December 22, 2015
2015 is drawing to a close and since there aren’t many major races from now until the New Year, we’re putting out our annual end-of-year rankings. Over the final days of the year, we’ll rank the top 10 men and women in the world in every Diamond League distance event (800, 1500/mile, 3000 steeple, 5000) as well as the marathon. We’ll also rank the top five Americans in each event.
Since these rankings are obviously subjective, we’ll lay out the criteria we’re using for them:
- An emphasis on performance in big races. How the athlete fared in the World Championships is obviously a major consideration but winning Worlds doesn’t guarantee that an athlete will earn a #1 ranking. For U.S. athletes, their performance at the USATF Outdoor Championships also factors heavily in the rankings.
- Season-best times matter but they’re less important if the time wasn’t run against good competition.
- Runners who specialized in one event will be considered for other events but can be penalized in the rankings for not running enough races.
- Indoor races will be considered and can help an athlete’s ranking, but they won’t be valued as much as outdoor races, especially because there was no World Indoors this year.
LRC 2014 men’s 1500/mile rankings * LRC All 2014 Year-End Rankings * LRC 2015 WC 1500 Recap The Sensational Asbel Kiprop Reigns Supreme and Wins Fourth Global Title
1. Asbel Kiprop • Kenya • 26 years old • 3:26.69 1500 sb (#1 in world) • 3:51.25 mile sb (#3 in world) • World Champion • Diamond League Champion
DL results: 3rd Pre Classic, 1st Oslo, 1st Monaco, 1st London, 1st Zurich (DL final)
Here’s some free advice: savor Asbel Kiprop, because a guy like this doesn’t come around very often. Kiprop is an immense talent, perhaps the greatest to grace the 1500 in history, and when his career is over, he may very well own a couple of world records in addition to his pile of gold medals. Right now, he’s #3 on the all-time list at 1500, .69 behind the great Hicham El Guerrouj (El Guerrouj also has five global outdoor golds in the 1500 to Kiprop’s four). But after what Kiprop accomplished this year, the sky is the limit in 2016.
It’s hard to pick our favorite Kiprop race of 2015 (a tactically-awful race at the Pre Classic was all that prevented him from going undefeated in 1500/miles) because each was memorable in its own way. In Monaco on July 17, he demonstrated the chasm that exists between him and every other 1500 runner in the world, slaughtering a top-notch field to run 3:26.69. Five other men ran under 3:30 in that race, three under 3:29, yet none of them posed the slightest threat to Kiprop. In London eight days later, Kiprop ran a drastically different race, allowing the entire 15-person field to pass him at the halfway point before turning on the jets and mowing them all down on the final lap. In the World Championship final in Beijing, Kiprop was in horrible position late in the race but casually lengthened his stride on the backstretch of the bell lap, cruised into the lead with 50 meters to go and won going away thanks to a 51-second last 400.
Kiprop was so much better than the rest of the world this year that it almost didn’t matter what tactics he employed (we say almost as he cost himself the win at Pre by running too much extra ground). All that mattered was that Kiprop had room to run on the home stretch, and when that was the case, it was game over: Kiporop would unfurl his impossibly long limbs, glide past his straining rivals and take another victory.
In 2016, Kiprop can join El Guerrouj as the only men to win five global outdoor 1500 golds and Seb Coe as the only man to win multiple Olympic 1500 titles. And if the past four years are a guide, we can also expect Kiprop to mount a serious challenge to El Guerrouj’s 3:26.00 world record in Monaco, so circle July 15 on your calendars. In fact, if you love track, circle any date when Kiprop is scheduled to race — Kiprop is that special.
2. Elijah Manangoi • Kenya • 22 years old • 3:29.67 1500 sb (#6) • Silver at Worlds
DL results: 6th Monaco, 2nd Zurich (DL final)
Manangoi, a converted 400 runner, emerged from obscurity to earn a silver medal at Worlds in Beijing. Eentering the year, his pb was just 3:35.0 (hand-timed at last year’s Kenyan Champs), but he topped that in Nancy, France, on 3:34.88 and smashed it to pieces after stepping onto the magical Monaco track, leaving with a 3:29.67 to become the 31st (and most recent) member of the sub-3:30 club.
