No. 25 to No. 1
The Greatest Runs, Jumps, and Throws of All Time
The 100 Greatest Runs, Jumps, and Throws of All Time
LØPE MAGAZINE – Issue No. 015, December 2019
By Liam Boylan-Pett
Illustrations by Luke McCambley a.k.a The Orange Runner
Below are the runs, jumps, and throws ranked between No. 25 and No. 1. Click here to navigate to other rankings. Each event is listed in a headline followed by the date and the score based on the Løpe Scale (with 40 being the perfect score).
25. The Arrival of Sydney McLaughlin
June 2017 (27)
A star for the Instagram age.
Sydney McLaughlin was already famous. She had made the Olympic team in the 400-meter hurdles at the age of 16, after all. But this was different. It was a video captured on shaky, iPhone footage that was perfect for the world of viral fame. And the content was crazy: McLaughlin split 49.85 seconds and took her team from sixth to first to win a national medley relay title. Video of the race was everywhere, including on Sportscenter:
She would go to Kentucky the next year before turning pro in for the 2019 season. Then, in her first year as a pro, she’d run a race that ranks even higher on this list.
McLaughlin continues to live up to the hype.
24. Gold Shoes, Gold Everything
August 1996 (27)
Michael Johnson ended is 400-200 double with an exclamation point.
19.32. Before Usain Bolt, it was unthinkable that anyone could run that fast. Anyone except for Michael Johnson of course.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the 19.32 was that it was Johnson’s eighth race of the Olympics. He had run four rounds of the 400 and then four of the 200.
As I wrote in my SB Nation article reliving the race: “[It was] the race that would take the gold shoes from brash and cocky to prophetic and iconic.”
23. FloJo Sparkles in the 200 meters
September 1988 (27)
It’s one of the “unbreakable” world records.
A thing about Florence Griffith Joyner is that she broke the world record for 200 meters in the semifinal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. That’s right. She ran 21.56 seconds in the semis and set the world record.
Then she went ahead and dropped another two-tenths off it in the final, running a ludicrous 21.34 seconds.
Even crazier? No one has ever run as fast as she did in the semifinal. If she had skipped out on the Olympic final, she still would own the world record to this day.
22. A Nation on Her Back
September 2000 (27)
Cathy Freeman’s gold medal for Australia in 2000 still gives goosebumps.
Cathy Freeman was already famous in Australia. After winning the silver medal in the 400 meters in 1996, Freeman lit the Olympic Flame when the Games were in Sydney four years later.
Just listen to the roar:
Freeman was Australia first Aboriginal track and field athlete to win an Olympic gold medal.
21. Hello, Mary Cain
June 2013 (29)
A high school athlete running sub-2-minutes remains jaw-dropping.
Mary Cain’s meteoric rise in 2013 was incredible. Her 1 minute, 59.51 second P.R. in the 800 was one of the greatest high school athletic performances of all time—all sports, seriously.
Cain has come forward with the story of her time with the Oregon Project, and it is unsettling. Here is to hoping she can help influence the sport for the better moving forward. She is an important part of it.
20. F*CK YES, Shalane
November 2017 (27)
Shalane Flanagan shocks in N.Y.C.
Is there really anything else we need here?
— Jimmy AKA Kiss Me Polkanofrio (@JimmyDonofrio) November 5, 2017
19. The Lane 8 Caper
August 2016 (29)
A W.R. for Wade van Niekerk in Rio.
We had a Lane 1 race-winner make this list (See: No. 80), but he didn’t set a world record. When Wade van Niekerk drew the outside lane in Rio, it was easy to think he might not even win the race, let alone run the fastest time ever. Instead, van Niekerk never saw another competitor, leading the entire way out in Lane 8 while running 43.03 seconds to knock 0.15 off Michael Johnson’s 1999 world record.
The last 100 meters? He simply blows away Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt, two of the era’s best 400-meter runners.
18. Simply Sublime Sub-2
October 2019 (29)
Eliud Kipchoge is all that we can hope to achieve.
Say what you will about the controlled environment or the Whatever% shoes, but take a moment to watch Eliud Kipchoge do what he does, and it’s impossible not to get swept up in the beauty of it all.
Kipchoge runs with brilliance, his stride and smile so unwavering that there should be a wing in the Louvre dedicated to the man. The world of running is a better place because of Kipchoge, and while his sub-2 is not like the sub-4, he will be celebrated long after he has retired from competitive running.
17. Emma, Courtney, and the Arrival of U.S. Steeplechase
August 2017 (29)
The U.S. women going 1-2 at the world championships was one of the most shocking results in world championship history.
