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It's All Relative: Racial Records in 100m Dash
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It’s hard for humans to evaluate data from two different perspectives at once. For example, let’s take another look at my old reliable data source, men’s 100 meter sprint records.

Poking around at the Wikipedia page on National Records in Athletics, I come up with these estimates of racial records (I am no doubt missing some):

West African: 9.58 (Jamaica)Southwest African: 9.86 (Namibia)South East Africa: 9.89 (Zimbabwe)European: 9.92 (France)Australia Aborigine-White Mix: 9.93East Asian: 10.00 (Japan)East African: 10.26 (Kenya)Pacific Islander: 10.26 (Fiji)South Asian: 10.30 (India)Papuan: 10.40 (Papua New Guinea)

As of ten days ago (it’s currently prime time for track and field, so this probably has changed), 81 men had run under 10.00 seconds in the 100m dash, and all but two were black. So, that’s a big difference.

On the other hand, consider the difference between the best time of Usain Bolt of Jamaica (the world record of 9.58 seconds) and the two Indians who have run India’s national record time. Now, India is not a very sports-oriented society, but the difference is still only 0.72 seconds, or well under 10%. So, compared to, say, tortoises and hares, human racial groups are pretty similar at sprinting.

On the other other hand, these racial differences really do make a difference in the real world. 

It’s hard to keep all of that straight in one’s head simultaneously, so most people don’t. It’s easier just to assume that a person who understands things you don’t must be evil.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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  1. I am sure that if they were racing to catch a wife, then it matters. Perhaps the fastest runners also get to school earlier and thus become more intelligent and can go on to be hedge fund managers.

  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    But fastest over what distance? If the race is to catch a wife, it depends on how much of a head start she has. Running to school is a mid-distance race. While West Africans dominate short distances (100 m) and East Africans dominate long distances (the marathon, etc.), Eurasians do pretty well in middle distances (the mile, etc.).


  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I've always wanted you to comment on the fact that Italian Pietro Mennea was the world record holder in the 200 meter sprint from 1979 to 1996. His time of 19.72, or two 100M 9.86 splits, was faster than the 100M record until Carl Lewis ran 9.86 in 1991.

    Wikipedia says Mennea admitted using HGH much later, but I can find no corroboration for that anywhere — and know of no one using HGH in the 1970s.

    The flying Italian! And in the 1980 Olympics 200M final, Allan Wells of Scotland was second.

    Outliers? Apparently.

  4. Why is India unathletic?

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Steve, if you want to go deeper, then just jump onto wikipedia and note that wiki lists <10 sec runners by continent they represent. What is surprising is that most of the runners represent a country in north/central america. So if somebody tells you that it's the 'air' of the African continent that makes them run so fast, jut tell them that most of the runners were not even born in Africa, let alone spent considerable time there.

  6. But on the other hand, Indians trump all others when it comes to selling umbrellas outside the stadium.
    I don't follow track and field at all, but I make a bold prediction that the 100, 200 and 400 will be won by blacks. The 800 and 1500 will be the most blended and the 5000, 10000 and marathon will be won by east Africans. Oh, and the whites will win the throwing events

  7. "So, compared to, say, tortoises and hares, human racial groups are pretty similar at sprinting."

    No. If you race an average Nigerian and an average Hindu, Nigerian will leave him in the dust.

  8. Menea's 19.72 in the 200m in 1979? was set in Mexico City at 7200 or so feet. Sprinters go faster at higher altitudes, with about 800 meters being the breakeven point. At longer distances, times get slower. Menea's mark was far ahead of its time, much like Jim Hines's 9.95 in the 100m at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and Bob Beamon's famous 29'2" in the long jump. The sea level equivalent of Menea's 19.72 would have been around 20 flat.

    Still, Menea was a fast guy. He made the finals of the 200m in four straight Olympics, which is impressive.

  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "The Olympic gold medallist and BBC commentator said: 'Over the last few years, athletes of Afro- Caribbean and Afro-American descent have dominated athletics finals.

