I came upon some lists on LetsRun.com that, as a distance running fan, caught my interest. I have copied the lists below and I make no claim to have done the research to create or verify the lists. I take no responsibility if there are inaccuracies. But I read them with interest.
The Seven 1:41s in History:
1:41.11 – Wilson Kipketer – August 24, 1997
1:41.24 – Wilson Kipketer – August 13, 1997
1:41.51 – David Rudisha – July 10, 2010
1:41.73 – Sebastian Coe – June 10, 1981
1:41.73 – Wilson Kipketer – July 7 1997
1:41.77 – Joaquim Cruz – August 26, 1984
1:41.83 – Wilson Kikpeter – September 1, 1996
Running under 1:42 in the 800 meters is an amazing feat. It had only been done six times in history up until last week when Kenya’s David Rudisha, only twenty-one years old, added his name to the list with a 1:41.51. Sebastian Coe was the first sub-1:42 runner when he set a new world record of 1:41.73 in 1981. Three years later in 1984, Joaquim Cruz became the second runner to ever run under 1:42 for 800 meters. Coe and Cruz would be the exclusive members of this club for twelve years. Finally in September of 1996, Wilson Kipketer became the third person to achieve the feat. Kipketer was not done. Cementing himself as the greatest 800 runner of all-time, Kipketer ran sub-1:42 three times in a seven week period in 1997. First Kipketer tied Coe’s world record of 1:41.73. Then he bettered it with a 1:41.24. Then he set what still stands as the world record, 1:41.11.
Thirteen years would pass before Rudisha became the fourth man to run sub-1:42. Two fellow Kenyans rabitted the race through a 49 second first lap. The first rabbit dropped out at the that point and the second rabbit pushed through until the 500 meter mark. Then it was all Rudisha. You can see tremendous focus in his eyes and great arm pumping action as he fights down the final straightaway all alone (second place was three seconds behind him) to become the second fastest 800 runner in history.
Rudisha father, Daniel Rudisha, is a former runner who won silver at the 1968 Olympics as part of the Kenyan 4×400 meter relay team. Unfortunately, the son has not yet been able to match his father’s medal, he failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics and failed to make the 800 final at the 2009 World Championships. But his young age and solid progression in the 800 meters (2006-1:46.3; 2007-1:44.15; 2008-1:43.72; 2009-1:42.01; 2010-1:41.51) suggests that he may be on the cusp of breaking Kipketer’s world record. Be sure to keep an eye out for his name, and if he’s racing at 800 meters you may want to check out the race because it could be a world record!
USA Women’s Sub-4:05 1500’s (through 7/10/10):
Mary Slaney, 34
Suzy Favor Hamilton, 24
Regina Jacobs, 21
Christin Wurth-Thomas, 11
Shannon Rowbury, 11
PattiSue Plumer, 7
Ruth Wysocki, 5
Diana Richburg, 4
Anna Willard Pierce, 3
Morgan Uceny, 3
Jenny Barringer, 2
Nicole Teter, 2
Sarah Schwald, 2
Treniere Clement Moser, 2
Cindy Bremser, 1
Claudette Groenendaal, 1
Darlene Beckford, 1
Erin Donohue, 1
Janice Merrill, 1
Kim Gallagher, 1
Linda Sheskey, 1
Marla Runyan, 1
Sue Addison, 1
– 140 total sub-4:05 performances; 33 by current athletes (24%)
– 23 different USA women have run sub-4:05; 7 current athletes (30%)
I am not sure what to make of this list. It’s an interesting way to look at some of the top 1500 meter women of all-time. But keep in mind that there are many ways to consider how “good” a runner is. Here is a look at finishing place at World Championships and Olympics.
US Women 1500 meters top 8 finishes at World Championships and Olympics
Mary Decker Slaney – 1st (1983 WC), 8th (1988 Oly)
Regina Jacobs – 2nd (1997 WC), 2nd (1999 WC)
Shannon Rowbury – 3rd (2009 WC), 7th (2008 Oly)
Christin Wurth-Thomas – 5th (2009 WC)
Anna Willard Pierce – 6th (2009 WC)
Ruth Wysocki – 7th (1995 WC), 8th (1984 Oly)
Diana Richburg – 7th (1987 WC)
Marla Runyan – 8th (2000 Oly)
Should Suzy Favor Hamilton be considered the #2 1500 runner in US history? She ran sub-4:05 24 times (#2 on the list above) and her PR of 3:57.40 is the second fastest of all-time (see list below). But she never placed in the top eight at a World Championships or Olympics.
Another way to compare athletes is to look at their PR:
US Women 1500 meters all-time
1. Mary Slaney, 3:57.12 – 07/26/83
2, Suzy Favor Hamilton, 3:57.40 – 07/28/00
3. Anna Willard, 3:59.38 – 08/28/09
4. Jenny Barringer, 3:59.90 – 06/07/09
5. Christin Wurth-Thomas, 3:59.98 – 07/10/09
6. Ruth Wysocki, 4:00.18 – 06/24/84
7. Shannon Rowbury, 4:00.33 – 07/18/08
8. Regina Jacobs, 4:00.35 – 08/29/99
9. Diana Richburg, 4:01.79 – 09/05/87
10. Morgan Uceny, 4:02.34 – 07/08/10
It’s worth noting that five of the top ten US runners of all-time are currently active. Also, Treniere Clement Moser (4:03.32 in 2006) and Erin Donohue (4:03.91 in 2010) are currently competing, too. The US currently has seven sub-4:05 runners.
The sub-4:05 list is about how often a runner was able to run a quality mark than about how good that quality mark was. For example, where should PattieSue Plumer rank when one considers the best 1500 meter runners in US history? She did break 4:05 seven times. But her PR of 4:03.42 does not rank among the ten best in US history. Perhaps someone has a large number of sub-4:05’s because they liked to race a lot or had more race opportunities.
I asked Ruth Wysocki, two top eight championship finishes, #6 US all-time, and five sub-4:05 races, what she thinks of the sub-4:05 list. Ruth told me that she would be interested in seeing what percentage of an individual’s 1500’s were sub-4:05. She pointed out that Mary Slaney probably had a very high percentage of her races sub-4:05 and while Regina Jacobs didn’t race as much as Slaney, when she raced she tended to be ready to go so Jacobs probably had a high percentage of her races at sub-4:05. Ruth, on the other hand, said that she tended to race her way into shape so she had more races that were over 4:05 on the way to her peak performances.
What stands out on the sub-4:05 list to me is how many runners from the same era appear. Slaney, Plumer, Wysocki, Richburg, Bremser, Groenendaal, Gallagher, Sheskey, and Addison were all competing in the 80’s together. And now Wurth-Thomas, Rowbury, Pierce, Uceny, Barringer, Moser, and Donohue all face off against one another. I think it takes one or two individuals to set the bar high and then others strive to reach that level as well.
No matter what list you look at or how you analyze it, we are currently in a special time for the men’s 800 and for the US women’s 1500. Sit back and enjoy the fast running as people run fast times that will require these lists to be re-written.