2014 is over and with few races to discuss during the first few weeks of 2015, the staff at LetsRun.com felt it was a good time to hand out some year-end awards. But we need your help. Below, we’ve listed several nominees for nine awards. Over the next week, you can vote for the winner in each category; we’ll tabulate the votes and announce the winners. As you look through each category, we hope you remember the highs and lows from the world of running in 2014. We can’t wait for what 2015 has in store.
Note: As LetsRun.com is primarily focused on the distance events, most of these nominees/awards are biased toward those events. They also are a bit American centered as that’s where our headquarters and most of our audience is located. That doesn’t mean we forgot about the Mutaz Essa Barshim-Bohdan Bondarenko high jump rivalry or this ridiculous race from the European Championships; they just may not show up in some of these polls.
Male Distance Runner of the Year
- Dennis Kimetto: Set the world record for the marathon with his 2:02:57 on September 28 in Berlin. That’s 4:41 pace for 26.2 miles. On the negative side of things, he was a DNF in Boston.
- Wilson Kipsang: Set the course record at the London Marathon (2:04:29) in April and followed it up with a win at the New York City Marathon in November.
- Caleb Ndiku: World Indoor gold at 3k; Commonwealth, African and Diamond League champ at 5000. SBs of 7:31.66 (3000) and 12:59.17 (5000).
- Ayanleh Souleiman: World Indoor gold at 1500; African champ at 1500; 3:47.32 mile at Pre Classic was fastest in the world since Alan Webb in 2007.
- Jairus Birech: Diamond League and African champ in the 3000 steeple; won nine of his last 10 steeples, including the final six DL events; four of the world’s five fastest times in 2014, including the only sub-8:00 (7:58.41).
- Nijel Amos: Diamond League, Commonwealth and African champ at 800; world leader (1:42.45).
Female Distance Runner Of The Year
- Mary Keitany: Won all three of her races in 2014; ran the #2 time ever for the half marathon (65:39) at Great North Run on September 7; won NYC Marathon on November 2.
- Florence Kiplagat: Set half marathon WR on February 16 in Barcelona (65:12); second at London Marathon (2:20:24), third at Chicago (2:25:57; second if you take out Rita Jeptoo); silver in Commonwealth Games 10k.
- Jenny Simpson: Diamond League champ at 1500; DL wins in Stockholm and Zurich; 3:57.22 1500 sb; 8:29.58 3000 sb.
- Hiwot Ayalew: Diamond League champ in 3000 steeple; DL wins in Paris, Glasgow and Stockholm; world leader at 9:10.64.
- Genzebe Dibaba: Indoor world records at 1500 (3:55.17), 3000 (8:16.60) and 2 miles (9:00.48); World Indoor 3k champ; DL wins in Rome and Monaco; world leader at 5000 (14:28.88).
- Mercy Cherono: Commonwealth champ at 5000; five DL wins (3k/2 mile); 8:21.14 3000 sb (#2 in world since 1993); 14:43.11 5000 sb.
- Eunice Sum: Diamond League, Commonwealth and African champ at 800; three of the world’s top seven times; won 11 of her 14 800s, including four DL events; sb of 1:57.92.
American Male Distance Runner of the Year
- Meb Keflezighi: Became first American male to win Boston Marathon since 1983 (in a pb of 2:08:37, U.S. #1); his fourth in NYC Marathon capped off the most successful year for an American marathoner in a long time.
- Galen Rupp: Eclipsed his own American record at 10,000 with his 26:44.36 at the Pre Classic on May 30; also set American records indoors at 2 miles (8:07.41) and 5000 (13:01.26); won sixth straight U.S. title at 10,000; U.S. #1 time at 5000 (13:00.99); U.S. #3 at 1500 (3:34.15); top-four finishes in four DL events; fourth at World Indoor 3000.
- Evan Jager: Broke his own American record in the 3000 steeple (8:04.71); won third straight U.S. title in steeple; second in Oslo DL meet, third in DL final in Brussels; lowered mile pb to 3:53.33 at Pre Classic.
- Leo Manzano: Won second U.S. title in 1500; U.S. #1s at 1500 (3:30.98, fastest time by an American since 2010).
