led to stomach cramps. Now, drinks, gels and bars are carefully formulated with carbohydrates and electrolytes to help maintain resistance. In addition, sprinters and marathon runners understand the importance of recharging carbohydrates and proteins after hard training.The combination replenishes the energy supply, and helps repair and grow muscles.
The Power of the Mind
In the years leading up to his historic one-mile record at 3: 59. 4 on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister was told that the feat was literally impossible. Then, he predicted: "After me, the flood."
He was right. Six weeks later, John Landy had dropped the record to 3: 58. 0, and many others soon followed. A mile in less than four minutes was not a physiological barrier, but a psychological one.
Today's runners are more likely to consult a sports psychologist as well as a nutritionist. The objective? Reduce the anxiety generated by high level training and competition, and to open the mind to new horizons. The famous South African sports scientist, Tim Noakes, M. D., author of the encyclopedic Lore of Running has been perfecting an idea often called "the hypothesis of the central governor". According to Noakes, the brain limits performance, not the legs and the heart.
"So, is it really mind over matter?" He asks in a new article entitled "Fatigue is an emotion derived from the brain". Noakes answers affirmatively. He believes that fatigue is very much an "illusion" created in the mind, it does not come from the muscles. Therefore, "the winning athlete is the one who has illusory symptoms that interfere in the least with actual performance." That is, if you can train your brain to ignore the feeling of fatigue, you can run faster. Noakes delights in quoting Bannister, who once said: "It's the brain, not the heart or the lungs, which is the critical organ."
Right or wrong, Noakes looks a lot like Ryan Hall. "I think fear it's the biggest thing that human beings have in all facets of life, but especially in sports, "says Hall, who is still trying to win his first major marathon." What we're seeing now in marathons is a group of runners who are losing their fear, the absence of fear is the key.
How to become faster
How fast can we run?
In an article in "The Journal of Experimental Biology," In 2008, a Stanford marine biologist compared the run records of dogs, horses and humans, he found that dogs and horses have already reached their biological limit - No horse has run faster than Secretariat in the 1970s -, but human beings still have room to improve The following table shows the times in three Olympic distances - 100 meters, 1. 500 meters, and the marathon - of 1912, and 2012, and the calculation of Denny's glorious career. (Note: There were very few women to include their times in 1912).
100m Men 1912: 10. 5 sec. 2012: 9. 58 sec. Denny: 9. 48 sec. 1500m Men 1912: 3: 55. 8 2012: 3: 26. 0 Denny: 3: 21. 42 Marathon Men 1912: 02: 40: 35 2012: 02: 03: 38 Denny: 02: 00: 47 100m Women 2012: 1049 sec Denny: 10. 39 sec. 1500m Women 2012: 3: 50. 46 Denny: 3: 47. 92 Marathon Women 2012: 02: 15: 25 Denny: 02: 14: 59 * Adapted from "Limits to the running speed of dogs, horses and human beings), "Mark W. Denny. Journal of Experimental Biology, 2008.