Sprinters’ paradise: 8 best tracks for fast times

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Sprinters’ paradise: 8 best tracks for fast times

This story is part of an Olympic.ca series on running called Canada Runs.

So you want to run fast. Maybe set a world record. Well, it’ll take more than pure athletic ability. You’ll need the right track, the right weather conditions and often the adrenaline that comes with racing in a major event.


At London 2012, world records were notably set in the men’s 800m, men’s 4x100m relay and the women’s 4x100m relay. There were also Olympic records in the men’s 100m and women’s 100m hurdles, not to mention a world best mark for the women’s 100m hurdles in the heptathlon and an Olympic best mark for the men’s 100m in the decathlon. Suffice to say, the track was fast.

But why?

Usain Bolt, London 2012

Usain Bolt kisses the track at London 2012 and with good reason. This track was very hospitable to sprinters.

Technology certainly helps. The Olympic Stadium track featured a special underlay that increased the track’s reaction to lateral movement and rebounded more energy from the sideways motion of the athletes’ feet. This was an improvement upon the Bird’s Nest track at Beijing 2008 which was already made to react to the forwards and backwards motion of the feet. The surface of the London track was also softer than that in Beijing, increasing its ability to drive energy back into the feet.

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Stadium architecture can also come into play. The partial roof of the London Olympic Stadium was designed to minimize wind on the track.

If you have to deal with wind, hope that it’s coming from behind which can go a long way to reduce atmospheric drag. World records are allowed to be set with a maximum tail wind of 2.0 metres per second.

The track at the Disney Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida where the likes of U.S. 110-metre hurdler David Oliver trains.

The track at the Disney Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida where the likes of U.S. 110-metre hurdler and World Champion David Oliver trains.

And all sprinters hope for a hot day. The warmer the temperature, the thinner the air and the fewer molecules get in the way of the athletes.

Taking a look at recent world-leading times in the sprint events excluding hurdles (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay), it’s not hard to see the weather pattern as well as the intangible of competing in a meet that really matters at the right time of year. They’ve also taken place in a few notable venues. Side note: while most of the men’s top marks have been set in the last decade, very few women’s records have occurred in that time (as an example, only four of the top 50 200m times have been set in the 2000s).

Here are eight stadiums that helped produce very fast times recently: 

London Olympic Stadium (surface: Mondotrack)

Games of the XXX Olympiad 

Usain Bolt crosses the finish line at London 2012 in the 100m.

Usain Bolt crosses the finish line at London 2012 in the 100m at 9.63 seconds, the second fastest mark of all time.

Men’s 100m (5 m/s tail wind, 20°C, 54% humidity)    

9.63 seconds (2nd all-time) – Usain Bolt, Jamaica
9.75 seconds (T-7th all-time) – Yohan Blake, Jamaica

Women’s 100m (5 m/s tail wind, 19°C, 63% humidity)

10.75 seconds (T-12th all-time) – Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica

Men’s 200m (4 m/s tail wind, 25°C, 38% humidity)

19.32 seconds (T-4th all-time) – Usain Bolt, Jamaica

Women’s 200m (2 m/s head wind, 22°C, 85% humidity)

 21.88 seconds (T-23rd all-time) – Allyson Felix, USA

Men’s 4x100m Relay (20°C, 53% humidity)

36.84 seconds (1st all-time) – Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake, Usain Bolt (Jamaica)

37.04 seconds (T-2nd all-time) – Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, Ryan Bailey (USA)

Women’s 4x100m Relay (25°C, 50% humidity)

40.82 seconds (1st all-time) – Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight, Carmelita Jeter (USA)

41.41 seconds (4th all-time) – Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Kerron Stewart (Jamaica)

Berlin Olympiastadion (surface: Regupol Compact)

2009 IAAF World Championships

Berlin Olympiastadion, home of the 2009 IAAF World Track and Field Championships.

Berlin Olympiastadion, home of the 2009 IAAF World Track and Field Championships where the fastest 100m and 200m times in history were recorded.

