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Body Biology: Running


You and Your Students!

Script By

Vicki Cobb, Education World Science Editor


Measure the difference between walking and running.


The Human Body, Biology

Required Props

  • a dusty track
  • a measuring tape
  • a stopwatch
  • a rake

Setting the Scene (Background)

Science is everywhere, and I love bringing that message home. This activity has a lot going for it: It's personal (every kid can discover something about himself or herself), it's active and can be done outside, and it can be a collaborative effort between you and your PE teacher.

Stage Direction

Show-Biz Science is scripted by popular children's book writer Vicki Cobb. Click to learn more about Vicki or to read a brief synopsis of her philosophy of teaching science.

Visit our archive of archive of Show-Biz Science Activities. Watch for a new activity each week. Then chat with Vicki -- share your feedback and ask your questions about teaching science -- on our special Showbiz-Science message board.

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You will need to do this on a dusty track where you can clearly see the marks made by footprints.


Act I
Have your students measure their walking strides. To do this, have them walk on a dusty track so that they leave a clearly defined footprint. (You may have to rake the surface before they do this.) Then use a measuring tape to measure the distance between one toe and the other or one heel and the other. Next have them run and measure their strides. Is the walking stride different from the running stride?

Act II
Now measure the frequency of a stride. Count the number of steps for a measured distance (for example, between two telephone poles or a quarter of the way around a track). Use a stopwatch to time the event. Is there a difference in frequency between walking and running?

Have two kids race. Do earlier measurements of stride length and stride frequency predict the winner?

Behind the Scenes

When it comes to running, humans are far from being the fastest creatures on Earth. The cheetah is the fastest running animal on Earth. Its speed has been clocked at more than 70 miles per hour. But the cheetah can only sprint for about a minute before stopping to rest and recover.

The best runner on Earth is the American pronghorn antelope. It can run about 60 miles per hour -- faster than the 45 miles per hour of a great racehorse -- and it can keep up that pace for more than ten minutes. Scientists have studied pronghorns to see how they do it. Pronghorn antelopes are able to get and use more oxygen when they are running than any other animal.

To help you understand that finding Have you ever noticed how your muscles "burn" when you've been running for what seems like a long time? The burn means your muscles are out of oxygen.

The fastest human comes nowhere close in a race with a cheetah or antelope. The world sprinting record is 10.352 meters per second or about 23 miles an hour. A marathoner tries to average about 5 miles an hour. It seems that in order to be fast, you have to strike the ground hard. This lets runners increase two things needed to be speedy -- the length of the stride and how often they take a step (stride frequency).

The End

There's a lot more on the biomechanics of walking and running in my new series Where's the Science Here?: Sneakers published by Lerner Books.

Article By Vicki Cobb
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World