    It's a fact that hasn't been discussed openly before. It's a taboo subject in the States but it is what it is. Why shouldn’t we discuss it?'"

  10. Armin Hary,a German,ran 10s flat(hand timed) in 1960.This was on a cinder track,wearing primitive running shoes,using primitive training methods and,for all I know,ingesting primitive stimulants.

    What times would Hary be running today?

  11. I've been watching the trials the last couple nights and it seems that yes, the 800 meters is the racial line.

    Does it seem to anyone else that the obviously mulatto athlete is becoming the norm, especially among the women?

  12. The explanation for West African excellence in sprinting, etc., should pose no problem for the clever race-Marxist. Africans dominate running events because they are athletically better than whites. Whites dominate the sports other sports because they are morally inferior, and cheat.

  13. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Menea's 19.72 in the 200m in 1979? was set in Mexico City at 7200 or so feet. Sprinters go faster at higher altitudes, with about 800 meters being the breakeven point

    Hmmm, lower air density means less resistance from the air? Or maybe the slightly lower weight since that is an inverse square law. Or maybe both effects.

    And, they can hyperventilate before starting so the lower oxygen content is not so important?

  14. "It's a fact that hasn't been discussed openly before. It's a taboo subject in the States but it is what it is. Why shouldn’t we discuss it?'"

    1 minute mark

  15. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Of course, in real life back to cave man days, the ability to run fast is of minimal value. The most important physical attributes were probably upper body strength, endurance, and hand eye coordination. Given our low speed compared to animals – its not much use in hunting, war, or fighting in the tribe.

  16. NOTA says:

    Both parts of this insight are important–the sprinters from slower groups are still damned fast, but the way to bet is that the next Olympic sprinting champion will be west african in ancestry. Similarly, black physicists and chemists are damned smart, even if the way to bet is that the next nobel prizewinner will be Ashkenazi.

  17. "'So, compared to, say, tortoises and hares, human racial groups are pretty similar at sprinting.'

    No. If you race an average Nigerian and an average Hindu, Nigerian will leave him in the dust."

    Yes, but by seconds not by hours, as would be the case if a hare raced a tortoise. Which was precisely Steve's point.

    Why don't you try reading what Steve wrote instead of what you think he wrote?

  18. As I said put your kid in a sport like swimming, whites dominate that with a few latin exceptions like Brazil or a few asian exceptions China or Japan.

  19. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "Why is India unathletic?"

    Because Indians aren't macho. I don't know if this can be picked up in blood tests (testosterone), but it can definitely be picked up in conversation, and simply by being around them. There is a manliness deficit.

    This also probably explains long periods of foreign rule – Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Mughals (who were East Asian), Brits.

  20. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    It would be interesting to know what game each group was hunting.

    When I lived in west africa, the local population would hunt guinea fowl: they would walk through the woods with a stick in hand until they would surprise a flock and then sprint after it and whack the bird's head. This hunting style would seem to emphasize short sprinting ability.

    Also, the terrain may influence the running ability. The "slow" papuans may be good at running on hills …

  21. Pat says: • Website

    I would think that all this racial stuff is very close to being obsolete. We already have performance enhancing drugs and hormones. Very soon now we should begin to see athletes who have availed themselves of genetic modifications. A sprinter with rat muscles would not be be just a few percent faster.

    About two years ago there was a major article in Scientific American about the technology of sprinter's muscles. In it they pointed out that very soon we would be able to alter the kinds of muscle fibers in an athlete's legs. For example we could replace slow twitch fibers with fast twitch fibers. More importantly we could use small animal fibers. All mammals have fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers but certain small animals like rats have a kind of super fast twitch fiber.

    There doesn't seem to be any technical reason why we can't build a better sprinter using these fibers.

    I imagine that we will see this first in the sprints. Long distant races involve lungs and hearts, for which we don't have any immidiate improvements.


  22. The 9.58 needs the steroid asterisk. Yeah, Jamaican drug testing, hardy har har.

    I've made the observation, which probably has a lot wrong with it, that of the few whites that can credibly compete in the 100m, they'll turn in their fastest times in their late 20s. Most blacks great in the 100 will peak around 22. If I'm right, then I think Christophe Lemaitre's best chance at medaling will be in 2016 Rio or 2020 wherever.

