How Did THAT Happen? Remembering the Strangest Moments in Running in 2022
By Jonathan Gault
December 30, 2022
As 2022 draws to a close, there are plenty of highlights to look back on. Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone‘s indelible 50.68 world record in the 400-meter hurdles. Grant Fisher‘s American record spree. Another marathon world record by Eliud Kipchoge.
But that is not what this article is about (Many of those stories were covered here: LRC The Best Track & Field Moments of 2022).
This article is about the stranger side of the sport. The moments that made us think, How the hell did that happen? Some were pleasant surprises, some were massive disappointments, and some were just plain weird. But, believe it or not, they all happened in 2022.
February 25: Sedona Poopgate
How does a runner taking a dump next to a high school track end up as a story in the New York Times? Well when the dump in question causes some of the world’s best runners to lose access to one of their most important training locations, it turns out people start paying attention. For a few weeks in February, professional training groups were restricted from reserving time at the Red Rock Jr. Sr. High School track in Sedona, Ariz., — a strategically important track in the running world since it is a 45-minute drive from the training mecca of Flagstaff but sits at considerably lower elevation.
The reason? A general lack of respect from some (not all) of the professional runners who used the track for workouts, culminating with one or more individuals pooping in front of a concession stand by the track’s locked bathrooms. With a promise of better behavior, pros were allowed to resume making reservations at Red Rock. Let’s hope they’re all potty-trained moving forward.
February 27: Donavan Brazier’s wild day at USA Indoors
Shortly before 3 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, February 26, Donavan Brazier was informed he had been disqualified from the men’s 400 meters at the 2022 USATF Indoor Championships in Spokane. Officials showed Brazier footage of the incident — an alleged lane violation in his preliminary heat — and though Brazier could not see any evidence of a foul, his appeal failed. With his plans to run in Sunday’s final shot, Brazier stayed up until 3 a.m. that night doing “a lot of things I wouldn’t usually do before a race.”
At 11 a.m. Sunday, just three hours before the final, Brazier received a phone call as he was tucking into a plate of waffles and sausages. The Jury of Appeals had reviewed NBC footage and seen no clear evidence of a foul. He was back in the final. Brazier wasn’t even supposed to be there — he was only in Spokane because the 6 a.m. flight out of town was full — but wound up running and finishing second in a personal best of 46.14.
What Brazier did in Spokane was incredible. But the fact that he was even in that situation shows how flawed the DQ process was at USA Indoors. Why was Brazier reinstated but seven other athletes who were DQ’d on Saturday were not? Why wasn’t this decided on Saturday afternoon instead of three hours before the final? Ten months later, we’re still waiting on an answer.
June 23: Sha’Carri Richardson bombs out of USAs
It remains one of the biggest mysteries of 2022. After a slow start to her season attributed to a lover’s quarrel, Sha’Carri Richardson looked to be turning things around in mid-June, running 10.85 in her final meet before USAs — her fastest wind-legal time since her star turn at last year’s Olympic Trials. Then, in the span of 11.31 seconds, her season went up in flames. Richardson, who had been on a different level from every other American female sprinter in 2022, was eliminated in the first round at USAs after finishing 5th in her prelim.
Richardson is, unquestionably, one of the most talented sprinting prospects this country has ever produced. So far, however, Richardson has squandered that talent — first with a bad decision at the 2021 Olympic Trials, then with whatever happened at USAs this year. Still only 22, Richardson has time to turn it around. The question is, will she?
July 17: Devon Allen is DQ’d from the World Championship final and all hell breaks loose
July 17 should have been one of the highlights of the 2022 World Championships. The following four men were expected to line up for that night’s men’s 110-meter hurdle final: Grant Holloway, the reigning world champion and second-fastest man in history; Trey Cunningham, the NCAA champion and eventual Bowerman winner; Hansle Parchment, the Olympic champion; and of course, Devon Allen, the Oregon alum who scared the world record in June with his 12.84 in New York and would be running on his home track.
Things began poorly when Parchment injured his hamstring during warmups and had to scratch from the final. But what the night will be remembered for — sadly, more than Holloway’s second straight world title or Cunningham’s brilliant silver — was Devon Allen’s “false start.” Allen’s reaction time was clocked at .099, or one-thousandth of a second under the permitted limit. To the naked eye — and even to the replay-aided eye — there appeared to be nothing wrong with Allen’s start. Holloway, one lane to his right, even told him to protest the decision. No dice.
