My 10 Favorite Races From 10 Years with

Last week marked 10 years since I began working for and it has me feeling nostalgic. It has been an absolute blast, and I’ve savored every moment, from gorilla-trekking with the Brojos in Uganda to tobogganing down the Great Wall of China. Recently, I’ve loved meeting readers at our meetups at the World Championships and Olympic Marathon Trials; you’re the best track fans in the world, and our site would not exist without you.

Click here to see some great Jonathan Gault LRC photos

As I prepare to head to the Prefontaine Classic this weekend, I reflected back on the lessons I learned from my first trip to Pre 10 years ago. I also began thinking of all of the terrific races I have been privileged to witness since then. Because we all love a good listicle, I decided to rank my 10 favorite ones below.

And before you chime in about “how could you leave off so-and-so?” let me be clear that this is a purely subjective list. These are the races where I look back and say, man I’m glad I was there for that one. The only rule: to be included, I actually had to witness the race in person. Let’s count them down, from #10 to #1.

10. 2016 Olympic men’s 400m final

This was meant to be the undercard on the night Usain Bolt won an unprecedented third straight Olympic 100-meter title. Instead, South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk stole the show by running a world record of 43.03 — from lane eight, no less. Track & field does not get much better than a world record in an Olympic final.

9. 2017 NCAA women’s 4x400m relay final/2018 NCAA women’s 4x400m relay final

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Okay I’m cheating here by including two at once, but these races are inextricable for me. Both races presented the same scenario: Oregon (in 2017) and USC (in 2018) needed to win the 4×400 to clinch the NCAA team title; any other result would see Georgia (both years) win the crown.

In the first race, Ducks anchor Raevyn Rogers inexplicably allowed USC’s Kendall Ellis to pass her on the inside of lane 1 on the first turn, only for Rogers to rally back and win the race. The win cemented Oregon’s triple crown of NCAA cross country, indoor, and outdoor titles in 2016-17. I don’t know if Hayward Field has ever been louder.

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One year later, it was Ellis on the anchor again for USC, but this time she was the hero, overcoming an enormous gap to run down Purdue and win the title for the Trojans. That was also the final race at the old Hayward Field. Not a bad note to end on.

8. 2023 London Marathon

I’ve watched a lot of marathons, and only once have I seen someone stopping twice before halfway to stretch their quad before coming back to defeat the greatest women’s marathon field ever assembled. The late Kelvin Kiptum‘s 2:01:25 course record was an incredible performance in its own right, but it was Sifan Hassan‘s ridiculous win on the women’s side that will stick with me forever.

7. 2021 US Olympic Trials men’s 1500m final

The hype for this race kicked into high gear four months earlier when a University of Oregon runner named Carter Christman typed the words “your move” and tagged Matthew Centrowitz in an Instagram comment after Cole Hocker ran a 3:50 mile indoors — something that the reigning Olympic champion did not appreciate. Hocker proceeded to put together one of the greatest NCAA seasons ever by a miler, setting the stage for a collision course between Oregon stars past and present at the Trials. The race was all we could hope for and more, the 20-year-old Hocker taking down the 31-year-old Centro after a thrilling home straight duel.

It doesn’t hurt that this race produced the greatest prediction/headline of my career.

6. 2018 Boston Marathon

Des LindenYuki Kawauchi. Biblical rain. Geoffrey Kirui’s wind sail/jacket. Shalane’s bathroom break. There will never be another Boston Marathon like this one.

5. 2017 Worlds women’s 3000m steeplechase final

The 2017 Worlds in London was full of weird races and unlikely champions, from Phyllis Francis in the women’s 400 to Ramil Guliyev in the men’s 200. But the women’s steeple topped them all, with pre-race favorite Beatrice Chepkoech forgetting to hurdle the first water jump, helping set up the incredible 1-2 finish by Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs. Nine minutes of pure madness.

4. 2022 Worlds men’s 1500m final/2023 Worlds men’s 1500m final

Kevin Morris photo

I’m cheating again by shoehorning two races into the same spot, but I consider these two parts of a whole. The first was incredible not only for Jake Wightman‘s dramatic upset of Jakob Ingebrigtsen, but because Jake’s father and coach, Geoff, was providing in-stadium play-by-play in Hayward Field when it happened.

That race only served to make the 2023 Worlds final more incredible. After running 3:27 for 1500 and a world record of 7:54 for 2 miles earlier that summer, Ingebrigtsen headed to Budapest looking invincible only for Josh Kerr to win the race by pulling the exact same move as Wightman had one year earlier. Immediately after this race, I remember looking over at Kyle Merber, who was just about exploding in the media tribune next to me, and I could tell we were both thinking the same thing: Holy shit it happened again!

3. 2015 Worlds men’s 100m final

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This was my first time watching Usain Bolt, and he did not disappoint. Bolt had spent his first few years on the circuit demolishing all comers, but by this point in his career, his body had started to rebel. Bolt had raced at just two meets the previous year due to a foot injury, and by 2015 the back and hamstring injuries that would plague Bolt in his final years meant he had started to pare back his schedule to ensure he could make it to the major championships in one piece. Bolt ran the 100 at just two meets before in 2015 before Worlds, with a season’s best of 9.87.

In his absence, 33-year-old Justin Gatlin, back and better than ever after a four-year doping ban, had taken over the 100. Three times that year, Gatlin ran 9.75 or faster, a time Bolt had not touched since the 2012 Olympic final. Yet when the two finally raced in the World Championship final at the Bird’s Nest, site of Bolt’s most famous race, Bolt produced his best race of the season, 9.79. Based on how Gatlin had been running that year, it should not have been enough for gold, but Bolt had gotten in Gatlin’s head and the latter broke form 10 meters from the finish line. He ran 9.80 for second.

Bolt is the greatest sprinter who ever lived not just because of his otherworldly talent, but because he delivered on the sport’s biggest stages, again and again. The true greats find a way to win even when they’re not at their best, that’s what Bolt did in Beijing in 2015.

2. 2021 Olympic men’s 400m hurdles final

Perhaps the greatest race in the history of the sport. A race that had been hyped for two years featuring three of the greatest talents ever completely obliterating what was possible in their event — and the outcome was still in doubt coming off the final hurdle. A man ran 45.94 over hurdles. Another man ran 46.17 and lost. Simply incredible.

1. 2016 Olympic men’s 1500m final

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I never thought I’d live to see an American win the Olympic men’s 1500-meter final, let alone be in the stadium when it happened. When Matthew Centrowitz stepped on the start line at Estádio Olímpico Nilton Santos on the night of August 20, 2016, it had been 108 years since the last American victory in the Olympic 1500 meters. Heck, it had been 44 years since the last American victory in any men’s distance event at the Olympics.

The best 1500-meter races are like scenes from a dramatic film, the tension building and building and building until reaching a climax. In that respect, the 2016 Olympic final was the Mexican standoff at the end of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the pace staying so slow for so long that you wondered if anyone was ever going to move. Could Centro go wire-to-wire? Watching it unfold, even I started to feel nervous, and I had no dog in the fight!

Leaving Rio, I felt that van Niekerk’s 400m world record was the most exciting race of the Olympics, but eight years later, it’s the 1500 that sticks with me. No race before or since has kept me on edge like that one.

*JGault / LRC Photo Album

Talk about Jonathan Gault’s 10th anniversary here: MB: We celebrate Jonathan Gault’s 10 years at!!

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