AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time


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AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby mump boy » Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:23 am

I got my copy of AW this morning and this was inside

from front page

http://www.athleticsweekly.com/blog/the ... -all-time/

I think the scoring system is very flawed, Kenny basically wins because he won loads of XC races that others didn't have the opportunity to take part in does anyone actually rate him above Geb ?

I don't think anyone would argue with who's included, but the order is all wrong

As for the women, it's almost impossible to judge considering the lack of opportunities for women before the late 80's

If Greta had had Marathon and 10k (or even 5k) opportunities from late 70's who knows what she could have done and Deratu in 9th !!
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Marlow » Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:46 am

This is what I make of the most pertinent data:

1. Nurmi
Olympics: 4 gold, 3 silver.
World No.1 rankings: 4 (1500m), 6 (5000m), 7 (10,000m), 1 (steeplechase).

2. Bekele
Olympics: 3 gold, 1 silver.
World No.1 rankings: 5 (5000m), 6 (10,000m).

3. Gebrselassie
Olympics: 2 gold.
World No.1 rankings: 5 (5000m), 6 (10,000m).
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby aaronk » Thu Oct 04, 2012 11:41 am

Nurmi didn't have a chance, with no WC's.
And what about those WWII athletes who missed out on TWO Olympic Games??
And while I may sound like a (BAD) broken record, I can't agree with giving top credit to an OG winner who only "RUNS" the last two laps of a 10K or a 5K....while dissing on the guy (or gal) who attacks from the gun, and never lets up!!

As noted by others, too many flaws to get an accurate (and acceptable!!!) listing!!

One example: How can ANYONE ignore Ron Clarke??
Because he didn't get a Gold Medal??
Any list without Clarke in the TOP FIVE isn't a list worthy of its name!!
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby kuha » Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:36 pm

This is an impossible task, and I agree with alot of the gripes above. There is, very obviously, no clear and definitive ("objective") answer here. Basically, however, I'm cautious about over-valuing recent performers simply because they're fresh in our memory; AND overvaluing Olympic results (Viren vs. Clarke).

For what little it's worth, I absolutely rate Geb over Bekele. It is interesting how close many of their "stats" are. However, in terms of re-writing the history book, and resetting our expectations, there is no contest: Geb lowered the 5000 record by a total of 19 seconds, while Bekele lowered it by 2. Similarly, Geb lowered the 10,000 record by 30 seconds; Bekele by 5. Geb never managed to be great in x-c, as we know but his marathon WRs compensate for that.

But all this is one opinion among a host of others.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Deerfoot » Thu Oct 04, 2012 2:37 pm

What about Zatopek? The guy won 4 golds and a silver at the Olympics and set somwhere in the region of 17-20 world records (different sources list different numbers). That 5/10/marathon triple has not been matched before or since. Plus I think his impact on his events was even greater than Gebs'. He improved the 10,000 record by an even bigger margin, redefined standards and also helped instistute a training revolution.
I think it's clearly between Nurmi, Zatopek, Geb and Bekele, but I honestly can't decide between these four. I actually think it's futile to compare Nurmi or Zatopek with the latter two, the conditions are just too different.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Marlow » Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:21 pm

Deerfoot wrote:What about Zatopek?

1. Nurmi
Olympics: 4 gold, 3 silver.
World No.1 rankings: 4 (1500m), 6 (5000m), 7 (10,000m), 1 (steeplechase).

2. Zátopek
Olympics: 4 gold, 1 silver.
World No.1 rankings: 5 (5000m), 7 (10,000m), 1 (marathon).

3. Bekele
Olympics: 3 gold, 1 silver.
World No.1 rankings: 5 (5000m), 6 (10,000m).

4. Gebrselassie
Olympics: 2 gold.
World No.1 rankings: 5 (5000m), 6 (10,000m).

Now Geb's down to 4th! :(
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Master Po » Thu Oct 04, 2012 5:26 pm

Bikila

(also, completely agree w kuha's comments, above, on both the challenge of this task, and the assessment of Geb v Bekele. KB may be faster (at some distances), but Geb is "greater", for the reasons kuha cited. IMO, of course. :) )
Last edited by Master Po on Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby ExCoastRanger » Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:07 pm

I would like to see the rest of this list. AW set fairly rigid criteria. But it's their game.

