We finally made it to the end of 2020 — the strangest year of our lives. Because of the pandemic, races all over the world were cancelled, and for a while it looked like we wouldn’t see any competitions for the final 10 months of the year. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, and when racing eventually did make its comeback, it produced so many amazing results. While 2020 was far from an easy year for anyone, it was also a year of triumphs for many runners. We can’t list all of these runs, but here are the top 10.
Note: You’ll notice there are no Canadians on this list. Since so many Canucks had stellar seasons in 2020, we’ve made a separate list of Canadian accomplishments.
The Impossible Games
The Impossible Games were the first big event to be held after COVID-19 hit, and they were a huge success. The event took place in June, replacing the Oslo Diamond League, and while it had a limited field of athletes and competitions, multiple records were broken. Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm set a new 300m hurdle world record, running 33.78 seconds to beat the previous mark by more than half a second. Norwegian distance star Jakob Ingebrigtsen ran to a European 2,000m best, posting a 4:50.01, and his older brother Filip ran a national 1,000m record of 2:16.46. Finally, fellow Norwegian Sondre Nordstad Moen beat the European 25,000m record with a final time of 1:12:46.5. The Impossible Games were quite the way to revamp the 2020 season.
The women’s half-marathon
This year saw plenty of action in the women’s half-marathon. The season started off with a world record from Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh, who ran 1:04:31 at the RAK Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates. In September, Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir beat the women-only half-marathon world record in Prague, clocking a 1:05:34 finish. Only a month later, she ran to the win at the World Half-Marathon Championships, where she beat her own women-only record, this time posting a 1:05:16.
Cheptegei’s Monaco 5Ks
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei ran in Monaco on two occasions in 2020, both times running 5K. His first race came in February, when he ran to a 5K road world record of 12:51. Several months later in August, he returned to Monaco, this time to contest 5K on the track. Just like he did at the start of the year, Cheptegei set a world record over 5,000m, running 12:35.36 to beat Kenenisa Bekele‘s record of 12.37.35.
The London Marathon
Just like the Impossible Games marked the comeback of track and field, the London Marathon was the first big marathon to be run during the pandemic. It attracted a stacked elite-only field that included the likes of world record holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei, both of whom were the main pre-race favourites. Kosgei managed to live up to those expectations, taking the win in 2:18:58, but Kipchoge struggled to a 2:06:49 finish. Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata sprinted to the win in 2:05:41.
NN Valencia World Record Day
NN Valencia World Record Day lived up to its name as Cheptegei and Letesenbet Gidey ran to world records in the 10,000m and 5,000m. Gidey kicked off the night in Valencia with a 5,000m world record of 14:06.65, beating the previous mark set by Tirunesh Dibaba in 2008. Cheptegei set his third world record of 2020, running 26:11.00 to beat Kenenisa Bekele‘s long-held 10,000m record of 26:17.53.
The Marathon Project
The Marathon Project was one of the biggest events on the 2020 running calendar. It attracted around 100 of the best marathoners from across North America, and it made for a pair of exciting races. American Marty Hehir won the men’s race in a massive PB of 2:08:59, and Sara Hall smashed the rest of the field to take the women’s win in 2:20:32.
Sara Hall’s amazing season
Continuing off The Marathon Project, Hall‘s season deserves its own spot on this list. After dropping out of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February, she ran two more marathons, first in London and then at The Marathon Project in Arizona. She broke her PB at both of these races, first running to a second-place finish at the London Marathon in a time of 2:22:01. At the time, this was the sixth-fastest time in U.S. history. Only two months later, though, she posted an even quicker time, running 2:20:32 in Arizona, which is the second-fastest time in the American rankings, less than 30 seconds behind Deena Kastor‘s national record.
At the Brussels Diamond League in September, Mo Farah and Sifan Hassan broke the men’s and women’s one-hour records. Farah ran 21.33 kilometres in 60 minutes to beat Haile Gebrselassie’s 2007 record by 45 metres. Hassan beat the women’s record by a much larger margin, running 18.930 kilometres to better Dire Tune‘s record, which she set in 2008, by 413 metres.
World Half Marathon Championships
As already mentioned, Jepchirchir won the women’s race at the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland. She had to fight for the win until the very end, only beating second-place Melat Yisak Kejeta of Germany by two seconds in 1:05:18 and bronze medallist Yalemzerf Yehualaw of Ethiopia by three seconds. The men’s race was also tight, with Jacob Kiplimo taking the win in a Ugandan national record of 58:48. Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie came in second in 58:54 and third went to Ethiopia’s Amedework Walelegn 59:08.
Kandie got his revenge on Kiplimo at the Valencia Half-Marathon in December, not just taking the win, but setting the world record as well. Kandie ran to an incredible finish of 57:32 to become the first person to run a sub-58-minute half-marathon. He led Kiplimo and two other runners to sub-58 results in what was one of the best races of 2020.