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Kipchoge ranked #21 on Sports Illustrated’s Fittest 50 list

Seven other runners made the cut: Jim Walmsley, Mary Keitany, Dina Asher-Smith, Gwen Jorgensen, Caster Semenya, Courtney Dauwalter and Emma Coburn

Berlin Marathon

How would you go about ranking the world’s top athletes, across multiple sports, in terms of their overall fitness? Within our own sport, it would be difficult enough to compare the fitness of sprinters, middle distance runners, marathoners and ultramarathoners, but Sports Illustrated has been taking on the entire sporting world every year since 2014 with its Fittest 50 list.

RELATED: Top 10 running performances of 2018

The 2019 version, which ranks the 25 fittest men and 25 fittest women, has just come out, and it’s fascinating to see how the runners on the list stack up against athletes in other sports and against each other. (It’s also fascinating that only two men–Eliud Kipchoge and Jim Walmsley–were deemed fit enough for the list, while six women made the cut.) 

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Just so you know, #1 on the women’s list is American gymnast Simone Biles, and #1 on the men’s list is New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley

Here’s a look at the runners on the list and SI’s take on them. (Plus a few of our comments where it seemed warranted.)

Women

#4: British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith. “Just 23 years old, British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith finished 2018 as the European champion and world leader in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4×100-meter races. In order to increase her power and explosiveness on the track, Asher-Smith doesn’t lift heavy weights, instead sticking to core strengthening and single-leg stability work—and plenty of grueling track workouts, of course.” ​Of course!

Gwen Jorgensen
Photo: Gwen Jorgensen/Facebook.

#5: Olympic gold-medallist in the triathlon-turned-marathoner Gwen Jorgensen. “After becoming the first American to win a gold medal in the Olympic triathlon, Gwen Jorgensen decided to leave the sport—and her place as one of the world’s top triathletes—to pursue a new one: the marathon. Following the birth of her child in 2017, 32-year-old Jorgensen declared that her new goal was to win a gold medal in the Olympic marathon in ’20, and so far, she’s seen positive results in the 26.2 distance.” 

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#9: 2017 world steeplechase champion and former American record-holder Emma Coburn. “Despite losing her American record to Courtney Frerichs in 2018, Coburn beat her younger compatriot three times and continues to be the face of American steeplechase, winning seven national titles since ’11. In her training for a middle distance event with one water jump and four barriers per lap, Coburn logs miles and completes a host of core and mobility exercises using resistance bands.​”

Courtney Dauwalter winning the Squamish 50 mile 2018
Photo: Hilary Matheson

#12: Overall winner of the 2017 Moab 240 and first female at the 2018 Western States Endurance Run Courtney Dauwalter. “Colorado native and full-time science teacher Courtney Dauwalter specializes in extreme endurance events, the ultimate test of stamina, strength and spirit. In 2017, Dauwalter won the Moab 240 outright, finishing the 238-mile race in 58 hours, an incredible 10 hours ahead of the next competitor, male or female.” We’re pretty sure Sean Nakamura is a man.

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#13: Multiple Olympic and world championship gold medallist in the 800m Caster Semenya. “In 2018 in the 800 meters, Caster Semenya amassed a 9-0 record and ran the fourth-, sixth- and eighth-fastest times in history, while also putting up impressive times in the 1,500 meters. The South African runner is consistently dominant, but because of her hyperandrogenism, she also stirs up controversy. Semenya was left off the 2018 IAAF Athlete of the Year short list; she is now challenging the governing body on their new regulations for athletes with the condition.” 

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#14: 2018 New York Marathon champion and women-only marathon world record-holder Mary Keitany. “The world record-holder in a women-only marathon with a 2017 London Marathon time of 2:17:01, 36-year-old Kenyan Mary Keitany has dominated distance running for nearly a decade. In 2018, she added a fourth New York Marathon title to her résumé, recording the second-fastest time in the race’s history and just 17 seconds off the course record.​”

Men

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#21: Marathon world record-holder and current Berlin and London marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge. “The 34-year-old Kenyan cemented his place as the greatest marathoner of all time in 2018, crushing the world record by one minute and 18 seconds with his 2:01:39 finish at the Berlin Marathon. While the feat further proved his dominance in the 26.2-mile distance, Kipchoge isn’t done yet—he plans to continue constructing his 5’6”, 115-pound body into an even finer-tuned marathon machine.” Indeed. We may be biased, but ranking Kipchoge #21 seems to us incomprehensible. 

RELATED: Kipchoge smashes world record at BMW Berlin Marathon

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#23: 2018 Western States Endurance Run champion and course record-holder Jim Walmsley. “What would it take for you to run more than 4,000 miles in a year? It’s standard for trail- and ultra-runner Jim Walmsley, who surpassed that mark on Strava in 2018 in his training for several top finishes, including a course-record 14 hours, 30 minutes at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run (the Super Bowl of ultrarunning) in June. Walmsley customizes his diet in order to fuel his body for the ultra distances and training for various terrains and trails.” Is WSER really the Super Bowl of ultrarunning? And if yearly mileage is the criterion, someone needs to tell them about Pete Kostelnick, who ran 10,000 miles in 2018.

RELATED: Walmsley, Dauwalter conquer Western States 100