Kevin Lyons, an Austin-based runner, journalist, and blogger at 5Ksandcabernets.com, posted an interesting take on how speed is indeed relative when compared to distance covered.

Kenya’s Patrick Makau set the world record time for a marathon by running the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 38 seconds (2:03:38). Makau’s minute-per-mile pace was a blistering 4 minutes, 43 seconds (4:43).

Anybody that runs knows how fast 4:43 is. But to a non-runner, that expression of time means nothing. They know it’s hard to run a marathon because of the distance, 26.2 miles. And in their heads, they can imagine how far 26.2 miles is; the round-trip commute to and from work; the distance from Austin to Round Rock; etc.

But when you tell them you ran the marathon in 3 hours or 4 hours, they wouldn’t have the foggiest idea of the difference in effort.

So, here’s an idea: Take your friend to the nearest football field. Put them on the goal line and tell them to run as fast as they can to the goal post at the other end (110 yards or about 100 meters). I’m pretty sure that most healthy, able-bodied people in reasonably good shape could cover 100 meters in 18 seconds or less. (For perspective, Usain Bolt’s 100-meter world record time is 9.58 seconds.)

Now, before you scoff at an 18-second 100-meter dash time, tell your friend to repeat the process about 420 times.

Without stopping. That’s how fast Makau ran.

100m split in seconds       min/mile pace        marathon finish time
18                                                4:50                                 2:04:21
25                                                6:43                                 2:55:59
35                                                9:24                                 4:06:17
40                                                10:45                               4:41:39