  23. It's hard to keep all of that straight in one's head simultaneously, so most people don't.

    Olympic finalists are such a small sample that, by themselves, they don't prove anything. But they suggest a great deal. We turn to bigger numbers for something approaching proof.

    – A Solid Citizen

  24. Can anyone tell me by how far would Bolt (9.58) beat the Japanese guy by (10.00)?

  25. Clutch cargo:

    That'd be a good "word problem" for a 7th-grader.

    It's straightforward, that for a guy whose average speed over the 100m is 1/10 m/sec, in the time Bolt finished, he'd only have gone 95.8m and would, thus, have been behind by 4.2m (a fraction of an inch over 12'9".

    You're welcome.

  26. Also worth noting that Iran's youthquake ended in the mid-1990s. The age structure of the population has gotten steadily older since then. So, there aren't as many hot-headed young people running around to raise hell like there was circa 1980.

  27. Clutch:

    Excuse me–I'm better at 7th grade arithmetic than at grown-up typing:
    make that a 13 instead of a 12.

  28. Steve:

    I sent a correction (changing "12" to "13" in the separation between Bolt and the Japanese guy at the finish) but something caused my keyboard to stick, so I don't know whether it "went" or not.

  29. "Can anyone tell me by how far would Bolt (9.58) beat the Japanese guy by (10.00)?"

    The Japanese guy's average speed was 100m/10sec = 0.1km/(1/360h) = 36km/h. For the moment let's assume that his speed was constant throughout his run. How much distance would someone cover at that speed in 9.58 seconds? 36km/h*(9.58/3600) = 95.8m. So in this scenario the Japanese fellow would have been 4.2m (13.78 feet or 4.59 yards) away from the finish line when Bolt would have reached it.

    However in reality the Japanese guy's speed could not have been constant. Sprinters accelerate in the course of 100m runs. We can be pretty sure that the Japanese sprinter's average speed during the first 9.58 seconds of his run was lower than his average speed during the final 0.42 seconds. This means that when Bolt would have reached the finish line, the Japanese sprinter would have been more than 4.59 yards away from it. How much more?

    Bolt set his world record at the 2009 World Championship in Berlin. According to this wiki he ran his first 60m in 6.31s. That gives an average speed of 34.23 km/h. He must have run his last 40m in 3.27s. This gives us the average speed of 44.04 km/h, far faster than I've ever ridden on a bicycle (I have a "bike computer", and it's never clocked anything above 24.1 mph = 38.78 km/h). Good God. Anyway, let's assume that the Japanese sprinter's speed during the final 40m of the 100 dash is 5% lower than Bolt's speed. That gives us 41.83 km/h. How much would he have covered at that speed in 0.42 seconds? 4.88m, which is 16.01 feet or 5.34 yards. I think that's a more realistic estimate of the margin of victory than the above-mentioned 4.59 yards.

  30. Anon at 7:08

    Thanks for the link to the Bill Burr clip–hilarious.

    Now, if he'd do his next routine about science, we'd be somewhere.

  31. "There doesn't seem to be any technical reason why we can't build a better sprinter using these fibers."

    Wake me up when they can build a better brain.

  32. OK, this is a picture of Bolt setting his world record (9.58s) at the 2009 World Championship in Berlin. Look at the two guys running neck-nad-neck with each other in the 1st and 2nd lanes. They are the runners closest to the upper left corner of the picture. According to this wiki their names are Dwain Chambers and Marc Burns, and they both finished the race in 10 seconds flat. That's exactly the time of that Japanese sprinter. So the distance between Bolt and those two guys must come pretty close to what "Clutch cargo cult" asked about. If the lines that run across the lanes are spaced at 1m each (but are they?), then Chambers and Burns are further than 5m behind Bolt. That's more than my second estimate (4.88m).

  33. "Can anyone tell me by how far would Bolt (9.58) beat the Japanese guy by (10.00)? "

    If constant acceleration , then about 8 metres.

