5 animals that could beat you in a race

Thane Maynard trains like an animal. Or so he’d like to think. The director of Cincinnati Zoo, US, logs a third of his weekly mileage on zoo grounds, with the athletes of the animal kingdom as his inspiration. ‘I have a tremendous fascination with running animals,’ says Maynard, 60, who ran his hometown’s Flying Pig Half Marathon for the 10th time last May. ‘If animals competed in the Olympics, they’d beat every person,’ he says. ‘Even Usain Bolt. I doubt a human could even keep up with a house cat or a bunny rabbit.’ Cincinnati Zoo will hold its 37th Cheetah Run 5K in August and runners will have a chance to watch a cheetah tearing up and down its running yard. Not surprisingly, the sleek big cat features on Maynard’s dream team of speedy beasts.

1/ Cheetahs

‘At the zoo, we have the fastest [land] animal ever recorded in history, Sarah the cheetah. National Geographic filmed her running 100 metres. She finished in 5.95 seconds. Her top speed was 61 miles per hour. Scientists who study cheetahs credit their great speed to their strong hind legs, which help them increase the number of strides they take. Cheetahs also run with their claws out, which gives them good traction on the move.’

2/ Ostriches

‘The fastest two-legged animals. They can run at more than 40 miles per hour. They have long legs relative to their body size, which gives them a long step. Unlike the cheetah, which is exhausted after a sprint, ostriches can run fast for longer distances. A study found their springy leg tendons allow them to run while expending 50 per cent less energy than humans.’

3/ Hippos

‘Although they definitely don’t look the part, hippos are great runners. They may weigh up to 3,600kg and have short, stumpy legs, but they can really move. Hippos have been recorded running up to 30 miles per hour on land. They also engage in underwater running by pushing off a lake bed or riverbed and then gliding along.’

4/ Grizzly bears

‘Bears can run surprisingly fast, close to 30 miles per hour. And reports say that they can maintain that impressive speed for up to two miles. However, they do need motivation to do so. For male bears, that usually means a female. During the mating season, males will cover enormous stretches of land quickly to find their special someone.’

5/ Wolves

‘The ultra marathoners of the natural world are undoubtedly wolves. The animals they hunt are faster than they are, but wolves don’t care about that; they just keep running and running until their prey is exhausted. Wolves are wild relatives of the domestic dog. If you have a dog, you’ll know how much they love to run. They have great endurance.’