The Olympic Men’s 800 meters was one of the greatest races I have ever seen. Not only did the winner, David Rudisha set a World Record, but there was a world junior record and an Ethiopian national record set as well.
Moments before the race on August 9, 2012, I leaned over and told Malinda, “If there was ever a distance event where we could see a World Record in the Olympic Final, this is it.” A few minutes later, Rudisha made me look like a psychic.
As soon as the gun sounded to start the race, Rudisha sprinted out hard. He managed to hold off Abubaker Kaki to claim the inside position and the lead after they cut in. Rudisha came through the first 200 meters in 24 seconds and hit the halfway mark at 49 seconds. He was definitely on World Record pace. What was interesting, however, was that the field was not getting left in his jetstream. Rudisha was running really really fast but the other seven runners were getting pulled along to some fast times, too. When Rudisha hit 600 meters at 1:14, my head almost exploded as I tried to calculate what kind of time he was on pace to run.
My eyes then shifted to the rest of the pack. American Duane Solomon was positioned in sixth place but appeared ready to make a move for a medal. The other American, Nick Symmonds, had been in last place for most of the race and was still there with 100 meters to go but then seemed to come alive and he, too, was making a sprint to get a medal. I screamed for Solomon. I screamed for Symmonds. Then I heard the crowd, that had already been deafening loud, get even louder. I looked to the left to see that Rudisha had finished and then I checked the time on the scoreboard. It initially read “unofficial 1:41.0.” Rudisha owned the previous World Record of 1:41.01 so if the time held, he would have World Record by .01 seconds. A few seconds later the official time flashed on the scoreboard and it was even faster. 1:40.91! Rudisha had become the first runner to ever break 1:41 in the 800 meters. To put that in perspective, prior to this race, besides Rudisha, only three other runners had ever broken 1:42 (Wilson Kipketer, Sebastian Coe, and Joaquim Cruz).
The others in this field were also amazingly fast. Seven of the eight runners ran a personal record (PR), with the eighth running a season best.
Eighteen year-old Nijel Amos of Botswana won the silver medal with a 1:41.73. That time made Amos the fifth runner to ever break 1:42, earned him a new world junior record (for athletes who do not turn twenty at any time during the calendar year in which the mark is made) and tied Amos for the eighth fastest 800 time in history. All this from an athlete who entered the Olympics with a PR of 1:43.11
Kenyan Timoth Kitum, who had only the seventh best PR out of the field before the race started, ran a 1.41 second PR to win the bronze, holding off four other runners who all finished within 0.79 seconds of each other.
The Americans, Solomon and Symmonds, came up just short in their bid for a medal. But they could hardly be disappointed with their times. Solomon’s 1:42.82 and Symmonds” 1:42.95 make them the second and third fastest American 800 runners of all-time, behind only Solomon’s coach, Johnny Gray (1:42.60 set in 1985). Obviously these were PR’s for both Solomon and Symmonds and they are just the second and third Americans (along with Gray) to dip under the 1:43 mark.
Sixth placer Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia, who is only nineteen years-old set a national record with his 1:43.20. Aman improved on his own national record, which was 1:43.37. Aman has steadily been lowering the Ethiopian record over the last two years. The last person before Aman to hold the Ethiopian national record in the 800 meters was Berhanu Alemu, who ran 1:45.28 in 2004.
Abubaker Kaki of Sudan was the only runner in the field not to run a PR (his PR is 1:42.23). However, it was a season best for Kaki, who ran 1:43.32. It was Kaki’s junior world record of 1:42.69 that Amos broke.
The last place finisher, Andrew Osagie of Great Britain, ran 1:43.77, which was a PR. That time would have won gold at the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympics. The only Olympic 800 meters in history where 1:43.77 would not have medaled was 1996. For Osagie, 1:43.77 got him a personal record but also last place!
Often in a World Record setting race, at least in a distance race, the record setter has pace setters or rabbits and the record setting runner tends to finish far ahead of the rest of the field. The lack of both rabbits and a gap is what made this race so special. The depth of this 800 race was like no other 800 in history. From first place to eighth place, the runners put up incredible times. Records and PR’s were the norm in this race, the greatest 800 race of all-time.
1 David Lekuta Rudisha KEN 1:40.91 (WR)
2 Nijel Amos BOT 1:41.73 (WJ)
3 Timothy Kitum KEN 1:42.53 (PB)
4 Duane Solomon USA 1:42.82 (PB)
5 Nick Symmonds USA 1:42.95 (PB)
6 Mohammed Aman ETH 1:43.20 (NR)
7 Abubaker Kaki SUD 1:43.32 (SB)
8 Andrew Osagie GBR 1:43.77 (PB)
There was a world record set on day two of the 2012 Olympic Trials in Eugene. Ashton Eaton had one of those days. Except in his case it was spread over two days. After a recent Runner’s World article touted his potential to be the World’s Greatest Athlete by setting a new world record in the decathlon, the twenty-four year old Eaton had a great deal of pressure on his shoulders as he attempted to qualify for his first Olympic Games.
