How Does Height Affect Speed?

Height gives you an advantage in the pool.
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A tall frame gives you a speed advantage in certain sports, but it can be a detriment in others. You might think that a longer stride speed or bigger legs would make you naturally faster, but you also carry more weight, which can slow you down. Your competitive drive and love of a sport will carry you a long way, but physics also plays a role in your overall success.

Running and Cycling

Small people usually go faster when it comes to endurance sports in which you have to propel yourself forward, such as running and cycling. Even though tall people have a longer stride which allows them to cover more ground with each step, this doesn’t necessarily make them faster. A short stride speed, about 180 to 190 strides per minute, is the pace that wins most running endurance events. Tall elite runners may be able to shorten their stride, but they inevitably weigh more than their petite counterparts. When you are tall, you have more weight to move as you run -- slowing you down. In cycling, the less you weigh, the easier it is to pedal your body uphill fast.

Swimming and Rowing

In swimming, height gives you a big advantage. A longer body glides more quickly through the water. Taller athletes also have longer, larger muscles that can propel them more aggressively, especially when it comes to short distances. A tall, muscular person can also be a faster rower because he can produce more power with every stroke.


Triathlons combine swimming with running and cycling. A tall person may have an advantage in these competitions because, although he might not be the best build for running and cycling, he can ace the first part of the competition: the swim, which is most dependent on technique and physics. Even tall triathletes can teach themselves to be competitive cyclists and runners.


Exceptions to the rules of physics exist. Tom Fleming won the New York City Marathon in 1973 and 1975 despite measuring 6-foot-1 and weighing 159 pounds. Having the right physical attributes can give you a natural advantage, but hard work, strategic training and a strong desire to succeed are also essential in your success in becoming speedy.

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