No. 50 to No. 26
The Greatest Runs, Jumps, and Throws of All Time
Below are the runs, jumps, and throws ranked between No. 50 and No. 26. 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).
50. She Ran What?
July 2018 (22)
Beatrice Chepkoech took the women’s steeplechase to new heights with her world record of 8 minutes, 44.32 seconds.
At the 2017 world championships in London, Beatrice Chepkoech forgot to turn left for the first water jump of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the world championships. Many of us know how that race ended (especially if you went ahead and looked in the top 20 of this list)—Chepkoech caught back up to the pack, but was unable to muster a strong final lap and finished out of the medals as U.S. women finished 1-2.
She made no such mistake at the Monaco Diamond League the following year, setting off from the gun at a blistering pace. She never looked back, running away from the world’s top two finishers from the year before and obliterated the world record with a stunning run of 8 minutes, 44.32 seconds, which was more than 8 seconds faster than the previous world record. She also won that world title in 2019.
49. The Fall
March 2008 (22)
Heather Kampf fell 400 meters into a 600. She still won.
We’re going to do you a favor and recommend that you read The Fall, Issue No. 005 of Løpe. You’ll get more out of the story that way.
But know this: Kampf’s race at the indoor Big Ten Championships was out of this world.
48. Tirunesh Dibaba Qualifies for N.C.A.A. Regionals with her W.R.
June 2008 (20)
The Ethiopian ran 14 minutes, 11.15 seconds in the 5,000 meters. The record still stands.
Tirunesh Dibaba was 18 when she won her first world championship on the track, outsprinting Spain’s Marta Dominguez in the 5,000 meters in France. It was the beginning of a stunning string of 5,000 and 10,000 meter dominance from Dibaba. From 2003 to 2013, she would win eight world titles or Olympic golds in the two events.
On June 1, 2008 in Oslo, she would run 14 minutes, 11.15 seconds to set a record that remains at the top of the all-time list. Over 12 ½ laps, Dibaba averaged 68 seconds per 400 meters. Almaz Ayana came close in 2016, but still was not within one second of Dibaba’s stellar run.
47. Centro in Control
August 2016 (22)
First gold in 108 years? Wire to wire? OK!
Matthew Centrowitz is not a time-trialer. Sure, he has great P.R.s, but they’re not the best the country has produced. When it comes to a championship-style race, there might be no one better in the universe.
He controlled the 2016 Olympic 1500 meters with such confidence it looked like he had won every race he ever ran.
46. The Gail Devers Double
August 1993 (22)
Hurdles or flat? Not a problem for Gail Devers.
These rankings have two biases: Recency and Millennial nostalgia. For example, Sydney McLaughlin and the 2019 world shot put competition were ranked higher than perhaps they deserved to be. Same goes for the early- to mid-90s, when I was first discovering that track and field and the Olympics were awesome.
One thing I vividly remember was Gail Devers’ fingernails. They were everywhere when she won gold in the 100 meters in 1996. What was more impressive than her nails was her performance at the 1993 world championships, when she won the 100 flat and over hurdles. In the 100, she out-leaned Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey (they both were credited with 10.82 seconds) and in the hurdles she ran an American Record of 12.46 seconds to win handily.
45. The Duel in the Sun
April 1982 (22)
Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar race the best Boston Marathon ever.
This race lost points in the rankings because it is turning out that Alberto Salazar is not that good of a person. But damn, it would have been awesome if Dick Beardsley had somehow beaten Salazar that day. What a race down Boylston:
September 2000 (22)
Stacy Dragila puts the women’s pole vault on the map.
Women could not pole vault at the Olympic Games until the year 2000. Let that sink in for a second. It’s one of the most popular events in the world, but up until 20 years ago, women didn’t get to compete at the Olympics if they liked the pole vault. (This is true for a shocking number of events … the triple jump wasn’t a women’s event until 1996!)
Fortunately for the women’s pole vault, Stacy Dragila was the perfect first. From August 1999 to June 2001, she set the world record 10 times. She did not do so at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but her victory there set the standard for the women’s pole vault.
While her record has been passed, sometimes there’s nothing better than being the first. Dragila was exactly that for the women’s pole vault.
43. Almaz Ayana Broke the 10,000
August 2016 (22)
The Ethiopian sets the world record in the deepest 10,000-meter race ever.
A lot of these little blurbs have said (or will say) that a record was supposed to be unbreakable. And the 10,000 from the Chinese runners of the early 1990s certainly had that qualifier. Turns out, Almaz Ayana didn’t care about qualifiers.
In Rio, she went hard from the gun and ran a how-the-hell-did-that-happen 29 minutes, 17.45 seconds for 10,000 meters to break the “unbreakable” world record by 14 seconds.
Behind her, seven more athletes broke national records, including American Molly Huddle, who ran 30 minutes, 13.17 seconds for sixth place.
42. For Jackie Joyner-Kersee, 7 Events is Nothing
August 1988 (23)
Joyner-Kersee is an all-timer.