The first day of the decathlon went quite well for Eaton as he set decathlon PR’s in the 100 meters (10.21), long jump (27’0”), and shot put (47’7.25”) and tied his PR in the high jump (6’8.75”). The only event he did not set a decathlon PR in was his best and favorite event, the 400 meters (46.70). His marks in the 100 and long jump were decathlon world records. His point total at the end of day one was 4,728, putting him on pace to finish ahead of Dan O’Brien’s American Record pace.
However, Eaton’s strength is the sprinting events and his weakness is the throwing events. Day two would include two of his weaker events, the discus and javelin. He started day two with only a so-so performance in the 110 hurdles (13.70). That would be his last so-so performance of the meet. He set decathlon PR’s in the discus (140’5”), pole vault (17’4.5”), and javelin (193’1”). After nine events he had amassed 8,189 points. He was now just 702 points from O’Brien’s American Record. However, Eaton was also only 837 points away from Roman Sebrle’s (Czech Republic) 2001 World Record. Eaton needed to run a 4:16 to become the new World Record holder.
The crowd at Eugene’s Hayward Field was abuzz as the men’s decathlon 1500 was about to get underway. The crowd was ready to cheer loudly for Eaton, a former University of Oregon athlete and a native of Oregon (he grew up in Bend, Oregon). Duke’s Curtis Beach, a very strong 1500 meter runner, immediately took the lead. Joe Detmer moved into second place and Eaton pulled into third place. After 400 meters, Eaton was right on pace to run a 4:16. After two laps he was still right where he needed to be. With each lap, the crowd got more energized. With a lap to go, he was a few seconds off pace but that’s when he started to speed up. As Eaton surged down the backstretch I thought to myself, “he’s a 46 second 400 guy, he should have a good kick.” With about 200 meters to go he caught up to Detmer but that’s when Detmer started his own kick. This was excellent because it gave Eaton someone to chase after.
With 100 meters to go I checked the clock and felt pretty certain that we were about to witness history. Eaton swung out into lane two for a final sprint to the finish line and the record books. Fifty meters to go is the moment I will always remember. Beach, who had been leading the race from the gun moved out into lane three and was actually slowing down. He turned around to check Eaton’s progress and I could see Beach wave his arms, encouraging Eaton over the final few meters. What a classy move! Eaton passed Detmer and raced across the line to finish in first in yet another decathlon PR (4:14.48). Detmer was second and Beach was third. To a casual track fan the 1500, the final event of the decathlon, can be confusing. The person who finishes this final race is often not the overall decathlon winner. More times than not the overall winner of the decathlon is buried in an unglamorous middle of the pack in the 1500. But Beach wanted Eaton to cross the finish line first in the 1500, the final event of the decathlon, as he set a new World Record. I love that he recognized the significance of the moment and his opportunity to do something for Eaton. In this photo taken by Paul Merca, Beach and Detmer have huge smiles on their faces. They are extremely happy for their fellow decathlete and his achievement. In another photo that the Oregon Track Club Elite tweeted, you can see Beach pumping his fist in excitement as Eaton gets the record.
I will remember witnessing this world record and class act for a long time. Congratulations to Ashton Eaton on a new decathlon world record of 9039 points. Thank you to Curtis Beach for a heartwarming moment where you showed you are one classy person.
Last Sunday, August 22, 2010, in Berlin, David Rudisha set a new world record in the 800 meters, running 1:41.09, two one hundredths of a second faster than the previous record by Wilson Kipketer in 1997.
Rudisha’s record run was not necessarily unexpected. Earlier this summer when Rudisha clocked a 1:41.51, I wrote a blog that included the short list of runners who have run sub-1:42 in the 800. Rudisha has seemed primed to go after the record since July. Shortly before the record run, Rudisha’s agent James Templeton sent LetsRun.com an e-mail that outlined Rudisha’s race plans:
“There are some good races still to come (Berlin, Brussels, Rieti, Split … yes of course he will run some of these starting with Berlin) and he has been training well since (the) African Championships in order (to) come out and impress in these last weeks. You might recall he had a great finish to last year and that is his intention again this year …If he had come straight from Nairobi and run Stockholm and London I dare say he would be fading by season-end. This way he comes into them fresh and hungry to run fast. I would have thought that is prudent. No it does not come down to money; we’ve had a good season and there is a good bit left in the tank.”
It appears that Rudisha likes to take a break from racing in the middle of the summer to concentrate on training. Then he comes back and ends the season with some of his fastest times.
In the aftermath of his record run there has been a media frenzy. My favorite links from the media frenzy are:
The excitement in the 800 meters may not be over yet. If you watch the above linked videos of Rudisha’s new world record and Kipketer’s world record from 1997 you notice that both runners had rabbits for the first part of the race but ran alone and way ahead of the field over the last 200 meters. Just think how fast Rudisha might run if he were pushed. That could be the case when he races against Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki in Brussels on Friday. Then, on Sunday in the Athletics meeting in Rieti, he will have pace makers to attempt to improve on his own world record. Could we see the first sub-1:41?
Don’t miss this great 800 meter action.