American Female Distance Runner of the Year
- Molly Huddle: Lowered her American record in the 5000 to 14:42.64 in Monaco; U.S. champ at 5000; PR’d by 40 seconds in 10k (30:47.59, #2 all-time U.S.); debuted with 69:04 half marathon for third at NYC Half (#5 performer all-time U.S.); won B.A.A. 5k, NY Mini 10k and three U.S. road titles (5k, 12k, 20k); in all, PR’d in eight events from mile to half marathon.
- Emma Coburn: Ran fastest time ever by an American woman in the 3k steeple (9:11.42 in Glasgow, though it was not ratified as an official U.S. record); became first American, male or female, to win a DL steeple event with her victory in Shanghai; also claimed wins at Continental Cup and USAs (her third U.S. title).
- Shalane Flanagan: Ran the fastest time ever by an American with PR at the Boston Marathon (seventh 2:22:02); later lowered her pb to 2:21:14 (#2 all-time U.S.) with third-place finish in Berlin; won U.S. 15k Champs and runner-up at Bolder Boulder and Beach to Beacon road races.
- Ajee Wilson: Ran world-leading 1:57.67 (#6 performer all-time U.S.) to win 800 at Monaco DL on July 18; also added a DL win in Glasgow and her first U.S. title in Sacramento; helped U.S. women to 4×800 gold at the World Relays.
College Male Distance Runner of the Year
- Edward Cheserek, Oregon: NCAA champ at 3k, 5k indoors, 10k outdoors and cross country; four-for-five in NCAA Championship races (second in outdoor 5k in 13:18.71, making him 10th-fastest in NCAA history at 5000); anchored Oregon to DMR win at Penn Relays; also split 3:56.4 to break open 4xmile in another Duck victory at Penn; his 3:36.50 1500 at Pac-12s is #9 all-time in the NCAA.
- Lawi Lalang, Arizona: NCAA champ at 5k outdoors in meet-record 13:18.36; 2-1 vs. Cheserek (wins at Pac-12 1500, NCAA outdoor 5000, loss in NCAA indoor 3000); second at NCAAs in indoor mile, outdoor 1500; set NCAA indoor record in mile (3:52.88); also ran 7:44.20 for 3k (later ran 7:36.44 after turning pro); after turning pro, ran sb of 13:03.85 for 5000 and finished sixth in DL 5k final.
- Mac Fleet, Oregon: Became first man since Seneca Lassiter to repeat as NCAA 1500 champ; third in NCAA indoor mile; part of Oregon’s Penn Relays-winning squads in DMR and 4xmile (which he anchored).
- Anthony Rotich, UTEP: Repeated as NCAA steeple champ; added surprise win in NCAA mile indoors, defeating Lalang and Fleet; 11th at NCAA XC; pbs of 4:01.11, 8:30.54 and 13:44.13 in ’14.
- Brandon McBride, Mississippi St.: Undefeated vs. NCAA competition at 800, with wins at indoor and outdoor NCAAs; sb of 1:45.35; Canadian champion (race below starts at 1:24 mark).
College Female Distance Runner of the Year
- Kate Avery, Iona: NCAA XC champ came up just three seconds shy of Sally Kipyego‘s 6k course record in Terre Haute (Avery ran 19:31.6); ran pbs of 15:27.90 and 32:33.35 on the track; only ninth in NCAA indoor 3k and eighth in outdoor 5k; fourth in Commonwealth Games 10k; runner-up at Euro XC Champs.
- Laura Roesler, Oregon: NCAA indoor/outdoor 800 champ; her 2:00.54 from Mt. SAC puts her #8 on all-time collegiate list; she ran 1:59.04 for second at USAs after graduating (but still sported the UO singlet), which would be a collegiate record; aside from a DNF at MPSF indoors, undefeated vs. collegiate competition in 800.
- Emma Bates, Boise St.: NCAA 10k champ; fourth in NCAA indoor 3k, indoor 5k and outdoor 5k; third at NCAA XC; sixth in 10k at USAs; sbs of 15:33.42 and 32:20.83.
- Abbey D’Agostino, Dartmouth: Became first woman ever to win both 3k and 5k at indoor NCAAs in back to back years; third at NCAA outdoors.
- Shelby Houlihan, Arizona St.: Won 1500 at NCAAs; won Pac-12s in 1500/5k; ninth at NCAA XC; seventh at outdoor USAs in 800.
- Leah O’Connor, Michigan St.: Won NCAA steeple in 9:36.43, putting her behind only Simpson and Coburn on all-time NCAA list; seventh in NCAA indoor mile; 17th at NCAA XC.