I wonder how many folks here on the T&FN forum could come up with the rest of the list on their own, based on AW's qualifications. I couldn't. But there is some deep track knowledge in these parts.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby nevetsllim » Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:48 am

ExCoastRanger wrote:I would like to see the rest of this list. AW set fairly rigid criteria. But it's their game.


I think they used Mel Watman's criteria which he devised a few years ago when he did a series of the ten greatest athletes per event. My main bug-bear is it gives too much emphasis on being WR holder and Kratochvilova was subsequently ranked No.1 over 800m simply because she's held the record since the days of the Black Death. If I had to rank the greatest 800m runners, Mutola, Quirot, Wodars, Olizarenko would all be ahead of Kratochvilova.

Likewise, Wang Junxia and Qu Yunxia are both ranked a long way inside the top-20 because of their WRs so it does tend to inflate the rankings of athletes who've just had one or two incredible seasons.

I think it's an impossible task and any proposed ranking system has its flaws but if you were to call the two or three best ever runners from each event, they're all in the top-20 and in pretty much the order you'd expect (but maybe not in the right place within the top-20, if that makes sense :? )
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Master Po » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:21 pm

I always find these exercises in assessing who might be "best ever" in various events to be interesting, whether I agree or not (and as always it's usually a bit of both). What I most appreciate is when the method of assessment is made as clear as possible, i.e., as noted just above -- if that person values WR highly so be it. I'm interested to know that, and to know why, even though I am inclined to value championships more highly.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby TN1965 » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:27 pm

Didn't Derartu Tulu win a "big city marathon"? (2009 NYC)
That accomplishment seems to be omitted.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby mump boy » Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:11 am

TN1965 wrote:Didn't Derartu Tulu win a "big city marathon"? (2009 NYC)
That accomplishment seems to be omitted.


She also won London and Tokyo (probably not a big city marathon) in 2001
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Jon » Mon Oct 08, 2012 2:54 am

Master Po wrote:I always find these exercises in assessing who might be "best ever" in various events to be interesting, whether I agree or not (and as always it's usually a bit of both). What I most appreciate is when the method of assessment is made as clear as possible, i.e., as noted just above -- if that person values WR highly so be it. I'm interested to know that, and to know why, even though I am inclined to value championships more highly.

Nice to see someone who 'gets it'. This piece was never intended to be a definitive list; it's not like we're saying "these are the greatest, and that's it." Criteria or no criteria, people will always disagree on this kind of topic. We just attempted to come up with some sort of scoring system that could be used to devise a ranking, taking away the possibility for any personal bias to creep in (which is what often happens when people try to rank the greatest athletes). We could have simply compiled a top-20 list based purely on our gut feeling with maybe Geb in No.1, Nurmi at 2, Bekele 3, etc, but then that would lead us open to questioning about how we came to our conclusions. At least by doing it this way, we lay out exactly what the criteria are, showing that it's as objective as possible.

It's just a talking point, and by the evidence of this thread then the piece has 'succeeded'. I'd be very interested to hear constructive suggestions as to how/why/if such a scoring system could be tweaked.

Besides, it's not that crazy for a multiple world champ/Olympic champ/World Cross champ/world record-holder to come out on top, is it?!

To specifically address a few of the other points on this thread...

- Yes, athletes competing up until the 1970/80s obviously didn't have the opportunity to compete in the World Champs or World Cross, which means this points system may work in the favour of current-day athletes. But at the same time, athletes nowadays are competing in a FAR more competitive era, meaning points are even more difficult to come by.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Jon » Mon Oct 08, 2012 2:55 am

(continued after reaching word limit)...