My memory of Jackie Joyner-Kersee is her at the 1996 Olympics, sprinting down the long jump runway, a big ace bandage wrapped around her right thigh because a hamstring injury that forced her to drop out of the heptathlon. Yet still, she had a monster leap in her. At the age of 34 (which, at that point, was dinosaur aged when it came to track and field), she won bronze in the long jump with a bum leg.
That’s not the race we’re ranking, though. That merely showed what a competitor Joyner-Kerseey was. Nope, in 1988, Joyner-Kersee won both the heptathlon (in a world record with 7291 points) and the long jump in an Olympic Record. Good grief what a double.
41. Kenenisa Bekele Runs 13:08 for 5,000, Two Times with no Rest
August 2005 (23)
A video game time.
In 2005, the year when Kenenisa Bekele ran 26 minutes, 17.53 for 10,000 meters to set the world record, only one American man ran faster than 13 minutes, 10 seconds for 5,000 meters. That’s right, other than the ageless Bernard Lagat, no American would have been able to make it halfway in Kenenisa Bekele’s record in 2005.
*Larry Rawson Voice*: Go up to your local track, run a lap in 63 seconds. Then do it 24 more times without any rest. Imagine that!
40. Dave Wottle Looks Hurt
August 1972 (24)
The man in the hat wins 800-meter gold.
You still see this video randomly pop up on Facebook with some type of corny message about never giving up. But, and hear us out, NEVER GIVE UP, because Dave Wottle winning gold in the 800 meters in 1972 with one of the most incredible races of all time should inspire all:
39. The Maria Mutola Classic at Pre
June 2008 (24)
Mutola was simply unbelievable in Eugene.
From 1992 to 2008, Maria Mutola won 16 races at the Prefontaine Classic, 12 times in the 800 meters. She also won gold in the 800 in Sydney and bronze in 1996—not to mention, three outdoor world titles—but her record at Pre was unreal.
In 2008, at the age of 35, the Mozambique athlete ran 1 minute, 59.24 seconds to secure her 16th win. If it wasn’t for the guy they had already named the meet after being so famous, a petition to name the Pre Classic the Mutola Classic might have gained some traction.
38. Caster Semenya’s stamp on the 800
August 2016 (24)
Disliked by many, understood by few, Semenya is brilliant on the track.
A lot of times, sports fans like it when athletes make it look easy. It proves just how great they are at their craft—that mere mortals could not achieve anything close to it. But when Caster Semenya made it look easy, many called foul. It’s not supposed to be this easy, the thought went, so people went looking for answers. They did not like what they saw, and today, Semenya is not allowed to run the 800 in what remains a pointed rule directed directly at the South African athlete.
Fortunately, even though the powers that be can take away her ability to compete today, they cannot take away what she accomplished.
And what she accomplished in the 800 was brilliance. Her 2016 Olympic win in a national record of 1 minute, 55.28 seconds was sublime.
And yes, she made it look easy.
37. A 3:43.13 Mile
July 1999 (24)
Hicham El Guerrouj did some wild things on the track.
When you really sit down and think about it, no human should be able to run 3 minutes, 43.13 seconds for a mile. And we don’t think there’s much else to say about this race, because the more we think about 55.xx for four laps, the more our heads hurt.
You might have also forgotten that Noah Ngeny almost nipped him. What a race.
36. Ashton Eaton Sets the W.R., Again
August 2015 (24)
He was the greatest athlete on earth.
In my opinion, Ashton Eaton was underrated. Not in the sense that he was not covered by the media (he did have a Coke commercial or two, after all), but in the sense that he was not appreciated enough while he was doing what he was doing—which was putting forth some of the greatest decathlon performances the world had ever seen.
It started in 2012, when, at 24, he ran 4 minutes, 14.48 seconds for 1,500 meters in the final event of the decathlon to stun a Hayward Field crowd and secure a world record with 9039 points at the 2012 Olympic Trials. He won gold that summer in London.
He won the world championship in 2013, too, and went into Beijing as an overwhelming favorite. Then he went and broke the world record again, this time with 9045 points. In that decathlon he ran 45.00 seconds for 400, the fastest someone had ever run the one-lapper during a decathlon. And for Eaton, it was just another day.
He also won the Rio decathlon with an Olympic Record of 8893 points. Over four years, he was one of the most dominant decathletes ever. Only the U.S.’s Bob Mathias and Great Britain’s Daley Thompson also won back-to-back Olympic titles.
When he retired in 2017, Eaton was at the top of his game. But there was not much else to do—he had done it all already.
35. Bruce Jenner Makes the Decathlon Cool
Jenner’s win remains iconic.
What’s the most famous track and field photograph of all time? Probably the shot of Bob Beamon leaping through the air on the way to his unfathomable jump. After that, it’s hard to say. Maybe Usain Bolt celebrating in 2008? Maybe Ben Johnson’s 100 in 1988?
What about Bruce Jenner winning gold in 1976? It’s certainly in the conversation. While the photo and Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn are remembered, it’s easy to forget that Jenner set the decathlon world record in Montreal, winning by over 200 points.