Best Record-Breaking Performance
- Dennis Kimetto, marathon WR (2:02:57): Kimetto became the first human to run under 2:03 for the 26.2-mile distance with his performance in Berlin on September 28, knocking 26 seconds off Wilson Kipsang‘s 2013 mark. The men’s marathon WR has now gone down in five of the past eight years, all in Berlin.
- Florence Kiplagat, half marathon WR (65:12): Whether you considered Paula Radcliffe‘s 65:40 from the 2003 Great North Run or Mary Keitany‘s 65:50 from the 2011 RAK Half the old record (the Great North Run course is point-to-point), there’s no doubt that Kiplagat now reigns supreme among women’s half marathoners after her 65:12 in Barcelona on February 16.
- Genzebe Dibaba, indoor 1500/3k/2 mile WRs (3:55.17, 8:16.60, 9:00.48): It might be a little unfair, but we’re going to lump together Dibaba’s assault on the indoor record book from February 1-15 as one performance. Looking at outdoor lists, her 8:16.60 3k likely ranks as the most impressive performance (it would put her fourth on the all-time list; her 1500 would rank 12th and the 2 mile isn’t run enough as to be noteworthy), though the 3:55.17 is a time that hasn’t been seen outdoors since 1997; it’s likely no clean runner has run faster.
- Renaud Lavillenie, pole vault WR (6.16m/20’2.5″): Lavillenie’s massive vault on February 15 was achieved indoors, but it stands up as the best mark of all-time, indoors or outdoors, eclipsing the 6.15m indoor vault by Sergey Bubka in 1993 (Bubka’s outdoor record is 6.14m). Lavillenie’s accomplishment was even more special because he did it in Donetsk, in Bubka’s home nation of Ukraine, with Bubka himself watching from the stands.
- Anita Wlodarczyk, hammer WR (79.58m/261’1″): Wlodarczyk’s heave in Berlin on August 31 didn’t receive a ton of attention, but as the only women’s WR in an Olympic event, it deserves some praise here. The 29-year-old Wlodarczyk took silver at Worlds in 2013 and the Olympics in 2012 (she was world champ in 2009, with her gold-medal-winning toss setting a WR) and tacked on 16 centimeters to Betty Heidler‘s 2011 world record.
Race of the Year
- New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, men’s 4×800 relay: The U.S. All-Stars (Richard Jones, David Torrence, Duane Solomon, Erik Sowinski) and NJ*NY Track Club (Kyle Merber, Brian Gagnon, Robby Andrews, Michael Rutt) waged an epic battle in Boston on February 8, as both teams broke the existing indoor 4×800 world record of 7:13.94. In the end, it was anchor Sowinski and the U.S. All-Stars that barely held off a hard-charging Rutt and NJ*NY, 7:13.11 to 7:13.22 for a new world record. The 4×800 ended up being a great idea (the Brooks Beasts also entered a team in this race featuring Nick Symmonds and Cas Loxsom but they finished a distant third) and we’re glad that there will be a pair of high-level DMRs in 2015 at the Armory Track Invitational in New York (January 31) and the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston (February 7).
- Doha DL women’s 3000: The Diamond League opened with a bang on May 9 in Doha with the greatest women’s 3000 race of all time. Seven women broke 8:30 in all, with an eighth at 8:30.00 (previously only five women had done it in a single race). If you throw out the questionable Chinese performances from 1993 and those of doper Olga Yegorova, this race produced the #1, #2, #8, #11 and #13 performances in history. Hellen Obiri was the winner in 8:20.68, ahead of Mercy Cherono (8:21:14) and Faith Kipyegon (8:23.55). How good was this race? An 8:16 woman (Genzebe Dibaba) could only finish sixth.
- Monaco DL men’s 1500: Prior to July 18, the most runners to break 3:30 in the same race was three; seven men did it in Monaco. Silas Kiplagat led the way with 3:27.64, the fastest time in the world since 2004, Ronald Kwemoi set a world junior record in third with 3:28.81; four other men set national records and Americans Leo Manzano (3:30.98) and Matthew Centrowitz (3:31.09) set pbs. Kiplagat got the glory, but Asbel Kiprop deserves a lot of credit for making this race what it was: Kiprop was right on the rabbits from the gun as he chased Hicham El Guerrouj‘s world record of 3:26.00. Though Kiprop ended up second in “only” 3:28.45, he helped produce one of the best 1500 races in history (race starts at 2:04 mark of video below).
