Sports Illustrated has released its Fittest 50 list, and as usual, multiple runners were included. The Fittest 50 is SI‘s attempt to list the fittest men and women in the world, looking at athletes from any and all sports. This year, nine runners were selected, with six of the 25 women and three of the 25 men coming from the track, trails or road. Here’s a breakdown of where each individual placed and why the SI panel (which included Dr. Michael Joyner of the Mayo Clinic) chose them.
Whoa, this was a surprise. Thanks @SInow for adding me to this list of superstars!
Continuing to reach new levels of fitness at age 38 has been very rewarding after years of persevering in this sport. https://t.co/WP0j9MzB7y
— Sara Hall (@SaraHall3) May 6, 2021
Running was the sport with the most women included in the top 25, and the six athletes chosen was double the three chosen from MMA, which was the sport with the next-most number of selections. American marathoner Sara Hall is #24, and with her performances in the past year, it comes as no surprise to see her on this list. The SI team notes how Hall overcame the disappointment of missing out on the Tokyo Olympics and ended up running two huge marathon PBs, first at the London Marathon (where she finished in second in 2:22:01) and then with her win at The Marathon Project, where her 2:20:32 finish was the second-fastest marathon in U.S. history.
Up next is Dalilah Muhammad at #16. SI refers to Muhammad as the “queen of the 400-metre hurdles,” a title she has owned since her gold medal in the event at the 2016 Olympics. Since then, she has broken the world record on multiple occasions (her current record stands at 52.16 seconds, a time that won her the gold medal at the 2019 world championships), and she is now a heavy favourite to win gold in Tokyo this summer.
American ultrarunner Courtney Dauwalter comes in at #14, and her remarkable result from Big’s Backyard Ultra in 2020 is listed as a big reason for that. Dauwalter won the American title at the event, running 455K. Just ahead of Dauwalter at #13 is American track and field star Tianna Bartoletta. Bartoletta is truly a track and field standout, as she has won Olympic and world medals in both sprints and jumps. In London in 2012, she won Olympic gold as part of the U.S. women’s 4 x 100m relay team. She and the squad defended that title in Rio four years later, and she added an individual gold medal in the long jump.
Emma Coburn is #10 on the list, coming in ahead of tennis star Serena Williams. SI lists Coburn’s multiple steeplechase medals, from her bronze in Rio to her gold and silver at the 2017 and 2019 world championships, and it’s noted that she has the potential to break the American 3K steeplechase record of 9:00.85 later this year. Finally, coming in at #6 on the list is Shaunae Miller-Uibo. The Bahamian sprinter is the defending 400m Olympic gold medallist, and she could also be a threat in the 200m in Tokyo.
Unlike on the women’s list, running didn’t win for the most men selected in the top 25 (American football had four athletes and basketball had three), but three athletes still made the elite list. American ultrarunning sensation Jim Walmsley was included at #24, and he is extremely deserving of this honour. Firstly, as noted in the SI piece, he competed at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2020, going out of his comfort zone and running 42.2K instead of his preferred ultra distances of 100K or 100 miles. He finished in 2:15:05, earning him 22nd place in his debut marathon. He then kicked off 2021 with an amazing 100K run in Arizona, where he finished in 6:09:26, breaking the American record and finishing just 12 seconds off the world best.
Next up is Eliud Kipchoge at #20. While Kipchoge had the worst marathon of his career at the London Marathon in October 2020, there’s no denying that he’s still one of the best road runners in the world. He’s the world record holder in the marathon and he is the only human to run under two hours in the event, making him a favourite to win gold in Tokyo this summer.
Finally, breaking into the top 10 is Noah Lyles at #9. Lyles is the reigning 200m world champion, and he owns a PB of 19.50 in the event. He’s a heavy favourite to take gold in Tokyo, and he might even compete in the 100m. Add all this together and he’s a clear choice for SI‘s Fittest 50 list.
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