Coburn hits the barrier first, but they both power over it and launch off. Coburn shoots out of the pit with the lead, then Frerichs, who, despite a small misstep coming out of the water, beats Jepkemoi out. Coburn extends her lead as the turn straightens out, but Frerichs will not give up that much distance. She, too, is pulling away from Jepkemoi.
All around the world, friends, family, and fans of the steeplechase are screaming at their televisions. A video of Coburn’s sister and family losing their minds will eventually go viral. Simpson is in London with a silver medal of her own from the 1500 watching the Americans sprinting away. Home in the U.S., Anna Willard is screaming at her television and will eventually start crying. Ann Gaffigan, too, cannot believe what she is seeing. Teressa DiPerna is watching with her family in awe of what is transpiring.
Coburn and Frerichs are still pulling away. Throughout the race Coburn stayed calm, but once she makes it over the final hurdle, she lets herself accept what is happening—she is going to be a world champion. She cannot believe it, but she is going to get to the tape first, and Frerichs is going to finish behind her. She raises her arms as she crosses the line in 9 minutes and 2.58 seconds, an American and meet Record. Behind her, Frerichs throws her hands to her head in disbelief as she crosses in 9 minutes and 3.77 seconds, 0.26 seconds ahead of Jepkemoi.
The Americans embrace almost immediately, Frerichs’ mouth agape, and they fall to the ground, filled with shock and joy and awe.
16. Geb v. Tergat
September 2000 (30)
Haile Gebrselassie had Paul Tergat’s number.
I remember trying to find a way to watch this race live. But it was taking place in Sydney, and while the internet did exist, it was not fast enough to stream, and I would not have known where to find a link to watch, anyways. On top of that, NBC wasn’t going to show that much of a nearly-30-minute race on TV live or through highlights. So, for most of the Olympics, all I knew was that Haile Gebrselassie had beaten Paul Tergat again, and just barely.
I eventually saw a replay, and I will never forgive myself for not seeing it live:
What a race.
15. Sifan Hassan
October 2019 (30)
An unheard-of double in Doha.
Currently, Sifan Hassan is the greatest runner in the world. That is a sweeping statement but given that she is so dominant over so many different distances, it is not unfounded.
Winning the 10,000 meters in Doha, and then coming back in the 1,500 meters to win in one of the most spectacular races at that distance was, simply put, unbelievable.
The unprecedented double win likely would have ranked higher had Hassan not been coached by Alberto Salazar, who was banned for four years during the world championships. While we are skeptical of Hassan’s performances, nothing has been proven against her so far, and damn if we aren’t impressed by how hard she races (and how often!).
14. Look at Mills, Look at Mills!
October 1964 (31)
Billy Mills’ 10,000-meter gold in 1964 remains astounding for all the right reasons.
If we were doing a ranking of Best Announcing of All Time, this would probably top the list.
Regardless, the Billy Mills 10,000-meter gold remains one of the great snapshots of Team U.S.A. Olympic history. Mills P.R.’d by nearly 50 seconds, and he sprinted through the final 100 like a bucking bronco, simply flying past the field.
Cue the call:
13. More than a Race
October 1968 (32)
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, forever immortalized.
That they’re seen as heroes now is at least somewhat reassuring. But to remember that they were vilified and kicked out of the Olympic Village after a nonviolent protest to this day is hard to understand.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos finished 1-3 in the Olympic 200 in 1968, but their story is remembered for much more than that.
12. A Boston for the Ages
April 2014 (32)
Meb, American hero.
The 2014 Boston Marathon was going to be special no matter what. It was the year after the bombing. Running showed resilience and it showed that the ones who had attacked the race on year before had not won. That Meb Keflezighi would somehow win made it unforgettable.
Meb had a flare for the dramatic. He had won Olympic bronze in 2004. He won New York in 2009. Then he won Boston, somehow, the year after the bombing in a personal best of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 35 seconds.
Long live Meb.
11. Allyson Felix Finally Wins Individual Gold
August 2012 (33)
She’s the most decorated female track and field athlete in history, and there’s a chance for more.
This is a little more of a lifetime achievement award than a one-race amazement. Allyson Felix was 18 when she won silver in the 200 meters at the 2004 Olympics. So, when she was 22, she was supposed to win gold—but it was silver again. Finally, at 26 in London, she took the half-lapper.
In all, she has nine Olympic medals (six gold), and 19 from the world championships (13 gold). Those numbers could still rise. Felix is 34 and a mother now, and she is hoping for more in Tokyo.