- NCAA men’s outdoor 5000: After Oregon’s Edward Cheserek destroyed Arizona’s Lawi Lalang at indoor NCAAs in the 5k, it looked like he’d never lose another college race. Cheserek blew away Oklahoma State’s Shadrack Kipchirchir on Day 1 of NCAAs to win the 10,000, closing in a ludicrous 24.8 seconds for his final 200 and seemed set to pull off the 5k/10k double two days later. But if anyone could beat Cheserek, it was Lalang. The Arizona senior narrowly edged Cheserek in the Pac-12 1500 final (3:36.34 to 3:36.50) and entered as the defending champion. Still, many (including some of us at LetsRun.com) thought that Cheserek would prevail in the 5k, despite Lalang’s sparkling 3:33/13:00 pbs. With Cheserek, who to that point was undefeated in NCAA Championships for his career, and Lalang, who had won seven NCAA titles between XC and track, it was shaping up to be a fantastic race and the two men didn’t disappoint. After Texas Tech’s Kennedy Kithuka led early, Lalang seized the lead with a mile to go and began really pushing the pace in an effort to sap Cheserek’s kick. The plan looked to have failed when Cheserek took off with 240 meters to go, but Lalang didn’t allow the gap to reach more than a couple meters and pulled level with Cheserek with 100 meters to go as the screaming Hayward Field crowd rose to its feet. The two runners engaged in a spectacular home-stretch duel, neither ceding ground until Cheserek finally broke with 25 meters to go. The results said Lalang was the winner in 13:18.36 (a meet record), but this truly was a race that neither man deserved to lose.
- USA outdoors women’s 5000: It looked like the women’s 10k on Day 1 would go down as the most exciting distance race of USAs, but Day 2 saw an even better finish on the track in Sacramento as Molly Huddle took down Shannon Rowbury, 15:01.56 to 15:01.71, to win her second U.S. title on the track. This was the 5000 at its finest, a battle between Huddle, the aerobic monster, and Rowbury, the speed merchant. Huddle led every step of the race until the final lap, gradually squeezing the pace down until only she and Rowbury remained with 800 to go. Rowbury, as her Nike Oregon Project teammate Jordan Hasay had done the night before, took the lead just before the final turn. Huddle responded, and the two battled all the way to the finish line with Huddle winning by inches.
- Berlin Marathon, men’s race: Most of America was sleeping while this one went on, but if you got up early (or stayed up really, really late), you were rewarded with not just a world record, but a real race. Emmanuel Mutai hung with Dennis Kimetto until 4k to go, when Kimetto took off to win in 2:02:57. As opposed to the last few world records (Wilson Kipsang won by 42 seconds when he broke it in ’13; Patrick Makau won by 3:17 in ’11 and Haile Gebrselassie won by 1:37 in ’08 and 2:25 in ’07), this race’s outcome was still in doubt in the late stages, with Mutai finishing just 16 seconds back of Kimetto (and under the world record) in 2:03:13 (race starts at 9:16 of video below).
- NCAA women’s indoor 4×400: This was undoubtedly one of the greatest races over any distance in collegiate history. It had everything you could want from a race. Star power? Oregon boasted 800 champ Laura Roesler and was anchored by 400 champ Phyllis Francis — who broke the U.S. indoor record (50.46) 90 minutes earlier. Texas’s squad included Courtney Okolo, who would set a collegiate record (50.03) and win the NCAA championship outdoors and was anchored by 2012 World Junior/2013 NCAA outdoor 400 champ Ashley Spencer. High stakes? It was the final event of the meet, and Texas entered leading Oregon, 35.5-34. The winner of the race would win the NCAA team title. A dramatic anchor leg? Francis and Spencer received the baton side-by-side. Spencer leads off the final turn, but Francis runs her down and nips her at the line by .02 seconds to win the race — and the meet — for Oregon. A fast time? Both squads eclipsed the previous collegiate record (Oregon claimed it with 3:27.40). As we said in our post-race recap, “there is no way it can get any better than this.”
