A man, 40 yards, a clock, and a most unusual challenge

It has long been my contention that I am faster than future baseball Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. He’s now retired, but in the last couple of years of his career, I’d watch him waddle down to first base – barely even picking his feet up – and think that even though I am 20 years older, I have to be faster than that.

I’m not in the greatest shape, but I do regularly exercise and have been known to pick up the pace at more than just a light jog for someone who is a 60-something. And when I do, I’m usually thinking “there’s no way Albert Pujols can run this fast.”

If only there were a way to prove it …

One day, I noticed the Loyola football team was going through summer drills and had automatic timers set up to determine 40-yard clockings. What if I timed myself and translated that data into the speed from home to first? Baseball analytics are now such that you can find just about any speed you want, so getting Albert’s speed shouldn’t be a problem.

But what about my speed? What was a reasonable expectation about my 40 time? What could I be happy with?

The answer, I figured, had to be between 5.5 and 7.0. Having no idea what Pujols could run it in, I settled on a goal of 6.0 seconds in the 40 and see if that would prove anything.

However, I still had to weigh the risks of running the 40 on hot artificial turf in running shoes — and not just the physical risks. There was an entire football team that was looking for a good laugh.

After almost as much stretching as deliberation, I decided to give it a shot. In 6.0 seconds (hopefully) it would all be over with.

Because it was automatically timed, I wouldn’t have to worry about a slow reaction at the start. When I started, the clock would start. I had on workout clothing, so that wasn’t going to be a hinderance. There was basically no wind.

I gave it one last do-I-really-want-to-do this, got in a stance (no starting blocks) and took off.

This I hadn’t planned on: For each 10 yards of the 40-yard run, I had a different thought. I don’t know what Usain Bolt thinks about, but it’s fair to say that it’s probably not the same things I thought about on my “sprint.”

First 10 yards: I was relieved that I didn’t fall down. As long as I stayed vertical, I could probably keep the laughter to a minimum.

Second 10 yards: I was realizing that the shoes didn’t seem to have much grip. I never felt like I was getting a solid foot on the turf.

Third 10 yards: Isn’t this the part of a sprint where guys pull up and immediately grab their hammy like they’ve been shot in the leg? Man, I hope that doesn’t happen.

Final 10 yards: Finally, a rational runner thought – finish strong and run all the way through. And that these were 10 yards that Albert Pujols never has to run going only 90 feet from home to first base.

I was surprised that I wasn’t winded in the least, but even as I was crossing the line, I was already thinking that I felt like I could have run faster. Had I done better than 6.0? I wasn’t sure.

Thankfully, the clock was hidden from all observers, so I couldn’t just look and get the result. I had to ask.

“Six point one,” the assistant football coach said.

Sure, I wished I had cracked 6.0, but I wasn’t crushed. It was respectable (for someone my age) and I was emboldened when a player said “We’ve got guys on our team that can’t run that fast.”


Now it was time to do the computation, so bear with me. My speed of 6.1 equates to 16.36 miles per hour. But baseball measures speed in feet per second and that translates to 23.99 fps.

At age 42, Albert Pujols was timed at 23.2 fps – about seven inches faster. However, he’s only running 90 feet; I ran 120. It is reasonable to think that I slowed down the last 10 yards of my timed run.

I’d probably feel a whole lot better about the whole thing if it weren’t for that 703 home run advantage he has over me.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com