Then the data began to trickle out. The reaction times were significantly faster at the 2022 Worlds than previous global championships. And all of the American sprinters at the 2022 Worlds started faster than they did at USAs a month earlier. That’s right. All of them. World Athletics has insisted the same Seiko timing system was used this year as at the past three World Championships. But it sure seems like something was up.
Was Devon Allen’s DQ justified? We may never know. That’s a shame for Allen, a shame for the fans, and a shame for the sport as a whole.
LRC Was Devon Allen Screwed? There’s At Least A 99.95% Chance That He Was
LRC The Data Keeps Pouring In and It Continues To Look Bad For World Athletics and Great For Devon Allen
LRC Devon Allen DQ Update: We’ve Got Even More Data Showing Something Was Drastically Different With The Reaction Times At Worlds
July 18: Cameraman invades track during World Championship steeple final
Not much more to say about this one. On July 18, there were 16 men on the Hayward Field track. Fifteen were trying to win a world title in the steeplechase. One was just trying to get the shot.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) July 19, 2022
July 24: Luis Grijalva finishes 4th in the world
Five months later, it still doesn’t make sense. In a loaded race featuring the Olympic 1500 champion (Jakob Ingebrigtsen), Olympic 5k champion and world record holder (Joshua Cheptegei), Olympic 10k champion (Selemon Barega), world 5k champion (Muktar Edris), Olympic 5k silver medalist (Moh Ahmed), and a slew of other studs, the fourth-placer in this year’s World Championship 5,000-meter final was…Luis Grijalva of Guatemala.
Just a year earlier, Grijalva was the 5th placer at the Big Sky championships (Yes he was tripling and yes a few weeks later he was the NCAA 5000 runner-up at Hayward Field). He entered the final with the second-slowest pb in the 15-man field (13:10) and had finished 11th at the Pre Classic and Bislett Games in his two pre-Worlds 5k races. Yet on July 24, he beat Cheptegei, Barega, Edris, Ahmed, and seven other men to finish 4th in the world, just .24 of a second off a medal. He did that while running within .35 of his pb on a warm evening in a tactical race, passing four men in the final 100 meters. What a run.
P.S. Some love also needs to go out to Uganda’s Oscar Chelimo who snagged the bronze in that race with a 13:06 pb.
July 24: Tobi Amusan takes the hurdles to a whole new level
The time did not seem real. 12.12? In a semifinal? By Tobi Amusan?
When Amusan entered Hayward Field for the final day of the 2022 World Championships, there was no indication she would end the day as the fastest 100-meter hurdler in history by far. The 25-year-old Amusan of Nigeria had finished 4th at the 2021 Olympics and won the Diamond League title, but her personal best of 12.40 — set in the prelims the day before — was tied for 19th in history. She had never medalled at a global championship.
Then, somehow, she ran 12.12 in her semi to take .08 of a second off Keni Harrison‘s six-year-old world record. Several observers — including the great Michael Johnson — questioned the time. Which was a natural response, given it didn’t make any sense at all.
I don’t believe 100h times are correct. World record broken by .08! 12 PBs set. 5 National records set. And Cindy Sember quote after her PB/NR “I throughly I was running slow!” All athletes looked shocked.
— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) July 25, 2022
But the time was legit, something Amusan proved two hours later in the final when she ran a wind-aided 12.06 to win the world title — an insane end to a memorable World Championships.
August 6: Mary Moraa goes first to last to first at Commonwealth Games
The women’s 800-meter final at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will go down as one of the weirdest 800-meter races ever run. I watch a lot of track & field, and I’ve seen plenty of athletes go from first to last. I’ve seen plenty of athletes go from last to first. But until August 6, I can’t ever remember an athlete who did both in the same 800-meter race. And it’s not like Mary Moraa was racing a bunch of scrubs — she had to take down world and Olympic silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson to get the victory.
Was this a tactical masterpiece? Far from it. Was this one of the most exciting 800-meter races I’ve ever seen? Absolutely yes.
September 27: World Marathon Majors slashes elite prize money by 69%
When the Abbott World Marathon Majors announced they were slashing the prize awarded to their series champions from $250,000 each to $50,000 each, effective immediately, it was framed as equalizing the prize money between the elite runners and elite wheelchair athletes. But in reality, it was the latest step in the WMM’s shifting emphasis from elite racing to mass participation.