10. With a Time of 3 …
May 1954 (33)
Roger Bannister and immortality.
Sir Roger Bannister. The Iffley Road Track. 3:59.4. History.
9. When Heaving a Ball of Steel Captivates
October 2019 (33)
Three men. One centimeter. A shot put for the ages.
Heading into the final throw of the shot put competition at the 2019 world championships in Doha, New Zealand’s Tom Walsh led. His first-round throw of 22.90 meters was monumental. And it sure seemed like he was going to hold on for the win.
Then Joe Kovacs stepped into the ring for his final throw. As soon as the shot left his grip, he knew it was special. He roared as he circled around, unable to slow his momentum. His intuition was right. His throw was 22.91 meters.
But he still had to watch Ryan Crouser and Walsh throw one more time. Crouser hurled the shot 22.90 meters, too. Three men finished within one centimeter (Crouser won silver because his second-best throw was better than Walsh’s)—and the throws were historical. Kovacs’ throw tied for fourth best of all time. Crouser and Walsh were tied for sixth.
It was the deepest, and best, shot put competition ever. Funny how we keep saying that the further we get into this list.
8. A Duel for the Ages to Break a Record for the Ages
August 1991 (33)
In a perfect world, Mike Powell and Carl Lewis would still be trading jumps.
Bob Beamon’s record seemed untouchable. But heading into the 1991 world championships in Tokyo. Most people thought Carl Lewis was the best chance at slaying the beast that was Beamon’s W.R.
“I knew it was inevitable someone would break my record,” Beamon told The Los Angeles Times when his world record fell. “But like everyone else, I assumed it would be Carl Lewis. So that was a surprise to me.”
A surprise, indeed. Because Mike Powell was the one to take it down. In a duel against Lewis, he leapt 29 feet, 4½ inches, besting Beamon’s jump by 2 inches. Lewis, for his part, had the greatest series of jumps of all time, three times jumping past 29 feet. (Lewis also leapt farther than Beamon with a 29 feet, 2 ¾ mark, but his jump was wind-aided, so it did not count in the record books.) But Powell showed that in the long jump, one leap of a lifetime can be enough.
7. A Great and a Wonder Kid
October 2019 (33)
Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin are simply unbelievable.
Sydney McLaughlin was the story. She had been since she was 16, when she was lighting up House of Highlights on Instagram and getting profiled by Bleacher Report. She was the future and the present.
Dalilah Muhammad crashed the party, though. She set the world record in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Championships in July. Tthen, on an October night in Doha, Qatar, she crashed the party again. McLaughlin would be ready this time (she had beaten Muhammad in the Diamond League final, after all), and she would be crowned the conqueror of the 400 hurdles. And McLaughlin did her part. She ran 52.23 seconds. It would have been the second fastest time in history—if Muhammad hadn’t been on the track in Doha, too.
Muhammad somehow ran even quicker in Doha than she had at the U.S. championships, lowering her world record from 52.20 to 52.16, holding off McLaughlin in the process.
There is still a very good chance that McLaughlin ends up being the greatest 400 hurdler of all time, but Muhammad is setting the bar quite high. Check back in 2020, because this race might be bumped if Muhammad and McLaughlin are even better in Tokyo.
6. The 4 x 4 that Didn’t Happen
August 2008 (34)
U.S.A. > Russia.
The 4 x 400-meter relay is the greatest event in track, and don’t @ me. Even as a sucker for the 4 x 8, I can admit that the 4 x 4 is the best. It’s the event in high school where everyone is watching, under the lights and on the big stage. It’s simply all that the sport has to offer.
And the women’s 4 x 4 at the 2008 Beijing Games was one of the best ever. Both Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix, two of the biggest names in the sport, had failed to win gold in the 400 and 200, respectively. And when Richards-Ross got the baton for the final leg, Russia had a five-meter lead.
Richards-Ross bided her time, keeping the Russian anchor within about 5 meters along the backstretch and winding up along the turn to unleash a kick on the final straight.
The victory was redemption for Richards-Ross, who punched the air as she crossed the finish line. It was 4 x 4 perfection.
Unfortunately, the results no longer show Russia. They were caught doping. So, Jamaica ended up winning silver. The U.S.’s gold remains.
5. Beamon Leaps Too Far
October 1968 (35)
Beamonesque enters the lexicon.
I met Bob Beamon at his home in Las Vegas in 2018 for a story for ESPN’s The Undefeated. The story was about the time, six months before he made the leap that remains the emblazoned in people’s memories of the Olympics, he was kicked off the UTEP track and field team for protesting racism. You can go read about that, here, but this ranking is because of his jump.
