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The top sportsmanlike moments in running history

It would be super easy to run by a fallen competitor to take a win, but these athletes decided to help their fellow racers instead

The running world is one big community, and no matter where you’re from, you share a special connection with fellow runners. Even in races, runners will stop to lend a helping hand if a competitor has fallen or taken a wrong turn. These moments of sportsmanship are what make running such a wonderful sport, because it turns out that a lot of runners would rather help their opponents than beat them because of a fall or mixup. We’ve chosen a few of the best ones. 

D’Agostino and Hamblin 

In the 5,000m heats of the 2016 Rio Olympics, New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin fell and took down American Abbey D’Agostino with her. Hamblin stayed down, clearly in pain, but her American competitor helped her to her feet. Shortly after that, it was D’Agostino who was in pain and Hamblin’s turn to help her out. The two eventually finished the race, and later in the Games they received special Olympic medals for their acts of sportsmanship. 

RELATED: Kieran Lumb’s display of finish line sportsmanship in photos

John Landy 

Australian runner John Landy was the second person in history to break the four-minute barrier for the mile. At the Australian National Championships in 1956, another runner fell down mid-race. Landy hopped over him but circled back to help him to his feet. For most people, this would eliminate any chance they had at a race win, but when Landy saw to it that his competitor was up once again, he turned back and chased down the leaders. He won the race by a comfortable gap. 

Iván Fernández and Abel Mutoi 

At a cross-country race in 2012, Kenya’s Olympic steeplechase bronze medallist Abel Mutai stopped short of the finish line, thinking he’d won the race. Not far behind him in second place was Iván Fernández of Spain. Instead of passing Mutai for the win, Fernández helped his opponent out and guided him across the line first. 


RELATED: Top ‘leaving it all on the course’ running moments

Alistair and Johnny Brownlee

This sportsmanlike act is from a triathlon, but it was in the run portion of the race, so we’ll count it as a moment of sportsmanship in running, too. Great Britain’s Johnny Brownlee was leading in the final kilometre of the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Cozumel, Mexico, in 2016, but the heat got to him and his body started to shut down. Even though he had just a few hundred metres to go to the finish, he couldn’t will himself to the line. Luckily, his older brother Alistair was close behind and he sacrificed his own chance to win the race and carried Johnny for the final few metres. The brothers were passed by one other athlete, but Alistair threw Johnny across the line for second place. That’s a good big brother.