How long could you keep it up?

100m breakdowns for the major world records

It’s only natural: you watch the exploits of the most successful athletes on the planet bombing round the track and think to yourself: “I wonder how long I could keep up with those steeplechasers?

The answer, almost certainly, is ‘not very long’. Although in the case of the steeplechase specifically it’s ‘about 80m’ before you’re left in the dust clambering over a barrier with the elegance of an expired eel.

As for the other races, detailed below is a table that shows the average pace for an average 100m during the world record performance for the core athletics events (i.e. the record time divided by the number of hundreds of meters in the race). The pace most people jog round the local park means they’re covering 100m in around 30 seconds. If you run a 4 hour marathon time, you’re looking at 34 seconds per 100m. A 3 hour 26 miles is around 25.5 seconds per 100m. That should give you some idea of these paces without actually having to get off the sofa.

If of course you’re the kind of person that actually has form running round the track then crack out the spikes, fire up the stopwatch and see if you can match any of these…


EVENTMen's TimesWomen's Times
Sprint Hurdles11.63612.200
400m H11.69513.085
3,000m Steeplechase15.78817.759

The most striking detail seems to be that the time to cover a generic 100m distance in both the 110m and 400m hurdles for men took a very similar amount of time, something not remotely matched in the women’s equivalent or the flat races (obviously). Hurdles are democratising apparently if you’re running fast at them and possess a willy.

Other than that, it’s simply a monument to the incredible feats of our most loved and most accomplished athletes. Except the questionable records from the 80s, obviously, but then the record books are the record books…

You can of course also compare yourself to any of your favourite athletes times using a) Google and b) a calculator. Enjoy!