December 11, 2019
We are determining the RACE OF THE DECADE (overview here).
Below you’ll find the matchups for the round of 64 in the Rudisha Region (international distance races) in our Race of the Decade bracket. Voting will be open until the end of the day (midnight ET) on Thursday, December 12.
You can vote on matchups in the other regions by clicking the links below. Seeds are in ().
Race descriptions by Jonathan Gault.
(1) 2012 Olympics, men’s 800 meters
David Rudisha’s finest hour, which featured two Americans breaking 1:43 and poor Andrew Osagie running 1:43.77 and finishing last, is best described by 17 letters: WR, WJR, PB, PB, PB, NR, SB, PB.
(16) 2012 Paris Diamond League, men’s 5,000 meters
With apologies to the 2018 Brussels 5,000, this race was better. The winning time in Brussels was faster (12:43 vs. 12:46), but this race set all-time marks for places 4 through 11 and featured a record six men under 12:50 and 11 under 13:00. It was so deep that Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele both ran 12:55 and finished 8th and 9th.
(2) 2017 World Championships, women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase
Entering the 2017 Worlds, no American, male or female, had ever medalled in the steeplechase at the World Championships. That changed, dramatically, in London. Pre-race favorite Beatrice Chepkoech forgot to hurdle the first water barrier and, as she tried to catch up following her mistake, fell on another barrier.
Somehow, Chepkoech fought her way back to the lead by the bell, but she had nothing left. With Olympic champ/world record holder Ruth Jebet struggling, that left the door open for Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, who blew through it by running huge PRs (five seconds for Coburn, fifteen for Frerichs) to go 1-2 in one of the biggest upsets in World Championship history.
(15) 2016 European Championships, men’s 5,000 meters
They’re not household names, but good luck finding a closer finish. The top three finishers were all given the same time, with fourth-placer Henrik Ingebrigtsen just .01 behind. Morhad Amdouni was .09 behind the winner, Ilias Fifa, yet that was only good for 5th.
(3) 2017 World Championships, men’s 5,000 meters
For almost six years, Mo Farah had been unbeatable. Starting with the 5,000 meters at the 2011 Worlds, Farah had won 10 straight global track finals, including the 10,000 a week earlier at the 2017 Worlds in his home city of London. Farah, who prior to the meet had announced 2017 would be his final year on the track (spoiler alert: it wasn’t) was trying to go out as a champion, but Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris had other plans, upsetting him at London Stadium and turning Farah’s own Mobot against him in celebration.
(14) 2014 Zurich Diamond League, women’s 1500 meters
The best race of the Jenny Simpson–Shannon Rowbury rivalry saw Simpson outlean Rowbury by .01 to win the race and the Diamond League title.
(4) 2016 Olympics, men’s 1500 meters
If you’re an American, you remember where you were when you watched this one. In a tactical masterclass, Matthew Centrowitz won the United States’ first Olympic 1500 gold in 108 years by leading almost wire-to-wire.
Halfway through the race, the tension began building as one question — Can he hold on? — permeated the mind of everyone watching. Yes, he could.
One moment that you may have overlooked from this race: Centrowitz actually lost the lead briefly to Ayanleh Souleiman with 500 meters to go. Centrowitz’s inside pass 50 meters later — which set him up perfectly for the blazing 50.6 final lap — is one of the most underrated tactical moves in Olympic history.
(13) 2012 Olympics, women’s 5,000 meters
Three legends in their prime. Only one could win. In a battle between women who racked up a combined six Olympic and 11 World Championship golds, it was Meseret Defar who won her second Olympic crown by outlasting reigning Olympic champ Tirunesh Dibaba and reigning world champ Vivian Cheruiyot in a clash of the titans.
(5) 2019 World Championships, women’s 1500 meters
Two months later, the results still don’t make any sense. Shelby Houlihan ran 3:54, destroyed the American record, and finished fourth. Led by Sifan Hassan’s sublime 3:51, five women broke 3:56, six broke 3:57, and nine broke 4:00 in the deepest non-Chinese race of all time.
(12) 2019 World Championships, women’s 10,000 meters
Sifan Hassan had never run a 10,000 on the track before 2019. But she ended the year as world champion with one of the most unbelievable splits ever recorded in a distance race: 3:59.09 for her final 1500 meters in a 30:17 10k. Props too, to runner-up Letesenbet Gidey, whose 4:03.68 final 1500 would have been the story on any other night.
(6) 2016 Olympics, women’s 10,000 meters
A world record in an Olympic distance final is rare enough, but what Almaz Ayana did in the first final of the 2016 Olympics was almost incomprehensible. Prior to that race, no one had come within 22 seconds of Wang Junxia’s 23-year-old world record of 29:31.78. Ayana didn’t just break that record in Rio; she smashed it, clocking 29:17.45 thanks to a scorching 14:30 second 5k.
Four of the top five times in history came from this race, as did Molly Huddle’s American record of 30:13.17, which was good for 6th place.
(11) 2015 Paris Diamond League, men’s steeplechase
Despite a brilliant 8:00.45 American record, the question for Evan Jager at Paris 2015 will always be, What if? 7:56 or 7:57 was in play on a day where everything went right for the American — except the final barrier.
(7) 2017 Zurich Diamond League final, men’s 5,000 meters
Mo Farah, in his final race on the track*, earned some revenge against Muktar Edris, who dethroned him at Worlds just two weeks earlier, by winning a crazy four-man sprint that left Edris, Yomif Kejelcha, and Paul Chelimo sprawled on the track by the finish.
(10) 2012 Olympics, men’s 10,000-meter final
The greatest race in the history of the Nike Oregon Project saw training partners Mo Farah and Galen Rupp go 1-2 in the Olympic final in London, a sentence that would have sounded incomprehensible just two years earlier.
(8) 2018 Zurich Diamond League final, men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase
If you could pick a distance event where you don’t want to lose a shoe, the steeplechase might be at the top of the list. But barely a lap into the 2018 Diamond League final, Conseslus Kipruto was forced to kick off his left shoe. He kept racing, and despite trailing off the final barrier, Kipruto ran down Soufiane El Bakkali for a famous win, to the delight of athletes watching ahead of the other DL final in Brussels.
(9) 2019 World Championships, men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase
For the first time since 1987, it looked as if a non-Kenyan-born athlete was going to win a global steeple gold at the 2019 World Championships in Doha. After lying dormant for years, Ethiopia had finally emerged as a steeple power, and Kenya’s best hope, reigning world/Olympic champ Conseslus Kipruto, had been hobbled by injuries — he had finished just two races in 2019 entering the meet. Yet Kipruto, with the weight of a nation on his shoulders, simply refused to lose, outkicking Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma by .01 to ensure the title remained in Kenyan hands.
You can vote on matchups in the other regions by clicking the links below.