The Fastest Among Us

part II

Nonetheless, while the average time it takes to do the A T is about five months, hiking (running) this trail in 41 days is impressive.  In spite of my distaste of running this granddaddy of all hiking trails, let me tell you about some other speed demons.

To cover the distance in that amount of world-record time, Karel Sabbe hiked/ran just over 2.2 miles per hour.  This however is a misleading number because it includes time he was horizontal, sleeping, icing his shins, or taking other types of breaks, such as, as they say, visiting the woods.

Let’s say he actually hiked 12 hours a day.  (I have no idea how many hours a day he hiked/ran, so this is a guess.)  It means a pace of 4.4 miles per hour, much more realistic.

How does this compare with other fast running?

Usian Bolt, the fastest human alive, has run 27.8 miles per hour but only for short bursts, like 100 meters, or 328 feet.  Were he to run at that rate for a few hours, he would likely burst into flames, or his limbs would fall, willy nilly, all over the track.  But he could cover the A T in 77 hours, or just over three days.

On the downside, he’d miss every caterpillar and gnat on the trail.

27.8 miles per hour.  I had a car once that could do that.

Animals can run faster.  North African ostriches can regularly hit 40 miles per hour.  They look like idiots, but still, they are the fastest bird on land which is an honor equivalent to being voted prettiest fat girl at the dance.

One of our best friends, the greyhound, can just beat the ostrich at 43 miles per hour.

How about thoroughbred racehorses, who are trained for moving over the ground at high speed?  55 mph.  Same as the pronghorn antelope, who are not known for training.

At the top of the speed race, we have the fastest of all animals on land, the cheetah.  Extraordinarily elegant at high speed, especially when caught by a slow motion camera, these cats can hit 61 mph!  One astonishing supercheetah was clocked at 68 miles per hour!  Faster than the national speed limit.

Then there are the speed freaks who move through liquid.  The sail fish, the world’s fastest fish, can slice through the water at 75 mph.

What about those animals who are not burdened by gravity.  Let us soar.  The spur-winged goose can fly at 88 mph.

The frigatebird is capable of slicing the air at 95 mph and in a show of endurance, can stay aloft for more than a week at a time.  At this speed, it would need less than a day to cover the Appalachian Trail.

The white throated needletail can do 106, but these folks are slowpokes compared to the king of bird speed, the peregrine falcon, the fastest animal on the planet.  Dig this:  they routinely reach an airspeed of 161 miles per hour!  But wait.  In a dive, this monster can clock up to 242 miles per hour, setting off car alarms all over the neighborhood.  Prey has no chance whatsoever.

Stamina?  Did someone say something about stamina?  Well, it turns out that we humans are not such slouches after all.

Yes, the frigatebird can hang out in the air for eight days, defining endurance.  But…

(please go to Who’s Faster Among Us part III)

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