Faith Kipyegon & Kelvin Kiptum Crowned 2023 Athletes of the Year

We're not afraid to name one man and one woman as our track & field/athletics AOY

Welcome to LetsRun’s Best of 2023. We’re almost at the end of 2023, and with few events remaining on the calendar until January, we’re looking back at the year in running. Below, we kick off our year-end coverage by unveiling the 2023 Athletes of the Year. Come back tomorrow as we have more awards to hand out, including: WTF Performance of the Year, Breakthrough Performer of The Year, Comeback of the Year, World Championship MVP, Quote of the Year, Underdog of the Year, and We’ll Never See That Again Award. We’ll also have our annual World Rankings coming in a week or two, so stay tuned for that.

The crew made a video on their AOY selections here:

Men’s Athlete of the Year: Kelvin Kiptum

Picking a men’s athlete of the year has been controversial in 2023. So controversial in fact, that World Athletics didn’t do it — they split the award into three and handed out a best track, best field, and best out-of-stadia athlete.

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No worries. is not going to wimp out and split the award. We’ve built a reputation for over 20 years of being a straight shooter and will continue to do so.

For the record, if one was going to wimp out and split the award, handing it to both Ryan Crouser and Mondo Duplantis wouldn’t be terrible. Both of them broke the world record in their event, and both of them only lost once. Crouser’s loss came in a more significant event  (the DL final) than Mondo’s (Monaco Diamond League), but Crouser’s WR shot put of 23.56 was 2.7% better than the #2 performer on the year (22.93), whereas Mondo’s WR vault of 6.23 was 2.6% better than the #2 mark on the year (6.07). Their years were eerily, similarly fantastic, but they weren’t perfect.

Our 2023 World Athlete of the Year isn’t a field eventer, though. It’s marathoner Kelvin Kiptum, who basically enjoyed a perfect 2023 campaign.

Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly

Kelvin Kiptum ran two races in 2023 and they were two of the greatest marathons ever run. First up was London. On a rainy day where everyone else was slowing down during the second half in both the men’s and women’s races, Kelvin Kiptum was redefining what was possible in the marathon. After a 61:40 first half, Kiptum recorded the fastest half-marathon split ever in a marathon — 59:45 — and during the final 12k of that he was running all alone. This wasn’t a choreographed sub-2 event with pacers in perfect conditions. This was a 23-year-old making himself an instant distance legend on the rainy streets of London.

Kiptum’s winning time of 2:01:25 took more than a minute off Eliud Kipchoge‘s 2:02:37 course record and was #2 time in history (now #3). We know that in era of super shoes, times don’t necessarily mean as much as they used to. But please appreciate how DOMINANT Kiptum was in London — the race that annually attracts the best fields in the sport (although neither Kipchoge nor Evans Chebet was in London this year).

Prior to Kiptum, a man hadn’t won London by more than a minute since 2012. Eliud Kipchoge has won the London Marathon four times in his life. His margins of victory were as follows: 5 seconds, 46 seconds, 32 seconds, and 18 seconds. So Kipchoge’s total margin of victory is 1:51 seconds over four races. Kiptum won London by 2:58 this year, the largest in the race’s history. 

In Kiptum’s only other race of the year, it was more of the same. After a 60:48 first half, Kiptum blitzed the second half in 59:47 in Chicago (the second-fastest second half ever, behind only Kiptum’s 59:45 in London). Add those two together and you have a new world record of 2:00:35.

And if a world record doesn’t impress you, we ask you once again to please appreciate Kiptum’s dominance. No man had even won Chicago by more than 30 seconds since 2011. In the professional era (prize money started in 1982), no man had ever won Chicago by even two minutes. The largest margin of victory in the pro era was 1:57. How much did Kiputm win by? 3:27.

The marathon is one of the marquee events in our sport and Kiptum ran two nearly perfect marathons in 2023. It’s basically impossible for a marathoner to have a better year without running three races. Okay, he didn’t set a world record in both races, but his win in London was the equivalent of Mondo clearing 6.20 with 10 cm to spare. World record or not, we’d never seen a marathon like the one Kiptum ran in London this spring, which featured a 30k warmup and then a 27:50 10k between 30k and 40k. Clearly that performance was worthy of the world record and he proved that to be the case six months later in Chicago, where he covered 30k to 40k in 27:52.

Of the last 25 men’s Abbott World Marathon Majors, dating back to the start of 2019, just three of them have featured a winning margin of more than two minutes and two of those were run by Kiptum this year. 

Of the 17 Platinum marathons that he’s run in his career, Eliud Kipchoge has won 6 of 17 by more than a minute, with his average Platinum margin of victory being 1:20.5. Kiptum is 3 for 3 in terms of victories by more than a minute, with an average margin of victory of 2:30.6.

The visitors also agreed with our pick of Kiptum as the AOY as he won our fan poll.

Women’s Athlete of the Year: Faith Kipyegon

Kipyegon set a 1500 WR in Florence on June 2 and was just getting started (Matthew Quine for Diamond League AG)

This was not a hard decision. Kipyegon didn’t just have the best season of any athlete in 2023 – she had one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport.

Entering 2023 with two world and two Olympic titles under her belt, the 29-year-old Kipyegon was already firmly established as the greatest female miler ever. Though she had dominated the major championships, her attempts at a world record over the years had come up frustratingly short. She chased the 1000m WR during the COVID year of 2020 but missed it by .17. In 2022, when Kipyegon took a shot at the 1500 WR in Monaco, she came up .30 short.

In 2023, she made it look easy. After a season-opening win in Doha, Kipyegon attacked the 1500m world record in Florence on June 2 and destroyed it, clocking 3:49.11 to shave nearly a full second off Genzebe Dibaba’s 3:50.07. One week later in Paris, running her first 5,000m in eight years, she took down that record too, dusting the previous record holder Letesenbet Gidey to run 14:05.20 thanks to a 60.6 last lap and 28.1 final 200. Then Kipyegon went to Monaco on July 21 and obliterated the mile world record, running 4:07.64 to take more than four seconds off the previous best.

At the Worlds in Budapest, Kipyegon easily won the 1500, then doubled back to win a stacked 5,000 over Olympic champ Sifan Hassan, world XC champ Beatrice Chebet, and world champ Gudaf Tsegay (who would break Kipyegon’s WR a month later). Kipyegon became the first woman to sweep the 1500 and 5,000 at a global championships and demonstrated unparalleled closing speed – she ran her last lap in 56.63 to win the 1500 and 56.59 to win the 5,000.

The only blemish on an otherwise-perfect season? Kipyegon was sick at the inaugural road mile world championships in Riga and had to settle for bronze.

Kipyegon was the 1500 GOAT two years ago and has only improved since then. We don’t know what the future holds – an Olympic triple? A marathon debut? – but we cannot wait to find out.

In our fan poll, the fans agreed with our pick of Kipyegon.

Talk about the AOY debate on our world famous fan fourm / messageboard:
*MB: World Athletics won’t name an AOY but we will – Let’s here your 2023 LetsRun Award nominations
*MB: Jakobs 2023 season vs Noahs 2023 season (I think Jakob’s was better)


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