That’s a terrific performance by a 22-year-old, but it was largely overlooked due to Kiprop’s sensational 3:26 up front and a slew of ridiculous times behind him. But despite facing perhaps the most loaded 1500 field ever in a global championship final — Manangoi was just one of seven men in Beijing to have broken 3:30 — Manangoi put his 400 background to good use (he ran a 46.5 hand-timed in 2013), closing harder than anyone over the final 100 meters to earn silver. Just look at the video from the final 100: Manangoi isn’t even in the picture until about halfway down the home straight.
Four days later in Zurich, Manangoi used the same late burst to take second in the Diamond League final. He’s not on Kiprop’s level, but if Manangoi is already becoming adept at honing his speed. He’s certainly one to watch in 2016.
3. Abdelaati Iguider • Morocco • 28 years old • 3:28.79 1500 sb (#3) • 3:53.21 mile (#10) • Bronze at Worlds
DL results: 9th Pre Classic, 6th Paris, 3rd Monaco, 4th Zurich (DL final)
Here’s a strange but true stat: Abdelaati Iguider has not won a mile/1500 since February 16, 2013. He has not won a mile/1500 outdoors since May 27, 2012.
What Iguider has done since May 27, 2012: earn an Olympic bronze medal, a World Championship bronze medal and run 3:28.79, making him the eighth-fastest man in history.
Iguider finished in the top four in the three biggest races of the year: Monaco (3rd), Worlds (3rd) and the Diamond League final in Zurich (4th). For good measure, he dipped under 13:00 in the 5,000 to take third in the DL final in that event as well.
One other note about Iguider. In February, Iguider’s wife gave birth to the a son, Mohamed, while the couple was staying in Philadelphia between indoor races. That means he’s an American citizen. Which country Mohamed chooses to represent — and whether he chooses to run at all — won’t be determined for a long time, but it doesn’t hurt for an American citizen to have a dad who’s run 3:28 and owns a pair of bronze medals.
4. Taoufik Makhloufi • Algeria • 27 years old • 3:28.75 1500 sb (#2) • 4th at Worlds
DL results: 4th Paris, 2nd Monaco
Based on results, you could argue that Makhloufi was in better shape this year than when he won Olympic gold three years ago. His season best in 2012 was 3:30.80, a mark he eclipsed twice this year, including a 3:28.75 in Monaco that ranks him #7 all-time. Yet when he made the same move he did at London 2012 — taking off with 300 meters to go — in this year’s World Championship final, instead of folding, the field responded and ran down Makhloufi in the final 100, leaving him in 4th place.
So why did Makhloufi dominate in London but leave Beijing without a medal? Everyone else was better, too. Unlike three years ago, Kiprop was fully healthy. Iguider, the bronze medalist in London, was just .04 behind Makhloufi in Monaco and edged him by .09 in Beijing. Elijah Manangoi was just 19 during the London Games but three years later has emerged as one of the globe’s top talents.
When an event is as loaded as the men’s 1500 was this year, a few studs are inevitably going to be left out of the medals. Unfortunately for Makhloufi, he was one of them in 2015.
5. Silas Kiplagat • Kenya • 26 years old • 3:30.12 1500 sb (#8) • 3:51.72 mile sb (#4) • 5th at Worlds
DL results: 1st Shanghai, 4th Pre Classic, 2nd Oslo, 1st Paris, 9th Zurich (DL final)
Once again, Kiplagat was a stud on the circuit, collecting multiple Diamond League wins for the fourth year in a row. In recent years, no one has won more DL races than Kiplagat.
