Who (or what) is faster than Mo Farah?

Runners, swimmers, cyclists and animals: race them all against the Olympic champion at full speed

© FT graphics

Mo Farah is aiming to complete a second consecutive Olympic double at Rio 2016 by winning the 5,000m. Farah is famous for being able to generate exceptional speed in the final lap of endurance events — in London, his last lap in the 5,000m final was an impressive 52.94 seconds. But how does this pace compare to other Olympic athletes or notable sprinters from the natural world?

  • Start the race below to recreate Mo Farah's 5,000m final lap speed – and choose a 'running partner' for him from Olympic history or beyond to compare his speed.
  • Use the timer to measure how long it takes you to complete an activity and see how many laps Mo could run in that time.
M. Farah
Sources: IAAF, FT research

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Read more about Mo’s running partners in this game

Usain Bolt (Rio 2016, 200m)
Bolt was not pleased with his time of 19.78 seconds, but it allowed him to complete an unprecedented collection of Olympic 100m and 200m titles over 3 consecutive Olympics. How fast is his pace though? 400m would be covered in 39.56 seconds.

Wayde van Niekerk (Rio 2016, 400m)
For many people, the outstanding race of the 2016 games, van Niekerk smashed Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record with a sensational time of 43.03 seconds.

Thomas Burke (Athens 1896, 400m)
Burke won the inaugural Olympic 400 metres final in 54.2 seconds. This might be slower than Mo Farah’s final lap pace, but the comparison is a little unfair: Burke ran his 400m on a 333m track in Athens “with bends so tight they necessitated sharp braking”, according to IAAF historians. He had won a 400m race the previous year with a time of 49.6 seconds.

Sebastian Coe (Los Angeles 1984, 1500m)
Now president of the IAAF, Coe set an Olympic record in Los Angeles with a time of 3m 32.53s, equivalent to 56.7 seconds per 400m.

David Rudisha (London 2012, 800m)
Rudisha’s outstanding world record time of 1m 40.91s means an average of 50.5 seconds per 400m.

Marie-José Pérec (Atlanta 1996, 400m women)
How do the fastest women compare? Pérec ran 400 metres in 48.25 seconds at Atlanta 1996, which is still an Olympic record — nearly five seconds behind Michael Johnson’s Olympic record, but considerably faster than Burke’s time from a century earlier.

Pamela Jelimo (Beijing 2008, 800m women)
In the women’s two-lap event in Beijing, 18-year-old Jelimo’s average lap speed was a remarkable 57.44 seconds.

Bradley Wiggins (Beijing 2008, cycling – 4,000m pursuit)
Steve Jobs was a notable fan of the bicycle’s ability to boost human performance: Wiggins’ then-Olympic record of 4m 15.031s for the 4,000m pursuit means he covered 400m in about 25.5 seconds.

Sun Yang (London 2012, swimming – 400m freestyle)
Swimming is a slow activity, at least for humans – phenomenal as Sun Yang’s Olympic record of 3m 40s is, it translates poorly onto the track.

Bottlenose dolphin
The maximum burst speed of a bottlenose dolphin is around 22 miles per hour, which translates into a 400m time of 41.24 seconds.

Racehorse – Winning Brew (2008)
The world’s fastest racehorse over two furlongs (402m), Winning Brew’s time for 400m is an electrifying 20.5 seconds.

Greyhound – Brett Lee (2001)
Not to be confused with his namesake, the Australian cricketer, legendary greyhound Brett Lee covered 515 metres in 28.9 seconds, a recorded speed that means 400 metres would take just 22.45 seconds.

Tyrannosaurus Rex (Late Cretaceous period)
Research by William Sellers and Phillip Manning of the University of Manchester suggests that T-Rex was capable of running 400 metres in about 50 seconds. Not fast enough to chase down a Jurassic Park Jeep, but fast enough to maybe spur Mo on just a little.