Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

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Usain Bolt vs. Bob Hayes?

In anticipation of the 100m this weekend there will be a lot of talk about Usain Bolt.  Bolt is the world record holder in both the 100 and 200 meters.  On a time basis he is clearly the fastest man ever.

However, I want you to watch Bob Hayes who ran 10.06 on a dirt track in 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics.  The clip below shows him dominating from the inside lane.  It was featured in the documentary film “Tokyo Olympiad” by the legendary Japanese director Kon Ichikawa.



Even more amazing is his anchor leg in the 4×100 relay.   After the Olympics, Hayes played professional football with the Dallas Cowboys.

Modern tracks are probably 2-3% faster than the dirt and cinder tracks Hayes ran on.  It is also tempting to think about what might have happened if Hayes had focused on track full time instead of playing football.  He never ran a race after his early 20s.

So maybe “Bullet” Bob is still the world’s fastest human.

16 Responses to “Usain Bolt vs. Bob Hayes?”

  1. August 2nd, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Wes Emmert says:

    Great commentary. My thoughts on Bob Hayes; it would be interesting to discuss who is actually faster, Hayes or Bolt? Much like ALL sports arguments/discussions, no one ever wins, i.e. the current debate Dream Team vs 2012 Oly bb team. Not even a case in that discussion. I did notice Hayes run technique. I am by no means a sprint coach, but I did notice a bit of a “hitch” in his body. It was not the most fluid of motion that I see in modern day sprinters. His head does remain level and shoulders seem to be relaxed. It ends there. Looks like he has a series of trunk lunges during this race. It also opens the discussion on body type as the most successful sprinters. Correct me if I’m wrong but the elite sprinters come in all shapes and sizes, i.e. the stout compact Hayes vs the elongated Bolt. The closest we could come to an actual comparison is to get Bolt to run on a dirt surface like Hayes did and compare that time to Hayes. Love this stuff, keep it coming. Hope to see you soon.

  2. August 4th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    miguel says:

    I’m a former track and field athlete, in the 70s. I still regard Hayes as the greatest sprinter of all time. What he did in Tokyo on a (badly cut-up) cinder track in poor weather conditions was absolutely staggering. Besides, he appeared and disappeared in his early twenties and never had the chance to hone out his sprinting technique. In terms of pure raw speed I don’t think anyone can compare. In those days, too, top athletes only had 4 or 5 competitions a year. In this day and age, on the international circuit, they have up to some 20 available. And it is in competition, and top competition at that, week in, week out, that you improve your marks. I can only imagine, or dream, Hayes transported to the modern era with the new training methods, physical recovery, food supplements, equipment, number of competitions and, most of all, the supersonic synthetic tracks on which athletes run nowadays. When Hayes retired he was still very much an uncut diamond, a work still very much in progress. We never saw his best which is more than can be said of the likes of Bolton.

  3. December 24th, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Scot Armour says:

    Exactly Miguel,Bob Hayes was undefeated in 49 consecutive sprints 60yds.100yds.100meters,he ran as fast as needbe to win.NO sprinter today,has even come close to 49 wins in a row.When someone does they could be considered equal with the great Bob Hayes.Hayes Tokyo Olympic 4by100 meter relay performance is considered by most experts as the fastest 100 meters of all time,clocked at 8.5-8.6 seconds,for his anchor leg on a dirt track,with inferior shoes.Some believe he may have run close to 30mph.on that relay leg,comeing back from 4meters at the start&winning by 3meters at the finish,against the fastest men in the world at that time.I rest my case,fastest to ever live.SA.

  4. September 12th, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Jon Desmond says:

    Agree with all the guys’ comments above. This is an irresistible topic for sprint fans because it will always be pure speculation and subjective opinion. But, what if Hayes had continued running until Mexico 68 and qualified for the USA team. Transfer that 10.06 run in Tokyo on to a synthetic track (minimum 0.2 advantage?) and altitude assisted (0.1 advantage?) – that gives him a 9.76 and Hines trailing by 2 metres. But, as Hayes would have had the benefit of 4 more years of training and improvement (he would only have been 25 years old at Mexico), perhaps he’d be 0.1 faster by then (9.66)? And, all this 40 years before the great Lightning Bolt! I’m assuming Bob Hayes is still the World Record holder for 100 metres on a cinder track?

  5. August 24th, 2015 at 1:57 am

    Paul says:

    Well mr bolt is a holder of 9.58 …….which he was robbed a 9.4 I have a video proof to show it …..time it with a clock n it will come below 9.5…….. 9.47 to b precise so …..indisputable arguments here……USAIN BOLTS IS THE BEST IN HISTORY!!!!!!!

