Men’s Performance Of The Year

Eliud Kipchoge crept ever closer to the 2:00 barrier with his WR run in Berlin. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

OUR 23-MEMBER international voting panel had little trouble in choosing a marathon as the Men’s Performance Of The Year for the first time since Haile Gebrselassie’s 2:04:26 WR back in ’07. The subsequent breakings of the 2:04 and 2:03 barriers didn’t earn POY status, but Eliud Kipchoge’s cracking of the 2:02 level did, getting 16 of 22 votes for No. 1. The other 6 voters called it No. 2. The other votes for No. 1 went to decathlete Kevin Mayer (6) and 5000 runner Selemon Barega (1)… Only 14 different performances received recognition in our 5-4-3-2-1 scoring system (WR = World Record; WL = yearly World Leader):

1. Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:01:39 WR, 104 points

With most modern high-end marathoners just running a pair of races, opportunities for hyper-fast times have to be maximized, and that’s just what the tireless Kenyan did on Berlin’s speedway of a course, whacking a hefty 1:18 off Dennis Kimetto’s WR. It was also a PR by 1:26 as he cracked both the 2:03 and 2:02 barriers in the same race.

2. Kevin Mayer’s 9126 WR, 96

When Ashton Eaton rang up his 9045 WR—a mark which was the POY in ’15—many thought it would last for a lot of years. They were wrong. After an embarrassing long jump at the Euro Champs killed the Frenchman’s chances for a big score there, he traveled to Talence in late September and over the course of 2 days put up these WR-breaking marks: 10.55, 25-7¼ (7.80), 52-6 (16.00), 6-8¾ (2.05), 48.42, 13.75, 165-10 (50.54), 17-10½ (5.45), 235-11 (71.90) & 4:36.11. Amazingly enough, his total for each of the two days was the same, 4563.

3. Abderrahmane Samba’s 46.98 WL, 56

Samba’s place in No. 3 was pretty much ordained when 15 of the voters put him in that position. In becoming only the second man in history to break 400 hurdling’s 47-second barrier, the young Qatari gave Kevin Young’s venerable WR from ’92 its biggest scare yet.

4. Mondo Duplantis’s 19-10¼ (6.05) WL, 30

Like fellow wunderkind Sydney McLaughlin on the women’s side, Duplantis didn’t end high in POY voting because he set a WJR; he ended up here because he put together a memorable 3-PR vault sequence to win European Championships gold. That raised him to a share of No. 4 on the all-time world list. He preceded that big mark with lifetime bests of 19-6¼ (5.95) and 19-8¼ (6.00).

5. Rai Benjamin’s 47.02, 11

Just 22 days before Samba moved to No. 2 on the all-time 400H list, Benjamin had moved to =No. 2 with his spectacular time at the NCAA Championships. One wonders how fast he might have run had it not been cold and wet. Said USC assistant coach Quincy Watts, “Rai Benjamin tying the great Edwin Moses. I mean just to even be mentioned in the same breath with Edwin Moses is just a tremendous feat and tremendous compliment.” Historical note: Kevin Young’s 46.78 was the ’92 POY; No. 4 in the voting that year was a 43.50 by Watts.

Other Vote-Getters

6. tie, Selemon Barega’s 12:43.02 WL (#4 performer ever, with the #6 performance) & Tom Walsh’s 74‑4½ (22.67) WL (#5 performer ever, with the #9 performance), 9;
8. Abraham Kiptum’s 58:18 WR, 8;
9. tie, Christian Coleman’s 9.79 & Juan Miguel Echevarría’s 28-11¾w (8.83), 6;
11. Michael Norman’s 43.61 WL (#6 performer ever), 4;
12. tie, Coleman’s 6.34 iWR & Norman’s 90-minute 43.61/43.62 NCAA double, 2;
14. tie, Norman’s 44.52 iWR & Sergey Shubenkov’s 12.97 DL Final win, 1. □