From Kipchoge to Kosgei and all of the upsets, records, and victories in between, 2019 was a major year for running.
From shocking upsets in NCAA cross country to history-making performances in the marathon, 2019 saw many unprecedented achievements on the amateur and professional racing circuit. Here is a breakdown of the 15 best race moments of the year.
Kosgei Shocks Everyone in Chicago
In 2003, Paula Radcliffe set the world record with a career best of 2:15:25 at the London Marathon. For 16 years, the closest any runner came to Radcliffe’s mark was 2:17:01, a career best run by Mary Keitany in 2017.
On October 13, Brigid Kosgei made history when she won the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04. The Kenyan ran almost perfectly even splits to achieve her goal in the Windy City, passing the halfway mark in 1:06:59 before clocking 1:07:05 for the second half.
“It’s amazing for me,” Kosgei said after the race. “I never believed that time. But I’ve seen 2:10 is possible for a lady to run if they are sure. During training, you must focus everything.”
Eliud Kipchoge Dips Under 2-Hour Marathon Barrier
In his second attempt at breaking the two-hour barrier in the marathon, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya accomplished the feat with a stunning run of 1:59:40 on the streets of Vienna in October.
The performance was not an official world record because of the use of pacemakers and because Kipchoge was handed his drinks from a bike, but it stands as the fastest 26.2 in history. Kipchoge holds the marathon world record of 2:01:39, which he ran in Berlin in 2018.
“I wanted to send a message to the world,” Kipchoge said. “No human is limited.” Watch Kipchoge run to the finish line here.
Jim Walmsley Obliterates His Own Western States Record
Ultrarunning star Jim Walmsley maintained his Western States winning streak when he obliterated his own course record in June. Navigating 100 miles from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California, Walmsley broke the tape in 14 hours and 9 minutes, which broke his own course record by more than 20 minutes. In the same year, Walmsley also qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials in January, broke the 50-mile record in May, and won the 42K at the World Mountain Running Championships in November.
Donavan Brazier Breaks 34-Year-Old American Record
Donavan Brazier had the race of his life when he broke one of the oldest American records on his way to winning gold in the 800 meters at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar. With 250-meters to go, Brazier ran away from the field to secure the first 800-meter world championship gold medal for the United States in a time of 1:42.34. The performance broke the previous record set by Johnny Gray 34 years ago.“I just feel on top of the world, this year has been a huge domino effect,” Brazier said. “I just kept things going, and to see it coming together in time for the world championships means a lot to me.”
Dalilah Muhammad Sets World Record Twice
Dalilah Muhammad made history twice this season when she broke the 400-meter hurdles world record and lowered it once again on her way to winning the world championships.
The Olympic champion first set the world record in July when she won the USATF Outdoor Championships in 52.20. Just over two months later, Muhammad improved on her own record, winning gold in a time of 52.16 at the IAAF World Championships in Doha.
“Sometimes you tell yourself to back off a little, that you’re going too fast, but in this race I knew there was no holding back, that it could be done,” she said.
Sifan Hassan Wins Unprecedented Double at Worlds
Maggie Guterl Becomes First Woman to Win Backyard Ultra
For 60 hours straight, Maggie Guterl ran the same 4.2-mile trail loop to become the last runner standing in the Big’s Backyard Ultra race. The Durango, Colorado, native ran 250 miles on her way to becoming the first woman to win the brutal race that rewards the person who can run for the longest amount of time.
“When I finished, a woman came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t want to tell you this, but you were running for all of the women and an entire gender,’” Guterl said. “That was in my head the whole race and it was so surreal when I was the last one standing.”
Guterl was not the only woman to make history in ultrarunning this year. In October, Camille Herron set a world best when she won the International Association of Ultrarunners 24-Hour World Championship. Herron covered 167.8 miles in 24 hours and led the U.S. to an overall team victory.
Geoffrey Kamworor Breaks Half Marathon World Record
Holding a 4:25-mile pace, Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya shattered the world record at the Copenhagen Half Marathon in September, running 58:01. The performance, which was 17 seconds faster than the previous record, took place in the same city where the 26-year-old won his first of three half marathon world championship titles in 2014. The distance star went on to prove his range later this year when he won the 2019 New York City Marathon.
Joyciline Jepkosgei Debuts in NYC Marathon, Beats Mary Keitany
Kenenisa Bekele Wins Berlin Marathon 2 Seconds Shy of World Record
One year after Eliud Kipchoge set a world record that many believed would be untouchable for at least a few years, Kenenisa Bekele nearly surpassed it at the Berlin Marathon. The 37-year-old Ethiopian won the race in 2:01:41, just two seconds shy of Kipchoge’s record. The performance was a personal best by 80 seconds and an impressive return to form after battling several injuries over the past few years.
“I don’t give up. I have had difficult injuries, until only three months ago, but I am happy to run my personal best,” he said. “I had a tight hamstring at 31K and had to slow down, but then it recovered and I was able to retake the lead.”