Running In Lanes (Revised)

It Was All Over In Seconds

by Stephen G. Harding


I would suspect sometime in early pubescence, we each stepped onto a track to answer a single question: How fast am I? Whether motivated by curiosity or the insistence of some adult, we 6th, 7th, and 8th graders were about to be put to the test.  Herded to the starting line, waiting our turn and a lane assignment, we stared down 100-yard’s worth of striped hard dirt to where two of our classmates stood. Separated by the width of eight lanes, they stood face-to-face, pulling on what looked like nothing more than string.  For a 10, 11, or 12-year-old, that fluttering thin white line was a mile away. On command, we found our marks, sort of got set, and bang slipped and slid down the track.  The sounds of huffing, puffing, and the stomping of PF Flyers were over in, well, seconds. For some, it took a few. For the majority, it took a whole lot more.

What’s fast? Who’s fast? What defines an Elite sprinter?  That’s what this essay is all about.  It’s part scholastic, part nostalgic. Track nuts will nod their heads; others may just scratch theirs. It started as a walk down memory lane, a view through my own lens.  It ended as a deep dive into the data, where the Elites separate themselves from the Rest.  As a society, we see the former. We usually are unaware of the latter. In the end, it all gets down to ability, effort, and the judgement of the clock. To see where this goes, follow the link. Take some time, pull up a chair, maybe enjoy your favorite libation and see what defines those that run one lap or less. 

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