The leap was unfathomable. No one had jumped over 28 feet. He went 29 feet, 2½ inches. No one could believe what they had seen. Beamon could not believe what he had done.
But he did. The world record was eventually beaten, but it remains the Olympic standard. Plus, it created a new vernacular: Beamonesque, meaning beyond the possible.
When I asked Beamon what he wanted to be remembered for, he said he wanted to be Beamonesque.
4. Jesse Owens. That’s all. Just Jesse Owens.
August 1936 (35)
Four golds in the face of hate.
There is not much else that can be said about the 1936 performance of Jesse Owens in Germany. He won four gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4 x 100-meter relay. And he did it right in Nazi Germany as a black man.
3. Introducing, Mr. Usain Bolt
August 2008 (36)
The Jamaican becomes a superstar in Beijing.
Life would be better if we all watched the final 40 meters of the 2008 Olympics 100-meter dash final every morning.
Sure, Usain Bolt’s career was one long highlight reel, and, sure, you could have picked any race from 2008 or 2009 when he set two world records again, but the first Olympic gold of Bolt’s career was such a perfect snapshot of the greatest sprinter ever.
The man celebrated from 40 meters out, for goodness’ sake! It was such a display of speed and joy that will never be forgotten. Bolt set the standard for why track and field could be popular—the problem is that he set it too high.
2. And the Marathon (and Running) Would Never be the Same
August 1984 (37)
Joan Benoit Samuelson’s 1984 Olympic gold on home soil remains one of U.S. running’s greatest moments.
“I did not want to take the lead,” Joan Benoit Samuelson said of the 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles. “But I promised myself I’d run my race and nobody else’s, and that’s what I did.” Three miles in, she had gapped the field, the first ever assembled for women at the 26.2-mile distance at the Olympics. And it was not as if she was running too fast. She came through the first 10 kilometers in 35 minutes, 26 seconds (2 hours, 29 minute pace). So, she kept going.
Over the final 23 miles, Benoit Samuelson ran solo. And she picked up the pace. It was nearly two hours of solo running through the streets of Los Angeles as she raced to what would be the first Women’s Olympic Gold for the marathon—and she did so in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 52 seconds, over 1 minute in front of Grete Waitz and Rosa Mota, who won silver and bronze, respectively.
Benoit is still out there running, and she’s still out there reshaping what’s possible. At 61 in Boston, she ran 3 hours, 4 minutes for the Marathon. She remains a trailblazer.
That is why this run is ranked so high: Benoit changed the game.
I read recently that women’s athletes are so often written about in terms of inspiration, and not for their performance. Benoit is a unique figure who deserves praise for both. She inspires because she puts her head down and races hard. She is tough. She is strong. She is inspiring.
She is what running is all about.
1. David Rudisha, King of the Games
August 2012 (38)
Perfection on the track, over 1 minute, 40.91 seconds.
It’s best to look at the runners behind him. They are clawing to stay close, leaning forward as they sprint, doing all that they can to stay in his vicinity. They grit their teeth and they use their arms to surge forward. They look down at their feet and the track as if to say, What was I doing trying to keep up?
Then look at the runner in the front. His face remains stoic as he bounds through 600 meters in 1 minute, 14.30 seconds. All along the backstretch he pulled away, pushing through the stretch that can make or break the two-lap race, and doing it with seeming ease.
Then, all through the curve and the homestretch, David Rudisha does what he always does in the 800. He simply holds it together, using his arms, extending their utility as they carry him along at breakneck pace.
In a race he never trailed, Rudisha personified greatness for the entirety of the 1 minute, 40.91 seconds it took him to run 800 meters. He had the fitness and belief to lead the Olympic final from the gun, never faltering as he raced into the history books with another world record.
It was the greatest race I had ever seen. It remains the greatest race I have ever seen.
Behind him, those runners aching to race with Rudisha were carried to greatness as well. All but one runner set a personal best on the London track that day, and three athletes set national records. Andrew Osagie, who finished last in a best of 1 minute, 43.77 seconds, ran a time that would have won all but three Olympic 800-meter finals.
For the absurdity and the brilliance of Rudisha’s race, he has been named the winner Løpe Magazine’s 100 Greatest Runs, Jumps, and Throws of All Time.
Enjoy the beauty of the greatest race in history:
And with that, you have completed reading through the 100 Greatest Runs, Jumps, and Throws of All Time. Congratulations. Now hurry, but slowly, and tell your friends about Løpe Magazine.
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