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The Physics of Running



I'm gonna be honest, I hate running. I love athletic games that require running, but I hate running just to exercise outside of the context of a sport. One of the most dreaded days of the IHS soccer season is the first day of double sessions. We have to run a mile and a half around the track in under 9 minutes and 20 seconds. It's a pretty difficult time to get, especially for those that don't do very much training beforehand. It requires a lot of mental toughness and determination. I can't begin to imagine the training that is required to break Olympic records in long distance running. High level athletes understand the difficulty in running long distance, and in order to better their performance, they consider the physics of running. The basic physics of running are pretty simple. A runner applies a force to the ground that is directed opposite the direction they are running. Then Newton's third law kicks in, and the ground applies and equal and opposite reaction force on the running, causing their body to be propelled upward and forward. In order to break records, runners must consider more than just the basic physics associate with their sport. According to Real World Physics Problems, in a 400m race  "the runner should accelerate as fast as possible for 1.78 seconds. This will enable him to reach a speed near his maximum. He should then maintain this speed for as long as he can. This speed will be such that 0.86 seconds before the end of the race his energy is entirely used up, and after this point is reached his running speed will begin to drop." Pretty crazy to think that runners consider how long to accelerate down to the millisecond. Watch this video to see the world record for the 400m, set by Wayde van Niekerk in Rio in 2016.



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