Diamond League 1500/mile victories, 2011-2015
Silas Kiplagat, 10
Asbel Kiprop, 9
Ayanleh Souleiman, 7
Nixon Chepseba, 2
Seven others tied at 1
Unfortunately for Kiplagat, he’s only got one silver medal (2011) to show for that regular-season dominance. There are a few reasons that explain that, the primary one being that the event is simply loaded right now, as we explained in the Makhloufi section. Another is that Kiplagat’s top-end speed is not as great as some of his rivals’. This is picking nits, but it’s a point his coach Renato Canova made in the book How to Race the Mile and it has stood up over time. Kiplagat can close extremely well in a 3:30-3:32 race but his kick is basically the same in a 3:34-3:36 race. Guys like Kiprop can kick harder in slower races (as championship finals tend to be) and in an event where an extra tenth of a second can be massive, Kiplagat’s flaw is magnified.
Many view Kiplagat as a choker but consider these stats. At the 2013 Worlds, he was 6th but just .33 away from silver. This year, he was 5th but only .18 from silver. The men’s 1500 is certainly won of the most exciting races to watch as the depth and closeness for the spots behind Kiprop is incredible.
6. Ayanleh Souleiman • Djibouti • 23 years old • 3:30.17 1500 sb (#9) • 3:51.10 mile sb (#1)
DL results: 1st Pre Classic, 4th Oslo, 2nd Paris, 3rd London, 1st Stockholm
Souleiman seemed ready to challenge for a medal in Beijing but he pulled up with an injury in his prelim, ending his championships. Still, he deserves credit for what he did accomplish in 2015: two Diamond League wins, including a repeat in the Bowerman Mile, where he handed Kiprop his only loss on the year. His 3:51.10 at Pre made him the world’s fastest miler for the second year in a row, and he surely would have lowered his 1500 pb in Monaco if he hadn’t been busy running 1:42.97 for 800 in the same meet.
Souleiman will run in his first Olympics in 2016. Barring another injury, he should be in the thick of the medal hunt.
7. Nick Willis • New Zealand • 32 years old • 3:29.66 1500 sb (#5) • 6th at Worlds
DL results: 5th Monaco
How to top a 2014 season in which Willis broke 3:30 and 3:50 for the first time? Run even faster in 2015 and finish with his best championship result since his Olympic silver in 2008. At an age where most 1500 men are slowing down or transitioning to the 5,000, Willis is faster than ever.
He’s not done yet, either. When you look at the keys to success of older runners like Meb Keflezighi and Bernard Lagat, health and coaching stability are two common factors. Willis is rarely injured and has a great relationship with Ron Warhurst, who has coached him since he enrolled at the University of Michigan in 2002. It’s not hard to imagine Willis running at a high level for several more years.
8. Matthew Centrowitz • USA • 26 years old • 3:30.40 1500 sb (#12) • 3:51.20 mile sb (#2) • 8th at Worlds • USA Outdoor Champion • USA Indoor Champion
DL results: 2nd Pre Classic, 10th Monaco, 2nd London, 11th Stockholm
Like Makhloufi, Centrowitz was in better shape than he was three years ago but finished further back at Worlds. And like Makhloufi, the reason had little to do with Centro’s own failings and more to do with the dramatically increased quality of the competition.
Centrowitz began 2015 on fire, winning the Wanamaker Mile in a blazing 3:51.35 and coasting to his first indoor national title in March. He followed that up with by far his most successful Diamond League seasons, taking second at the Pre Classic (ahead of Kiprop) and London (ahead of Souleiman). In between, he also PR’d at 800, running an impressive 1:44.62 in New York. And his victory at USAs, by a ridiculous 1.50 seconds, the largest margin in 11 years, was one of the most dominant performances of the season.
The stars seemed to be aligning for Centrowitz to move up to gold after taking bronze and silver at the last two World Championships, but in one of the deepest finals in history, Centrowitz wound up eighth. He wasn’t disappointed with the race, however. Afterward, he told us:
“This was a quality field, one of the best fields that I’ve raced in the last couple global championships. With 300 to go, I was all-out at that point [and couldn’t] respond to Makhloufi’s push…I knew I had to respond, and I couldn’t and that was the best I could do today…It wasn’t like I had a poor championship. It was a tough three rounds. Every round was a dogfight. I’m exhausted right now.”
Centro made tremendous progress this year in terms of fitness and DL results (he’s now the fastest American-born 1500 runner of all time) and tactically, he remains strong. At 26, he’s in his prime and 2016 should bring more success, with sub-3:30 and a first Olympic medal two good goals for Centro.
