(Note: This post contains light spoilers for the second episode of “Luke Cage” Season 2.)
After the events of the first season of “Luke Cage,” the titular bulletproof hero for hire also becomes the Hero of Harlem — and a local celebrity.
Luke (Mike Colter) continues to hang out in Harlem in Season 2, stopping bad guys and working toward bringing down Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) and Shades Alvarez (Theo Rossi). Now, all the people of Harlem know about Luke, and they even take selfies with him and track his movements with a smartphone app.
Early in the second season, Luke Cage is making appearances around the community while also looking to make some money to save Pop’s Barbershop from foreclosure. He winds up going to a practice session with the Harlem Jets, a real Harlem youth athletics organization, and shows off his abilities to real-life New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles.
Luke does a football workout akin to the NFL Draft Combine, demonstrating that he can lift (and then throw) a 400-pound monster truck tire, and showing off his abilities in the broad jump (or standing long jump) and 40-yard dash. Luke manages a broad jump of 24 feet, which would smash the real-life broad jump record of 12 feet, 2.75 inches set by Byron Jones in the NFL Combine in 2015.
In the 40-yard dash, Luke sets a time of 3.72 seconds. That’s faster that the world record of 4.12 seconds, which was set by American track runner Christian Coleman in 2015.
Onlookers also remark that Luke is “faster than Usain Bolt.” The Jamaican Olympian holds the world record in the hundred-meter dash: 9.58 seconds, which Bolt set at the Berlin Olympics in 2009. So is Luke faster than Bolt? It’s hard to say without a direct comparison, since there are a bunch of factors that make the two situations very different from one another. It’s possible to do some quick math to get some baseline numbers, though.
The 40-yard dash is 36.58 meters, which is a little more than a third of a 100-meter dash. Converting Luke’s time from 36 meters to 100 meters puts his pace at 10.1 seconds — about a half-second slower than Bolt’s record.
We can also look at the records themselves. When Bolt crossed the portion the 100-meter dash that would have been the finish line of the 40-yard dash — 36.58 meters — his time was 4.18 seconds. That would be the world record for the 40-yard dash on a track, but it’s actually just a touch slower than Coleman’s record.
So those two comparisons give conflicting answers: Luke’s 40-yard dash time is faster than Bolt’s. But if Luke maintained that pace all the way through the race, he’d wind up slower than Bolt. There are a number of factors that would affect the real numbers, since Luke’s run and Usain’s are very different from one another. Just doing the math, or looking at Bolt’s time, isn’t a fair comparison. In fact, there’s even a handy video from The Way to Win, a YouTube channel dedicated to videos and documentaries about Track and Field, that breaks down the differences.
First, Luke is running on turf, while Bolt’s world record run took place on a track during the Olympics. That means they’re wearing different kinds of shoes, too: Football cleats are very different from track shoes, since both are designed for their specific terrain, and offer different kinds of traction to the wearer. Track runners start in starting blocks, while football players start on flat ground. Bolt’s run takes place at a designated start, making his reaction time to the starting gun a factor in his speed, where Luke is free to start his 40-yard dash whenever he feels like it. Luke is also running alone, instead of against other people — an element that could have subtle effects on the outcome of the race.
Finally, the distance of the race matters. The first third of a hundred-meter dash, the distance of the 40-yard dash Luke ran, contains much more acceleration than the last two thirds, since the runner is starting from zero. Just taking a chunk of Bolt’s time isn’t really a fair comparison, since Bolt would be faster in the later part of the race than at the beginning. Likewise, Luke’s super strength might give him faster acceleration, since he’s pushing off the ground more, but not necessarily make him run faster during the later portions of the 100-meter dash.
So the question of whether Luke Cage is actually faster than Usain Bolt goes somewhat unanswered. We can say for sure just from the times, though, that it would be a very close race.