The alligator is not an ideal runner. Those short legs obviously don’t serve it like a horse’s legs do, and the ‘gator can actually tire out in a relatively short time. When it charges after a human or animal, it is either trying to scare it away or seize it. It has a fast and furious burst of energy which serves it well for stealth hunting — grabbing prey when it doesn’t expect it. Furthermore, the reptile is opportunistic, which means, quite simply, it doesn’t like to work very hard to get its food if it doesn’t have to.
Alligator ready to attack, sounding a warning hiss.So, in the very rare event you are charged or chased by an alligator, move in as straight a line as possible away from it as fast as you reasonably can. In many cases, the vegetation features of the wild will serve to protect you by slowing the alligator down, like trees, bumps, bushes, etc. — your comparatively long legs usually make it easier for you to maneuver through the trees and brush than an alligator’s short legs do for it.
Most adult humans can outrun even a fast crocodilian, which has been clocked at a maximum of about 10 mph/17 kilometers per hour (kph), compared to a human speed of 15-17 mph/24-27 kph. But this doesn’t matter much; an alligator will often give up the chase because it sees that the runner is moving away too quickly, and realizes that too much effort will be required to continue pursuit. The vertically aligned mammals with long legs have the advantage over the tubular, horizontally-aligned, short-legged reptile.
You may have heard somewhere that the zigzag run (running in a “z” pattern, side-to-side) is a good idea, but this is not only an unnecessary maneuver but probably a very unwise one. Here’s why:
Unless you’re an Olympic-level athlete, running zigzag over natural topography increases your risk of tripping and falling over rocks, plants, roots, and the like. And it goes without saying that falling while being pursued by an alligator is not good.
Furthermore, an alligator has limited binocular vision, a relatively narrow functional ‘blind spot’ appearing directly in front of it at close range, partly due to its wide, long upper jaw. Hence, the ‘gator’s vision is most effective in the ‘sides’ of its field of view. So, running zigzag not only slows your rate of distance from your pursuer, it may more clearly indicate to the animal exactly where you are; even this point hardly matters since in many cases the ‘gator may keep its eyes shut while pursuing so as not to get them hit by twigs, grass stalks and branches in its path.
Finally, an alligator bites very effectively in a side-swiping motion, so if you are trying to run zigzag and are slowed down by plants, rocks, or other obstacles, the backwards flying leg of a running human is an optimal target for side-swiping, chomping jaws (the operative word here is “side”).
Simply put, when faced with an attack, move directly away from the alligator as quickly as possible, navigating the terrain as carefully as possible. The zigzag idea will likely not serve you well.