- Re: Geb vs Kenny, Bekele has more Olympic and World titles, his world records at 5000m and 10,000m have lasted just as long (and are still going strong), and he has 11 World Cross titles to his name (such an incredible achievement that shouldn't be ignored when deciding who is the greatest distance runner). Geb had the opportunity to compete in the World Cross, but he never focused on it. And while Geb has a good marathon record, his lack of championship medals in that event works against him. Geb of course also has great longevity (which is one of the main reasons many feel he is the GOAT), but is there an easy way to factor that into a scoring system?
kuha wrote:in terms of re-writing the history book, and resetting our expectations, there is no contest: Geb lowered the 5000 record by a total of 19 seconds, while Bekele lowered it by 2. Similarly, Geb lowered the 10,000 record by 30 seconds; Bekele by 5.
Very true, which is why points are awarded for the length of a world record. If an athlete is ahead of their time and sets a near-untouchable WR that lasts for several years, that's why they're given 2pts for each year as WR-holder. Bekele may have only marginally improved on Geb's WRs, but they've gone similarly unchallenged. Short of devising some sort of convoluted formula that factors in the percentage each WR was improved by and then assigning points for each performance, there is no easy way of scoring big world record improvements.

aaronk wrote:One example: How can ANYONE ignore Ron Clarke?? Any list without Clarke in the TOP FIVE isn't a list worthy of its name!!
Clarke came out in 17th. He may have been a multiple world record-holder, but so were many of the other people ahead of him. And they had Olympic/world titles to their name.

nevetsllim wrote:My main bug-bear is it gives too much emphasis on being WR holder and Kratochvilova was subsequently ranked No.1 over 800m simply because she's held the record since the days of the Black Death. If I had to rank the greatest 800m runners, Mutola, Quirot, Wodars, Olizarenko would all be ahead of Kratochvilova.

Likewise, Wang Junxia and Qu Yunxia are both ranked a long way inside the top-20 because of their WRs so it does tend to inflate the rankings of athletes who've just had one or two incredible seasons.
Another good point, but if the scoring for long-standing 'ahead-of-their-time' world records were adjusted, then the likes of Radcliffe would probably drop outside the top 10. Most people's gut feeling (mine included!) will tell them that Radcliffe deserves to be high up on the list, but her relative lack of global medals works against her. Her biggest asset is the impact that she made with her marathon WR, and for that she deserves to be acknowledged. And the same applies to other athletes with long-standing world records.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby kuha » Mon Oct 08, 2012 6:16 am

Totally agree that the basic need here is simply making the overall criteria clear. The issue is that "greatest" really is about a combination of quantitative and qualitative matters. One of these lends itself to formulae of various kinds; the other is harder to measure precisely (or simply).
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Master Po » Mon Oct 08, 2012 7:34 am

perhaps I can pose another question, in the hopes that Jon will use it as a means to discuss/reflect further on the methods of this exercise in making a "greatest" list. Again -- to be clear -- not being argumentative. I think these exercises are interesting, especially when they don't come out the way I would expect (e.g., Kuts, Kolehmainen, who I haven't really thought carefully enough about). So, then -- it's a challenge in a bunch of ways, across eras and events -- including for instance a comparison of someone who was primarily a 1500m runner (El G) with someone who was a marathon specialist (Bikila). I note that there are some marathoners in these top 10s, but it is a part of their profile (although with some, eg, Waitz,it's a big part), rather than their entire profile. Perhaps this is a way of suggesting that anyone who makes the top 10 must excel in multiple events.

Here's the question, finally: Is it possible under this methodology for someone who was a marathoner, and marathoner only -- Bikila -- to be ranked in the top 10? Does a case like his lead to further consideration of the methodology? This question is of course driven by my gut feeling (i.e., no methodology in view) that I would want him in the top 10 of any list. But again, just asking this to get further thoughts from Jon.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby TN1965 » Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:56 am

Master Po wrote:Here's the question, finally: Is it possible under this methodology for someone who was a marathoner, and marathoner only -- Bikila -- to be ranked in the top 10? Does a case like his lead to further consideration of the methodology? This question is of course driven by my gut feeling (i.e., no methodology in view) that I would want him in the top 10 of any list. But again, just asking this to get further thoughts from Jon.