34. A Walk-Down For the Ages
June 2018 (25)
U.S.C. wins the N.C.A.A. Championship thanks to 4 x 400 relay heroics.
If this race had been a Penn Relays, all of the “WOOOOS” would have tore down Franklin Field. Even knowing the result, with 100 meters left it seems there’s absolutely no way Kendall Ellis is going to win the race for U.S.C. But she does every time.
On top of that, U.S.C. needed the win to take the team title, which they did. With 53 points, they beat out Georgia (52) and Stanford (51). Again, the 4 x 4 is the greatest event in track and field.
33. Michelle Carter is Clutch
August 2016 (25)
Final throw? No problem.
In Rio, Michelle Carter was down to her final throw. Valerie Adams, the favorite from New Zealand, was leading with a thoss of 20.42 meters.
Carter showed up. She heaved the shot put 20.63 meters to roar past Adams to win gold. The throw was a personal best and she broke her own American Record. It was the first time an American won gold in the event, and the first medal for women in the shot put since 1960.
32. Wilma Does it All
September 1960 (25)
Three golds for Rudolph in Rome.
Wilma Rudolph was 17 when she won her first Olympic medal (a bronze in the 4 x 100-meter relay). Four years later, when she was a veteran athlete at the age of 21, she won three golds and became an Olympic icon—that she was a black woman athlete in the 1960s who was so dominant inspired many, and it still does today.
To make the story even more heartwarming, Rudolph suffered from polio, which left her in a leg brace until she was 12. She overcame it—and then some.
31. Fosbury Perfects the Flop
October 1968 (25)
Changing the game.
Imagine inventing a new jumping style that would change the way everyone after you jumped, because that’s exactly what Dick Fosbury did in 1968 when he won Olympic Gold in an Olympic Record of 2.24 meters. He had not jumped over 1.63 meters using the Western Roll technique, but when he started “flopping” over the bar backward, Fosbury changed the game.
30. Will Edwin Moses Ever Lose?
August 1983 (26)
The greatest winning streak in sports history?
Edwin Moses ended up losing his world record in the 400-meter hurdles when Kevin Young went ballistic in Barcelona, but there is no doubt he is the greatest one-lap hurdler to ever live.
On August 26, 1977, Moses lost a 400-hurdle race in West Germany. It would be 9 years, 9 months, and 26 days before he lost again. He won 122 races in a row, a streak that may never be matched. At the time he finally lost—June 5, 1987, he had the 11 fastest times ever run in the 400-meter hurdles.
While his 47.02 he ran in 1983 is no longer the world record, Moses’ streak remains one of the most impressive feats in track and field—and possibly sports—history.
29. Two Sub-4s??
July 1997 (27)
Daniel Komen’s W.R. in the 2-mile is hard to wrap your head around.
One of the craziest things about Daniel Komen breaking 8 minutes for 2 miles is that he did it twice. Once in July 1997 when he set a W.R. of 7 minutes, 58.61 seconds, and once half a year later, when he ran 7 minutes, 58.91 seconds.
Komen is easily forgotten because of Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, but the Kenyan set the distance world on fire in the 1990s. His 3,000-meter world record of 7 minutes, 20.67 is still astounding. For those keeping track at home, that’s 58.7-second 400-meter pace for seven-and-a-half laps. Ha!
28. Two Sub-4:30s???
September 2007 (27)
It is common knowledge that a woman running sub-4:30 for the mile is more impressive than a man running sub-4. Meseret Defar did it twice in a row.
When Meseret Defar set the current world record for 2 miles, no one had run within 10 seconds of sub-9 minutes. (In fact, she had the W.R. at 9 minutes, 10.47 seconds.) On the track in Rieti in September 2007, Defar dipped under with time to spare. She ran 8 minutes, 58.58 seconds.
We had to put Defar ahead of Komen on this list because we strongly believe that 4 minutes, 30 seconds for women is a much tougher barrier than 4 minutes is for men. Thus, running two sub-4:30s is much more impressive than running two sub-4s.
Thank you for your time.
27. Paula Radcliffe Races to a Record that Will Never Be Broken
April 2003 (27)
Paula Radcliffe ran 2 hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds in a run that seemed untouchable.
26. Whoops, Brigid Kosgei Demolished that Radcliffe Record
October 2019 (27)
Brigid Kosgei ran 2 hours, 14 minutes for a marathon.
It was probably more impressive than Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-2 hour run the day before. In fact, it was. (He is ranked higher because Nike and Ineos brainwashed me into thinking sub-2 mattered more than sub-2:15, I can admit it).
Maybe it was because no one was prepared for a world record run. Maybe it’s because it’s harder to watch the women’s race in Chicago because the men and women start at the same time. Or maybe it’s because the world as a whole cares more about men’s sports than women’s.
Regardless, what Kosgei did in Chicago in October 2019 was one of the all-time moments in sports. Yes, people will bring up Kipchoge more, but fans of running should talk about this race, too.
To read rankings No. 25 to No. 1, click here. Or, to navigate all rankings, click here.