My top 3 most physiologically impressive performances in men's mid distance and distance championship events:
1) Kenenissa Bekele, Beijing 2008, 5000m
In this race, a moderate first kilometer is followed by the Ethiopians working together to create two sub 2:40 kilometers, stringing the field out and reaching 3000m at a pace good for a finish in 13:22. Then, with five laps to go at 3000m, Bekele takes over the race, running the next four laps at near 60 seconds per lap. This pace destroys most of the field, leaving Bekele with only future marathon great Eliud Kipchoge within reachable distance. Bekele would put Kipchoge's chances to rest on the last lap, running a staggering 53 second last lap to finish the race in an Olympic Record time of 12:57. Famed coach Renato Canova said that only two other athletes in the field could have run with Bekele over his last 2000m in 4:55 completely fresh, let alone after an 8:01 performance for 3000m.
2) David Rudisha, London 2012, 800m
Spectators knew Rudisha was the class of the field, but few expected the performance that he pulled off in this race. Taking the race out in a fast 24 seconds for 200m, he backed it up with another fast 200m to bring the field through 400m in 49.3 seconds. No man had ever gone this fast and maintained their lead to victory in an Olympic final. But Rudisha proceeded to speed up, running his next 200m in 25 flat, faster than his last. The field was struggling to keep him within distance after this surge in pace. He finished with a last 200m of 27.6, which was good enough for victory, and to break his own world record by a tenth of a second. No man had ever front run the entire Olympic 800m while setting a new world record.
3) Hicham el Guerrouj, Athens 2004, 1500m
After a moderate first 800m in 2:01, el Guerrouj proceeds to run every 100m of the remaining 700m faster than the last. By the last lap, the field is struggling to keep el Guerrouj within distance. Fellow 3:26 man Bernard Lagat manages to stay on el Guerrouj's heels for final lap, before moving up ahead of him with the finish line just in sight. El Guerrouj is too good, however, and regains the lead before the finish line. El Guerrouj's last 700m was run at a pace of 1:45 for 800m. This statistic is made even more astonishing by the fact that he ran it in negative split fashion, a physiologically disadvantaged way to run such a fast time.
What are your top 3?