American sprinter Fred Kerley became the 15th fastest man in the history of the 100 meter dash last Sunday. He ran the fastest race of his life in the Olympic final: 100 meters in only 9.84 seconds. Given that the average adult reads about 200 to 250 words a minute, Kerley ran 100 meters faster than it will probably take you to get to the end of this sentence, faster than almost every other person who has ever existed, faster than all but 14 people who have ever set foot on a track. And he lost.
By .04 seconds.
Italian runner Lamont Marcell Jacobs Jr. won in 9.80 seconds, making him the 10th fastest man ever. With such small differences in times representing such huge differences in outcome, sprinting is all about finding the slightest edge. Being a world class athlete is part natural ability, part science, and part technology. And in running in particular, maximizing performance means wearing the right shoes.
Gone are the days where Jim Thorpe could throw on a pair of mismatched, poorly fitting shoes from the trash and still beat the competition: If you want to win races at the highest level, you need the latest in shoe tech. And when Lamont Marcell Jacobs ran ever so slightly faster than Fred Kerley on Sunday, he was sporting a shoe packed with the fruits of years of R&D, the Nike Air Zoom Maxfly.