- African Championships, men’s 1500: If we told you there was a championship race with Ayanleh Souleiman, Asbel Kiprop and Ronald Kwemoi — three of the four fastest men in 2014 — plus 2013 World bronze medallist Johan Cronje and 3:30 guy James Magut, you might be interested in it. If we told you the top four finishers were separated by just .16 seconds with a final lap of 50.x, you might be very interested. This one flew under the radar a bit because there was no TV coverage in the USA, but it’s worth a watch to see Souleiman hold off Kiprop, Kwemoi and Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin in the final straight (race starts at 1:27 of video below).
Moment of the Year
- Meb Keflezighi wins the Boston Marathon: A year after the finish-line bombings claimed three lives and injured hundreds, Meb Keflezighi became the first American to win Boston in 31 years in one of the most emotional days in the race’s 118-year history. Taking off with Josphat Boit after eight miles, Keflezighi dropped the field and by the time they started to reel him in it was too late, giving the 38-year-old the win in 2:08:37.
- Mary Cain wins World Junior 3000 gold: In the first-ever outdoor global championships contested on U.S. soil, Cain earned America’s first World Junior medal at an event longer than 800 meters — and it happened to be gold. Cain went to the lead with 175 meters to go and made it look easy in the homestretch, winning by over two seconds and sending the Hayward Field crowd into a frenzy.
- Galen Rupp breaks the American 10,000 record at the Pre Classic: Running on what amounts to his home track, the former Oregon star blitzed a 1:57 final 800 to clock 26:44.36, shaving 3.64 seconds off his American record from 2011. Many doubted whether Rupp could get the record after running just 13:19 for 5000 two weeks earlier at Oxy, but Rupp said a bigger taper and racing closer to home allowed him to close his second 5k in 13:18, propelling him to the record.
- Chanelle Price wins World Indoor 800 gold: Cain winning World Juniors and Rupp breaking the American record weren’t total shockers. Meb winning Boston was a big surprise, but the guy has an Olympic silver medal, a NYC Marathon title and was fourth in the 2012 Olympics. At the start of the year, NO ONE saw Price’s World Indoor gold coming. Price made the final at USA outdoors as a 16-year-old in 2007 but hadn’t been back since; she ranked just 58th on the 2013 outdoor list at 800 and before this year had never broken 2:00. But on March 9 in Sopot, Poland, Price was on top of the world, claiming the U.S.’s first-ever 800 gold at a world championship, indoors or out, winning in wire-to-wire fashion. Incredible.
- USA women win 4×800 gold at World Relays: Kenya dominated the distances at the inaugural World Relays in the Bahamas from May 24-25, winning gold in the men’s 4×800, women’s 4×1500 and men’s 4×1500. But the Kenyans were denied a sweep in the final distance relay, the women’s 4×800, as the U.S. team of Chanelle Price, Geena Lara, Ajee Wilson and Brenda Martinez ran 8:01.58 to Kenya’s 8:04.28, giving gold to the Americans. That, plus Price’s World Indoor gold, sent the message that the U.S. was the #1 nation in the world for the women’s 800 in 2014.
Unusual Moment of the Year
- Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad DQ’ed at European Championships after removing his shirt in celebration with 100 meters to go. The mascot-shoving, Mehdi Baala-punching, French steeplechaser wasn’t content with just winning his third straight European 3000 steeple title on August 14 in Zurich. Instead, he felt the need to take off his singlet (holding it in his mouth for the final barrier) and totally show up his competition. Mekhissi-Benabbad may have finished first in the race (he was later DQ’ed) but he was dead last in the classiness competition.
- Jairus Birech clears the final barrier sideways in Birmingham. How good was Birech in 2014? He had such a big lead in the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Birmingham on August 24 that he could afford to screw up his run-up, brace himself on the final barrier, hop over it sideways and still win by nine seconds. At least he kept his shirt on.
- Alysia Montano competes at USAs while eight months pregnant: When writing our preview of the women’s 800 at USAs, we mostly ignored Montano, even though her name was listed among the declared entrants on the USATF site. When she drew a lane assignment for the prelims, we chalked it up to a clerical error — she must have forgotten to scratch from the event. And then we got to the track in Sacramento on June 26, and we saw her. With her hot pink singlet barely concealing a noticeable baby bump and her trademark flower in her hair, Alysia Montano was on the track preparing for heat three of the women’s 800 at USAs. There would be no miracles from the four-time defending champion — Montano was dead last in her heat — but her 2:32.13 was pretty good considering she was carrying another human being. Seven weeks later, Montano gave birth to a girl, Linnea Dori Montano.