How to run the 100m

A lot of track and field athletes have a pretty good understanding of how to run the 100m faster than their competition, and they do so with tremendous power and blazing speed.  A 100m sprinter is a powerful, strong, and explosive athlete.  When they prepare for the 100m, they imagine themselves exploding out of the blocks and driving to the finish line well ahead of their competition.  Raw power, lightning speed, flawless sprinting mechanics, and a new school record to show for it.

This sounds like potential for greatness.  However, if you are not prepared, you might have to settle for good, or even pretty good.  But who wants to settle for good?  You want to be great!  If you want to be a dangerous sprinting machine, you have to hard work and have a realistic understanding of how to run the 100m faster than your competition.

100m/200m training program (learn more)

Understanding the 100m

The 100m dash is known as one of the easiest sprint events, but this is only because it is one of the shortest events in outdoor track.  This also means a lot of athletes will want to try it, which makes it popular, and when it is popular you have to work harder in order to be successful.  Not to mention, there are many technical considerations involved in running the 100m faster, which leaves little to no room for error.

In order to be successful, a 100m athlete needs to setup the starting blocks properly to ensure they will put their body in the right position for acceleration.  The 100m athlete also needs to know how to properly accelerate out of the blocks, how to achieve their maximum velocity (top speed), and how to maintain as much of their maximum velocity as possible.  To make the 100m easier to understand, let’s break it down.

How to run the 100m

How to run the 100m


How to run the 100m (explained)

Setting up the starting blocks (basics)

When a 100m athlete sets up the starting blocks, they should put the front pedal 2 to 2 ¼ foot lengths behind the starting line and the back pedal should be 3 to 3 ¼ foot lengths behind the starting line.  The angle of the block pedals should be around 45 degrees.

When the starting official says “on your marks”, the 100m athlete will put their strong leg (leg you would jump off of) in the front block and your quick leg (great for kicking with) in the rear block.  The 100m athlete will then place their hands just behind the starting line and as wide as their shoulders, if not slightly wider.  The fingers and thumb should be spaced apart to create an arch or bridge which will allow for greater stability and push-off.

When the starting official says “set”, the 100m athlete will firmly press into their hands and feet while raising their hips higher than their shoulders while keeping the head in a neutral position (aligned with the spine).  Now the 100m athlete waits for the sound of the gun.

Visit Starting Block Setup for more detailed information about how to set up the starting blocks.


Properly accelerating out of the starting blocks

When the 100m athlete takes off out of the starting blocks, they will push off of both block pedals and powerfully drive their arms in opposite directions in a large range of motion with one arm driving forward and the other driving backward.    All of this happens at the same time as the hips extend powerfully and brings the body into a 45 degree angle (from the ground, not the hips).  When done correctly, you should be able to see a straight line from the front block foot through the body all the way to the athletes head when their quick leg has driven the knee completely in front of the body.

During acceleration out of the blocks, the 100m athlete will drive out in a 45 degree angle while performing an explosive version of “pushing” into the track with each step.  The goal is not to be as quick and light with our feet, but rather explosive, powerful, and pushing into the track.  The 100m athlete will also feel themselves “push” their body angle up to a horizontal position by the time they reach somewhere between 30-60m.  The athlete should not stand up or bring the shoulders up.  Instead, they should be patient and gradually “push” their body angle up through powerful and aggressive steps driven into the track.


Achieving maximum velocity

In the 100m, top speed is also known as maximum velocity.  This refers to is the highest possible sprint speed an athlete can achieve, but only for a short period of time before mechanical deceleration and fatigue slow them down.  In order to maximize the potential of your top-end race velocity, you’ll need to have a well-executed acceleration out of the starting blocks.  If your acceleration phase is too short, you will reach a false maximum velocity early in the race, and when this happens, it will cause unnecessary deceleration early in the 100m dash.


Maintaining maximum and sub-maximum velocity

Once the 100m athlete has reached maximum velocity, they will continue at their maximum velocity for 10-30m before their neuromuscular coordination breaks down.  Once this happens the 100m athlete will slowly decelerate and need to maintain as much good sprinting technique as possible to maintain their near maximum velocity to the finish line.  Because by now the athlete will be experiencing coordination erosion and they will slowly decelerate.

It happens to everyone, it doesn’t matter who you are.  American sprinters Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin decelerate in the 100m, and even the world record holder Usain Bolt slowly decelerated in the last 20m of his 100m world record of 9.58.

When sprinting at sub-maximum velocity near the end of the 100m, the goal is to decelerate at a slower rate than your competition. Let’s say you are racing the 100m dash and are slowly decelerating in the last 30m by three tenths of a second per 10m, and your competition is slowing down by five hundredths of a second per 10m, the stopwatch will show that you are 0.85 behind at the finish line.  This is because you were slowing down at a faster rate.  Wow, that’s almost a whole second behind!


Finish line

As the 100m athlete approaches the finish line they will lean with their shoulders/chest a few feet before the finish line and continue with this effort all the way through the finish line.


Putting the phases of the 100m together

Now that you have an idea of how to run the 100m faster, you will need to learn how to perfect it.  When you run the 100m, each phase has a different range that can be achieved as you gain more experience and as your skill, strength, power, and coordination improve.

Learning how to perfect your 100m race is going to take time and will not happen overnight.  In fact, learning how to run the perfect 100m could take an entire season if not multiple seasons .  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t figure it out your first time.  It takes practice and patience to really get a feel for the “perfect” 100m.


100m/200m training program (learn more)