Men’s 100m (9 m/s tail wind, 26°C, 39% humidity)

9.58 seconds (1st all-time) – Usain Bolt, Jamaica

9.71 seconds (4th all-time) – Tyson Gay, USA

Women’s 100m (1 m/s tail wind, 24°C, 50% humidity)

10.73 (T-10th all-time) – Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica

Men’s 200m (3 m/s head wind, 28°C, 35% humidity)

19.19 seconds (1st all-time) – Usain Bolt, Jamaica

Men’s 4x100m Relay (20°C, 46% humidity)

37.31 (4th all-time) – Steve Mullings, Michael Frater, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell (Jamaica)

Beijing National Stadium or “Bird’s Nest” (surface: Mondotrack)

Games of the XXIX Olympiad

The "Bird's Nest" in Beijing where Usain Bolt and Jamaica shifted the balance of power in global sprinting, complemented by a fast track.

The “Bird’s Nest” in Beijing where Usain Bolt and Jamaica shifted the balance of power in global sprinting, complemented by a fast track.

Men’s 100m (no wind, 28°C, 39% humidity)

9.69 seconds (T-3rd all-time) – Usain Bolt, Jamaica

Women’s 100m (no wind, 22°C, 74% humidity)

10.78 (T-15th all-time) – Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica

Men’s 200m (9 m/s head wind, 27°C, 66% humidity)

19.30 seconds (3rd all-time) – Usain Bolt, Jamaica

Women’s 200m (6 m/s tail wind, 21°C, 86% humidity)

21.74 seconds (T-9th all-time) – Veronica Campbell-Brown, Jamaica

Men’s 4x100m Relay (28°C, 60% humidity)

37.10 (3rd all-time) Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell (Jamaica)

Shanghai Stadium (surface: Sportflex Super X)

2009 Golden Grand Prix 

Carmelita Jeter (5) powers her way to the women's 100-metre title in Shanghai.

Carmelita Jeter (5) powers her way to the women’s 100-metre title in Shanghai.

Men’s 100m (no wind, 26°C, 64% humidity)

9.69 seconds (T-3rd all-time) – Tyson Gay, USA 

Women’s 100m (2 m/s tail wind, 26°C, 64% humidity)

10.64 seconds (4th all-time) – Carmelita Jeter, USA

Stade Olympique de la Pontaise, Lausanne (surface: Conipur M)

2012 Athletissima Diamond League

Men’s 100m (1 m/s head wind)

9.69 seconds (T-3rd all-time) – Yohan Blake, Jamaica

Stade Roi Baudouin, Brussels (surface: Mondotrack)

Yohan Blake in Brussels after running the second fastest 200m of all time in 2011.

Yohan Blake in Brussels after running the second fastest 200m of all time in 2011.

2013 Memorial Van Damme

Women’s 100m (3 m/s head wind)

10.72 seconds (T-9th all-time) – Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica

2011 Memorial Van Damme

Men’s 200m (7 m/s tail wind)

19.26 seconds (2nd all-time) – Yohan Blake, Jamaica

Kaytanzogleio Stadium, Thessaloniki (surface: Sportflex Super X)

2009 IAAF World Athletics Final

Women’s 100m (1 m/s head wind)

10.67 seconds (6th all-time) – Carmelita Jeter, USA

Luzhniki Big Sports Arena, Moscow (surface: Mondotrack)

2013 IAAF World Championships

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce takes the baton for the final leg of the women's 4x100m relay at Moscow 2013.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce takes the baton for the final leg of the women’s 4x100m relay at Moscow 2013.

Women’s 100m (3 m/s head wind, 19°C, 73% humidity)

10.71 seconds (T-8th all-time) – Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica

Women’s 4x100m Relay (24°C, 36% humidity)

41.29 seconds (2nd all-time) – Carrie Russell, Kerron Stewart, Schillonie Calvert, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica)

At Rio 2016 athletics competitions will take place at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange on the Sportflex Super X surface.

RELATED: Full Rio 2016 sport schedule

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