As the 2010’s come to a close, it’s time to reflect upon the most memorable running moments of the decade. This list is comprised of the moments that stopped you in your tracks, that made running globally relevant, or did something important for runners world wide. This list isn’t reserved for the best performances of all-time (though some of them are), this list is for the moments that left us without words.
At the 2012 London Olympics, David Rudisha of Kenya led the race wire to wire and set the still-standing 800m world record of 1:40.91. Rudisha was 24 years old at the time and went to on become the 2016 Olympic champion four years later. Rudisha’s world record run looked effortless and set a new standard for middle distance running.
Boston bombing in 2013
The 2013 Boston Bombing saw the death of three people and with hundreds of others injured. Just metres from the finish line, two bombs went off at 2:49 p.m. on race day. The news shocked the world. Since the bombing there have been memorials installed on Boylston Street to commemorate victims and their families.
Genzebe Dibaba’s 1,500m world record of 2015
Genzebe Dibaba was having the year of her career. She was winning nearly everything she entered, running times that were record-breaking and looking stronger than ever. Then, she ran her 3:50.07 1,500m world record at the Monaco Diamond League. Dibaba would drop the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan to run a 59 second final lap and set the record. Hassan has since been the only woman to come near Dibaba’s seemingly untouchable record.
Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs steeplechase in 2017
The steeplechase had been an event long dominated by the Kenyan women and the 2017 World Championships was looking no different. Americans Coburn and Frerichs had both made the final,but by their own admission, weren’t sure that the podium was in the cards.
Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech, the then-leader of the race, was rounding the corner in the leadup to the water jump and instead of veering to her left, to the inside of the track where the water pit is located, Chepkoech continued on as one would in a non-steeplechase event. Once she realized her mistake Chepkoech backtracked 10-20m and made the clearance, losing considerable time in the process. This gave Frerichs and Coburn a slight advantage which they capitalized on to eventually go one-two. No American woman had ever been a gold medalist in the event before then.
Shalane Flanagan became a World Marathon Major champion ending a 40-year drought at the New York City Marathon in 2017. The American beat the (then) second-fastest marathoner (2:17:01) of all-time, Mary Keitany, and the 2017 Boston Marathon champion, Edna Kiplagat, in the most significant road race of her life. It was the first American win by a woman in New York City since 1977.
The 2018 Boston Marathon podium
The 2018 Boston Marathon saw one of the most unexpected podiums in the race’s history, making it an international story. Due to the terrible weather, many of the races contenders didn’t make it to the finish line but those who did were completely unexpected. Des Linden had a decisive victory, Sara Sellers, a full-time nurse was second, and Canadian runner (who also happened to be a masters athlete) Krista DuChene was third.
In the men’s race, Yuki Kawauchi of Japan was the winner. Kawauchi had had a successful professional career, but no one had pegged him for the win at the 2018 race.
On an October morning in Vienna, Austria, Eliud Kipchoge made history. Kipchoge has become the first person to run a marathon in under two hours. Kipchoge finished 42.2K in 1:59:40.
Kipchoge’s run was something that was built towards for three years, beginning in 2016 and finally achieved in 2019. The event was sponsored by Ineos and Nike and saw 41 Nike athletes help Kipchoge to the mark.
Watching the Chicago Marathon was very stressful for those who knew just how fast Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei was running. The runner finished the race in 2:14:04, smashing Paula Radcliffe’s women’s marathon world record and beating the second place woman by an astonishing six minutes.
Kosgei committed to the pace early on with commentators saying that she would either not finish or run a world record, there wasn’t much in between. Kosgei successfully completed the latter in one of the most exciting races of the decade.
NOP shut down in 2019
Following the September 30, 2019 ban of head coach Alberto Salazar, the Oregon Project was shut down by Nike. The US Anti-Doping Agency banned Salazar for four years following a years-long investigation and secret arbitration case. The details appear in a BBC report by journalist Mark Daly and a statement by USADA outlining the specific charges, which include trafficking in testosterone (a banned substance), illegal methods and evidence-tampering at the NOP’s Beaverton, Oregon headquarters. The NOP was one of the most successful track groups in history.
Following the dissolution of the NOP, Mary Cain who was a former runner with the group, came forward to speak about her treatment during her time there. Cain was a phenomenal young high school track athlete from Bronxville, New York with multiple national records to her name and a seemingly bright future. In November she came forward and revealed that she was emotionally and physically abused to the point of suicidality while training with the Nike Oregon Project under Salazar.
Following the Salazar ban, dissolution of the group, and Cain’s statements, the running community has begun to have conversations that were a long time coming. Cain’s story was a particularly difficult pill to swallow for running fans and members of the sport because of the underlying theme of her narrative that wasn’t unique to her: that thinner means faster.
In the past two months, runners have started coming forward with their own narratives, coaches are promising to be better, and national sporting organizations are working to secure funding for education and resources for runners. The goal is for no one to experience again what Mary Cain did.