  34. Indians are the most useless athletes ever. Has India ever beat anyone at war other than other brown folk?

  35. Pietro Mennea also held the low-altitude world record from 1980 to 1983: 19.96, set in his home town, Barletta, Italy.

  36. Indians are the most useless athletes ever.

    They just don't seem to care much about sports in general. Except for cricket I guess. I don't think I've ever seen them play sports for fun, like pick up basketball or soccer in the park. I've seen every other group except them.

  37. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    We already have performance enhancing drugs and hormones.

    The interesting thing is that even when the COMBLOC nations were using PEDs with wild abandon in the 70's and 80's they still weren't competitive. The boycotted 1980 Moscow Olympics winning 100m time was the slowest since '56 at 10.25 sec. We know the East Germans were doing groundbreaking doping with steroids since at least 1971 as state policy. I don't know when drugs became big in US track and field but I think it was in the 80's.

    Someone pointed out something interesting the other day: there doesn't seem to be a strong racial trend in mixed martial arts, at least not to the same extent as is present in boxing. Big white wrestler-types seem to do OK. I don't know if that's a cultural artifact–wrestling is mostly a white rural sport and the skills are both hard to acquire and very useful in MMA–or if it reflects something deeper.

  38. So, compared to, say, tortoises and hares, human racial groups are pretty similar at sprinting.

    But such differences there are make orders of magnitude of difference in the tails of the distribution… which is why the real world is so impinged upon by this tiny difference. I mean if they would just run the 100m dash with 8 (otherwise ambulatory) people picked at random, then there really would be nothing to see here (it would also be really unlikely for a heat to end in a tie). Hell, maybe the Indians might find something to cheer about.

  39. If you bear in mind population sizes a south sea islander getting in there is pretty amazing.

    And without the evolutionary challenge of having to run across the veldt chasing fast running dinners.

  40. Right, a 10.40 for some guy in Papua New Guinea is pretty darn good.

  41. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This is a bit off topic, but looking at recent soccer trends, I've noticed that the Iberians are in a period of dominance (Spain won the last World Cup and the Euro championship and the Portugese made it to the Semifinals in the Euro Championship). Italy remains fairly successful (made it to the Euro final) and the rest of the European contries seem to be falling behind.

    It made me think of this quote from an old LaGriffe du Lion article about middle and long distance running (and soccer involves running over an extended period):

    "Italian runners are marginally better than most other Western Europeans. Spaniards and Portuguese are decidedly better."

    I've always had a mild interest in ethnic differences in athletic ability, but there seems to be very little data out there except that focusing on black-white differences because they overwhelm all the others in most sports (e.g., olympic track finals). I first started thinking about potential intrawhite differences a month or so ago when in the bootcamp I participate in the trainer took us onto the track for 40 yard sprints. I was a sprinter in high school (best 100m 11.1), but even that was a little long for me. I found out in the sprint session that I can still run a 4.6 40yd (which isn't bad for a 5'8" 180lb. 35 year old white guy) and was faster than anyone else in the boot camp, much to the dismay of the 3 black participants in their early 20s. Afterwards, the trainer, who was an italian american expressed surprise about how fast I was (I'm probably the oldest guy in the bootcamp) and asked me if I was italian. I told him that I was 1/8th Italian, the rest being British Isles and German. I then asked him why? He responded that in all his years training (he's in his 40s), he noticed what he called a "Mediterranean burst" – he got the impression that mediterranean whites had more explosive athleticism on average than northern euros. I've done some internet searching on this and couldn't find anything except that they have slightly higher bone density (and less problems with osteoporosis), which implies that their muscles can generate more force.

  42. It took India 15 Olympics to get its first individual Gold Medal. In Beijing 2008!

    Absolutely pathetic.

  43. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Interesting discussion on the distance between Usain Bolt and the 10 second Japanese guy.

    floating around academia is the fact that a woman will be the fastest sprinter in the world in 2050.

    These are the same academics who told us that at 6' 5" Usain Bolt is too tall to be a sprinter.

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