Catherine Ndereba (#10 on women's list) is a marathon specialist, isn't she?
I don't remember her doing anything notable in track or XC.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Conor Dary » Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:01 am

Whatever the criteria, AW's choices certainly are miles ahead of Runner's World's choice as runner of the 20th Century: Johnny Kelley Sr.!! Still boggles the mind....
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby telf » Mon Oct 08, 2012 1:59 pm

Jon - fully appreciate that it is an article written to get a reaction and good news that the article achieved its purpose for you.

I am not keen on subjectivity which is earnestly sold as objectivity based on the misconception that if you have a scoring system then the output is not personally biased.

Change the weighting and change the result!

Pretty sure I could get my personal top five in the first five places in less than 10 minutes with an equally valid scoring system.

Clearly "athletes nowadays are competing in a FAR more competitive era"....nice sweeping justification for inclusion of world champs and world cross country points :lol:

Let's have 52 pts World Champs points for KB and another 68 pts for his world cross country endeavours and hey presto he is the AW greatest distance runner of all time.

I guess it is all a bit of fun to some but from my perspective it diminishes the credibility of the publication.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby 26mi235 » Mon Oct 08, 2012 4:02 pm

This topic should be addressed from both sides.

1) make overall assessments of the top athletes

2) use a numerical scale and come up with a 'number'.

Now, go find where the two are different and try to determine why the mechanism used in 2) ranks some higher and some lower than in 1). The bigger the differential, the ore likely that the scoring in 2) weights things in a manner that does not accomplish what you are after.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Master Po » Mon Oct 08, 2012 6:23 pm

TN1965 wrote:
Master Po wrote:Here's the question, finally: Is it possible under this methodology for someone who was a marathoner, and marathoner only -- Bikila -- to be ranked in the top 10? Does a case like his lead to further consideration of the methodology? This question is of course driven by my gut feeling (i.e., no methodology in view) that I would want him in the top 10 of any list. But again, just asking this to get further thoughts from Jon.


Catherine Ndereba (#10 on women's list) is a marathon specialist, isn't she?
I don't remember her doing anything notable in track or XC.


you are right. thanks for the correction -- didn't read all the way to the end of both lists. that noted, I think I posed a worthwhile question.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby deanouk » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:29 pm

Jon wrote:
Yes, athletes competing up until the 1970/80s obviously didn't have the opportunity to compete in the World Champs or World Cross, which means this points system may work in the favour of current-day athletes. But at the same time, athletes nowadays are competing in a FAR more competitive era, meaning points are even more difficult to come by.


This is the bit that I think makes the scoring system unfair. There are far more opportunities for athletes from the last 20 years to accrue medals and thus points, than athletes up to the mid 1980's. At the same time I disagree that the current scene is that much more competitive than it was 30 years ago. Compared to the 40's to 60's, then yes, there is a marked difference, but not to the 80's. There were plenty of Africans at the very elite levels going back to Keino in the 60's.
Besides, there will usually be one or two competitors in any generation that will dominate, but one dominating this decade has 3 times as many chances of winning global titles on the track, and twice as many chances of winning X-country titles, compared to someone in the early 80's.

If we go back to pre WW2, then of course it was far easier to dominate for a long time due to lack of depth in competitors. In Nurmi's era, only a few European nations, the US and Australasia took much interest in T&F.

So, I think there is an era of perhaps 20 years or so (c. early 60's to early 80's) where the athletes are really at a disadvantage in this particular points scoring system. Someone like Ryun or Rono, both all time great middle & distance runners in my eyes, find themselves well down the running order, mainly because of when they were born.
Ryun had bad luck in 2 Olympics, but didn't have the benefit of bi-annual World Championships to make amends for his disappointments.
Rono broke many records yet missed out on Olympic glory due to a boycott in 1980.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby deanouk » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:30 pm

(continued...)