9. Robert Biwott • Kenya • 19 years old • 3:30.10 1500 sb (#7)
DL results: 5th Shanghai, 5th Paris, 7th Monaco, 3rd Zurich (DL final)
Biwott, who burst onto the scene last year with his 800 victory in Shanghai (you may remember it better as the race in which Taoufik Makhloufi cost himself the win by celebrating early) focused on the 1500 this year and put together a terrific year, lowering his pb from 3:36.77 all the way down to 3:30.10 in Monaco. He was very unfortunate not to make the Kenyan World Championship team. He was fourth at the Trials — remember, Kenya got four spots this year — yet Athletics Kenya strangely elected to take fifth placer Timothy Cheruiyot instead despite the fact that Cheruiyot’s sb (3:34.86) was way slower than Biwott’s.
Cheruiyot wound up a respectable seventh in Beijing, but Biwott may have been able to better that: Biwott was third in the Diamond League final in Zurich on September 3, behind only Kiprop and Manangoi (who went 1-2 at Worlds). Biwott is a stud, but with only three Olympic spots up for grabs, he’ll have to bring his A game in 2016 to even make it to Rio.
10. Mo Farah • Great Britian • 32 years old • 3:28.93 1500 sb (#4)
We honestly didn’t know who to rank #10. Initially, we had decided to put 20-year old Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot here based solely on the fact that he was 7th at Worlds. Even though Timothy was only the fourth Kenyan at Worlds and 5th Kenyan at the Kenyan Trials, he was 7th overall at Worlds. But Cheruiyot raced just once on the DL circuit (he was third in the B heat of the mile at the Pre Classic) and a tactically-awful anchor leg cost his Kenyan squad the win (and a possible world record) at the World Relays DMR in May (he went out in 51.96 for his first lap!!!). Cheruiyot clearly still has some things to learn when it comes to racing the 1500/mile and his 3:34.86 seasonal best was only 27th best in the world.
Once we soured on Cheruiyot, we could try to pick between the two men who ran 3:30 this year but haven’t appeared in the top 10 yet – Aman Wote of Ethiopia and Collins Cheboi of Kenya. Wote made the final at Worlds but was a DNF and he was only 13th at Pre, 9th in Paris and 8th in Monaco. Cheboi was 7th at Pre, 8th in Paris and 9th in Monaco. Choosing between those two is tough. Wote ran .05 faster on the year and made the final at Worlds but counting indoors Cheboi was 3-1 on the year against Wote.
So instead of deciding between three so-so candiates, we decided to go with Farah. Yes, he only raced once on the year at 1500/mile but there was little not to like about that race. He ran 3:28.93 for fourth in Monaco and beat Willis, Managnoi, Biwott, Wote, Cheboi, and Centrowitz in that race. In the history of the world, only 10 men have ever run faster than 3:28.93 (Farah is one of them). We’d rather reward one supreme perfomance instead of a bunch of mediocre ones.
1. Matthew Centrowitz (see above)
2. Robby Andrews • adidas • 24 years old • 3:35.52 1500 sb (#7 in US) • 3:57.15 mile sb (#13 in US) • 11th at Worlds • 2nd at USA Outdoors • USA Indoor Champion (1000)
DL results: 5th Stockholm, 8th Zurich (DL final)
Andrews reunited with college coach Jason Vigilante in 2015 and together they recaptured some of the magic that saw Andrews claim a pair of NCAA titles and finish 5th at the 2012 Olympic Trials. Andrews’ success began in March, when he claimed his first U.S. title by winning the 1000 at USA Indoors, and continued two months later in the Bahamas where he anchored Team USA to gold in the 4×800.
It was at USAs, though, that Andrews took the biggest leap in his career, qualifying for his first World Championships with an epic kick over the final 150 meters. Andrews kept rolling for the rest of the season, running 3:35.82 in Portland on July 2 (his fastest in three years and second-best ever at the time) before bettering that with a 3:35.52 for 5th in the Stockholm DL meet on July 30. In Beijing, he made it to the final in arguably the most competitive year ever, placing 11th overall.