  6. December 31st, 2015 at 4:12 am

    scot armour says:

    Todays mondo synthetic track surfaces are enginerred for speed,they alone are worth 4-5 tenths of a second,along with lighter&improved shoes,aero running suits,with all this Bob Hayes,would easily be at 9.3 to 9.4 at 100 meters,remember Hayes ran as fast as need be to win.there is no better proof of this than his Tokyo 4 by 100 meter relay leg.Clocked at 8.5 to 8.6 seconds,the track experts,have calculated to a 9.5 100 meters from a standing start.Remember that relay leg was run on a moist dirt track.Hayes smokes Bolt,no problem.SA.

  7. July 4th, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Steve in Memphis says:

    That particular day, Lane 1, Hayes’ draw for the final, was “chopped-up”, at least to some degree, by the 20Km Race-Walk final the day prior.

    Wonder how many 100th’s that might have cost …

    (Been a Bob Hayes fan since at least 1970, when I was 9 years old.)

  8. August 14th, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    Tiena Hayes James says:

    As Bob Hayes’ niece. It’s a pleasure to hear this exchange of views. Uncle Robert will always be my World Fastest Human!!

  9. August 14th, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Loulor says:

    And let’s not forget that Hayes ran that incredible race with borrowed shoes. Also, the inside lane was grooved from previous walking competition.

  10. August 21st, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    ed baragiola says:

    my dear tiena hayes james: your uncle robert will for many of us be the worlds fastest human…until someone faster actually comes along. many of so not think that even now that has happened. the sprinters of the last 50 years have been amazing but there is something different about your uncle. i dont mean the track surface or the shoes or the training or the number of races a year. watch again the films of him running. while runners of all sorts at all distances are running to win their race, your uncle robert always looks like he is running for his life, not so much because he wants to win but because for a reason not open to us as observers he cannot allow himself to lose. ‘where work is play for mortal stakes…’

  11. September 7th, 2016 at 11:04 am

    Richard Pagano says:

    I am researching a local high schoool graduate and all-American, Paul Gibson. I was told that he once beat Bob Hayes in a sprint race. He ran for University of Texas El Paso 1967-71. He was a hurdler but also ran the 220. Anyone have any knowledge concerning this topic?

  12. September 20th, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Glen EveLyn says:

    I have watch both sprinters at there BEST. Bolt is high and mighty by all means, but I have to go with Bullet Bob as the BEST GOD has ever CREATED!!!

  13. January 22nd, 2017 at 4:50 am

    Scot Armour says:

    Yes,Tiena it is an honor to have the niece,of the great Bob Hayes,commenting on this page.He is not only the fastest ever to live.He is the most exciting player,ever to play in the NFL &the fastest.I use to watch every Dallas Cowboy game i could,starting in 1965,bullet Bobs first year,thru to the 70s,as did many others.I will always love Bob Hayes.SA.

  14. March 18th, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    Sherman Ledford says:

    Bob Hayes superlatives I have heard over the years. Changed the game of football as much as Jim Brown, A head of his time, Fastest NFL player of all time, Could have played in any Era, World’s fastest human, Bullet!!!! For 2 years in the early 70’s he averaged 25 yds a catch, nobody will ever come close to that again! This was after defenses had seen him for over 5 years in the league and came up with zone defenses just for his special skills…. If track athletes could have monetary benefits back in the early 60’s and he could have focused his time and efforts into really training he would have set times that no one except Bolt would have ever come close to touching! Most do not know being it was 50 years ago Hayes won his Olympic metals while in college on a football scholarship!?! How much track training do you think he really got being on a football scholarship back in the 60’s??? A great article for you Bob Hayes enthusiasts to read is,.. check it out very well written!

  15. May 4th, 2017 at 4:33 am

    Scot Armour says:

    There is little doubt,the great Bob Hayes,had more God given speed than any man who has ever lived,at the 1963 AAU college Track&Field champion ships,Bob sliped coming out of the blocks in the 100yd.dash final,he still won the race,and clocked 9.1 seconds,tieing his own world record,that he set in the prelims of that meet.This is almost un beleiveable,but true.He also was clocked at 27.89 mph.between the 60&75 yard marks of that final at ST.Louis,MO.Rest my case fastest ever to live.SA.

  16. June 3rd, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Rick Marino says:

    Bob Hayes was from Jacksonville, Fla the State track meet is still held here in his honor it is named after him, he was a fine man! He once was timed unofficially at 9.63 it was in practice which led those who witnessed it to wonder if challenged (which he never was) just how fast he could run??? It’s scary, I agree Bullett Bob with today’s training,technology & equipment it would be very interesting for sure to have seen a Hayes vs Bolt 100! Like Marciano vs Ali… good stuff written by all! Adding sadly I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Hayes shortly before his passing he was in poor health but a very kind humble man as all champions should be! He was Great for sure!

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