It’s cheap journalism to indulge in end-of-year lists.  They don’t require any research, interviewing or fact-checking.  You just draw up a list of stuff that already happened, put numbers beside each item and defend any errors of omission as opinion. But, if it’s good enough for the Herald, the Spinoff and Letsrun, it’s good enough for us. 

The year has been defined by surreal and unbelievable achievements. 

We have seen ultra-fast courses, a proliferation of performance-enhancing drug busts of high profile athletes, astonishing performances by athletes with close connections to PEDs, and shoes that seem to have an even bigger impact on people’s performance than the drugs. If the achievement wasn’t dodgy it probably isn’t worthy of this list.

So, without further ado, here are the ten most astonishing long and middle distance feats of the year. Kipchoge isn’t our number one. You’ll never guess what is. (Clickbait!).

10. Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN) broke the world half-marathon record in Copenhagen, bringing it down to 58.01. The record had previously been held by now drug-busted neophyte Abraham Kiptum.

9. Joshua Cheptegei (UGA) won the world cross-country title in Aarhus and led Uganda to the team title over the previously dominant Kenyan team – was this the coronation of distance running’s new male superstar to replace Mo Farah? He subsequently went on to win World 10,000m, Diamond League 5,000m titles and break the world 10km record.

8. Caster Semenya (SAF), the 2017 world champion, ran the fastest 800m of the year, 1:54.98, very early in the year, in Doha’s Diamond League, before a court ruling prevented her from running for the rest of the season. What could have been?

7. Timothy Cheruiyot (KEN) won the world 1500m title (and just about every other 1500m race including the Diamond League title) – he dominates 1500m races in the same way that David Rudisha used to dominate 800m.

6. Many say Eliud Kipchoge’s (KEN) 1:59:40.2 for the marathon distance redefined what we think is possible. He claims it shows no human has limits. (But was his London Marathon course record earlier in the year even more impressive, or maybe Kenenisa Bekele’s 2:01:41 victory at Berlin?)

5. After switching to Alberto Salazar’s Nike training camp Sifan Hassan (NED) broke the 22-year-old world mile record with 4:12.33 in Monaco.

4. Hassan then won the world 1500m and 10,000m titles in world-leading times of 3:51.95 and 30:17.62 – two of the fastest times in history and neither race was rabbitted.

3. Brigid Kosgei (KEN) destroyed Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old ‘unbreakable’ marathon record with a new world record of 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon. (Earlier, she also won the London Marathon, beating one of the strongest fields ever assembled.)

2. Letesenbet Gidey (ETH), destroyed the 15km world best, running 44:20 – a time many elite men would be delighted with. Giday ran the last 10km in 29:12, five seconds faster than Almaz Ayana’s 10,000m world record on track.

1. Our most astonishing performance of the year is Liu Hong (CHN) (former drug cheat), in her third race back after maternity break, smashing the 50km Walk world record by over five minutes to be the first woman to finish under 4 hours – 3.59.15. Later on, she won her third world 20km race walk title in Doha.

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Photo by filip bossuyt