Centro was a clear #1 this year, but, as at USAs, where #2 through #4 were separated by just .03 of a second, the next three spots on our list were close. We gave Andrews the nod for #2 and here’s why:
- He was 3-1 against Leo Manzano on the year in 1500/miles and 1-0 against Ben Blankenship
- He had three of the nine fastest 1500s on the year by an American. No one else had more than one performance in the top nine.
- He won a national title indoors.
- He was second at USAs outdoors.
3. Ben Blankenship • Oregon Track Club Elite/Nike • 27 years old • 3:35.28 1500 sb (#5 in US) • 3:53.13 mile sb (#2 in US) • 4th at USA Outdoors • 2th at USA Indoors (mile/2-mile)
DL results: 4th Shanghai, 5th London
When Blankenship beat Galen Rupp in the two mile at the Armory Track Invitational on January 31, Blankenship’s name was used only to demonstrate how poorly Rupp had run. “Wow. He ran so badly he lost to Ben Blankenship.” But it quickly became apparent that while that two mile was an off race for Rupp, there is no shame in losing to Ben Blankenship. He dropped a 3:53.13 mile at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on February 7 and a 3:35.28 1500 in Birmingham two weeks later. By the time he claimed a pair of runner-up finishes at USA indoors in the mile and two mile, Blankenship was clearly for real.
Blankenship continued his fine 2015 outdoors, anchoring the USA to a world record at the World Relays with a brilliant anchor leg and falling just a hair short of making his first U.S. team in taking fourth at USAs. Though he lost to Leo Manzano in that race, we give Blankenship the nod in our rankings thanks to his faster SBs and head-to-head record (Blankenship was 2-1, with wins at USA indoors and the London Diamond League).
More: *LRC Profile From Excavation Grunt To The U.S.’s Fastest Man At 1,500: Ben Blankenship Discusses His Journey And His Breakthrough 2015 Season
*LRC USA “Motley Crew” Caps Distance Relay Sweep With Wild World-Record Victory In Men’s DMR – 9:15.50 In A Crazy Race
*Ben Blankenship Archives – LetsRun.com
4. Leo Manzano • Hoka One One • 31 years old • 3:36.16 1500 sb (#8 in US) • 3:53.55 mile sb (#3 in US) • 10th at Worlds • 3rd at USA Outdoors • 6th at USA Indoors
DL results: 11th Pre Classic, 13th Monaco, 8th London, 11th Zurich (DL final)
Few runners are less consistent than Manzano meet to meet, but when you look at it year to year, it’s the complete opposite. Manzano finished in the top three at USAs for the 10th year in a row in 2015 (by the skin of his teeth — he beat Blankenship by .02) and advanced through the rounds in Beijing to make his third global final (after the ’09 Worlds and ’12 Olympics).
Manzano didn’t run a blazing 1500 as he did last year (when he recorded his pb of 3:30.98), but he’s got plenty of speed in those legs — even at 31 — as he ran 1:45.24 for 800, his best time in five years. Now it’s on to 2016, where Manzano will try to join Jim Ryun as the only Americans to run the 1500 in three Olympic Games.
5. Evan Jager • Bowerman Track Club Elite/Nike • 26 years old • 3:32.97 1500 sb (#2 in US) • 3:55.25 mile sb (#8 in US)
Jager isn’t known as a miler, but when you run as fast as he did in Portland on June 14, you get a spot on this list. Jager’s 3:32.97 was a world leader at the time and made him the fastest American of the past five years not named Centrowitz or Manzano. Could Jager have made Team USA at 1500? Without more evidence, it’s hard to say. But he would have been in the conversation, at the very least (He’d also have a great shot at making it in the 5000 – Galen Rupp is the only other American male we could possibly see making it in three different events).
Honorable mention: Andrew Wheating (Oregon Track Club Elite/Nike)
LRC 2014 men’s 1500/mile rankings * LRC All 2014 Year-End Rankings * LRC 2015 WC 1500 Recap The Sensational Asbel Kiprop Reigns Supreme and Wins Fourth Global Title