There’s nothing wrong with promoting mass participation. It’s good for the sport to have lots of people running marathons. And the WMM events — Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York — still pay out appearance fees and prize money. But the original purpose of the World Marathon Majors was to create a series of majors just like golf and tennis — and to reward its champions accordingly. Disappointingly, that is no longer the case. The WMM built their brand on the back of the elites and have now discarded them.
The real outrage here is the timing. The 2022 WMM series champions — Eliud Kipchoge and Gotytom Gebreslase — were due to receive $250,000 until September’s announcement. If you want to cut prize money, that’s your right. But don’t change the rules in the middle of the game. This year’s winners would seem to have grounds for a lawsuit — though it’s unlikely their agents would encourage that route as it will hurt the agents, not the athletes, down the road.
November 4: Brendan Hebert bandits the Texas high school cross country state meet
All college runners have wondered about it once or twice, right? How good could we have been if we took our college fitness and transplanted it to our high school bodies?
Brendan Hebert did more than wonder. On November 4, the 3:59 miler, a former University of Texas runner and 2018 graduate of Austin’s Lake Travis High School, put on his old singlet and hopped into the Texas 6A state cross country meet. He finished second (it’s not clear if he ran the entire course) but was later DQ’d.
Why did he do it?
“I just ran it for fun,” he told MileSplit.
November 6: Daniel Do Nascimento takes a dump, stops to walk, then collapses — all while leading the NYC Marathon (and Sharon Lokedi wins!)
The 2022 NYC Marathon was one of the craziest in the race’s 53-year history. Though Evans Chebet won it, the men’s race will forever be remembered for Brazil’s Daniel Do Nascimento, whose race morphed from drama to comedy to tragedy in the span of two hours. Do Nascimento ran the fastest first half ever in New York, 61:22, building a lead of more than two minutes. But the pace was far too fast for one of the hottest NYC Marathons on record, and as he began his inevitable fade, he had to take an unscheduled break in a portapotty at mile 18. He was so far ahead that he still came out in front, but shortly thereafter, his body began to shut down. At 21 miles, Do Nascimento stepped off the course and collapsed. The camera could do nothing but linger and watch: he was still “leading” the race. (Do Nascimento was treated for dehydration at a local hospital and would ultimately be fine).
But that was not the end of the day’s drama. In a star-studded women’s race, it was not track legend Hellen Obiri or world champ Gotytom Gebreslase who broke the tape in Central Park, but unheralded Sharon Lokedi, the University of Kansas alum making her marathon debut. Lokedi’s win represented a massive personal breakthrough — and a huge win for her sponsor, Under Armour, which claimed its first World Marathon Major victory.
November 28: Max Siegel is revealed to have made $3.8 million in 2021
How can a nonprofit organization that brought in $33 million in revenue in 2021 possibly justify paying out more than 10% of that amount to its CEO?
According to Mike Conley, chair of the USATF board that signs off on the CEO’s salary:
“The board is extremely pleased with Max’s performance. The organization’s success on and off the field of play has been historic under his leadership and we are poised to continue that trajectory.”
“I’ve had great performance reviews…Have you seen one gold medalist in there that’s been critical of me?”
Former decathlete Curtis Beach, a member of the USATF Athlete Advisory Committee, feels differently.
“At the end of the day, I think the legacy of Max Siegel won’t be one that shows growth of the sport or building a thriving environment for athletes,” he told Runner’s World. “It’ll be a legacy of leveraging athlete labor and a corrupt system to build a massive personal fortune. The real winners of this situation are Max, his close associates, and Nike.”
I’m with Beach. Whatever role Siegel played in securing USATF’s massive Nike sponsorship in 2014, he has been rewarded for it and then some. Siegel is making $3.8 million to run an organization that cannot manage conflicts of interests for one of its biggest events and that, just seven weeks out from the 2023 USATF Indoor Championships, cannot provide even basic information about the meet such as a schedule or how to qualify.
Plus as Rich Perelman of the Sports Examiner has pointed out, USATF’s revenues are actually down from 2014.
Siegel’s salary is ridiculous, and it’s about time the USATF board did something about it.
Did you enjoy this article? Then you likely will enjoy this article: LRC The Best Track & Field Moments of 2022
as well as this podcast: LRC The Best and Worst of 2022: Year in Review Podcast + LetsRun.com Awards.