Science Game Shows Just How Hard It Is To Be Usain Bolt

It all looks so easy…

We all do a bit of running, whether to a bus, to the shops, or away from an awkward encounter. But, have you ever thought about just how complicated the motion is? Well a game that has become all the rage on the internet will show you just how difficult it is.

The sprinter who I have managed to make fall on his head multiple times…

QWOP (named after the keys you press) gives you control of the thighs and calves of a 100m sprinter. By pressing the different keys you activate different muscles. Sounds fairly simple doesn’t it? Well that’s where you are wrong, it is infuriatingly difficult (check out a video of someone getting angry at the game here). As of this point of writing I have been able to achieve the grand distance of 3.4m…not quite up to Olympic standard!

This may not be the most scientifically accurate model of running but, it has inspired me to look into the science of the actual mechanism and then find out whether or not that improves my ability at the game.

…A little while later….

So after some reading this is what I have learnt about the sprinting motion; there are three phases to the action. The first is the support phase, during this phase the  centre of mass will usually be somewhere in the lower abdominal area between the hips. As leading foot lands the knee joint begins to flex and the pelvis dips down on the opposite side of the leg.

The second is the drive phase, where the drive leg extends at the knee and pushes off from the ground with the toe remaining in contact with the ground as the body moves forward. The majority of the force in this motion comes from the quadriceps.

The final stage is recovery, this occurs when the driving foot toe leaves the ground and the knee kicks forward. This is mainly passive occurring due to reflex action and the transfer of upper leg forces.

So, having now read all this how do I do at the game…6.5m…just enough to realise that the song in the back ground is Chariots of Fire!

In conclusion, running is really difficult!

Can you beat my score? Post a comment below with how far you can get the character to run:


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