The question is, how can their obviously impressive accomplishments gain some sort of recognition?

Here are a few suggestions.

1) Awarding 20 points for a WR in an Olympic event is great, but it doesn't give credit to those who break those world records several times. Thus, someone who breaks the WR once, but that lasts 10 years, will get 40 points (20 for the WR plus 10 x 2 for each season as WR holder).
Whereas someone who has gone out and broken a record 3 times (thus 3 times as much effort as the record breaker above) in the space of a few seasons, but who only stays record holder for a total of 5 seasons, will get only 30 points! (20 for WR in an event, plus 5 x 2).
To me this doesn't seem fair. The second athlete has gone out and proved himself the best ever on 3 occasions, yet only gets credit for 1!
I think a better, more weighted points system, would award 20 points for an initial WR at an Olympic event, plus a further 10 points for each subsequent WR mark at the same distance.
I think the 2 bonus points for each season as WR holder is good, because it recognises longevity and impact a person has on an event. Thus in the 2 scenarios given above, athlete 1 would gain the same 40 points, but the 3 times record breaker would get 50 points. In my eyes that's more balanced.

2) I think there should be some recognition for those who break WRs at non Olympic events, obviously within reason. Someone like Komen or Aouita should get credit for WRs in events like 3000m, the Mile, 1000m, etc, which have produced phenomenal performances over the years.
Obviously they are not as important as Olympic events, so award 10 points for any WR achieved in a non-Olympic event, as opposed to 20 points. As with the system outlined in point 1) above, any further WR's at this non-Olympic event will receive 5 points, and each season as WR holder will result in 1 point, rather than the 2 for Olympic events.
E.g. Aouita would get 10 points for his 4:50.81 WR at 2000m, plus 7 points for each of the completed seasons it stood as a WR. Thus he receives a total of 17 points.
At 3000m he would get 10 points for his 7:29.45 WR, plus 2 points for it lasting 2 full seasons. This gives a total of 12.
17 + 12 = 29. So straight away, Aouita's range and record breaking exploits are awarded.

Likewise, as another example, Coe would get 20 points for breaking the mile WR 3 times (10 for WR in a non Olympic event, plus 5 for 2 subsequent world records at the distance). This gives credit to an event which was frequently run at the time and which was probably more important than the 1500 WR at the time. He'd then get a bonus point for the 1st WR lasting a year, and then a further 3 points ( 1 per season) for his final WR lasting until 1985.
Therefore he gets 24 points in total for his exploits at an event greatly admired.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby deanouk » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:32 pm

(continued....)

3) The awarding of 2 points per No.1 ranking per season is ok, but I don't think it gives enough credit for longevity of performances. For example, if athlete A ranks No.1 for 3 seasons in a row, before falling to c. 10 in the world for the rest of his/her career thereafter, he/she will get 6 points. His great rival, athlete B, is a close world ranking No. 2 for those same 3 seasons, but just as their main adversary begins to wain, a new dominating force emerges to take over the mantle as world number 1. Our unlucky Athlete B continues to be a great force in the event and is ranked world No. 2 for a further 6 seasons. Thus he managed to be ranked No. 2 in the world for 9 consecutive seasons, yet gets ZERO points for such consistently high standard efforts.

Surely, a more reflective system recognising longevity and impact on an event, would be to award 3 points for each No.1 ranking, 2 points for a No. 2 ranking and 1 for a No. 3 ranking!?
I would also award a bonus 2 points for every time someone is ranked no.1 in 2 events in any one season. Thus awarding diversity, rather than just specialising in one event. So someone who is ranked No. 1 at both 1500 & 5000 or 800 & 1500, or 5k & 10k, will get a bonus 2 points.

4) There is no real way to get around the fact that since 1991 athletes have had 3 times as many chances of winning a global title than their predecessors. One way of making it slightly less weighted in favour of recent athletes, is to take the World Cup into consideration. It was, after all, devised by the IAAF as a precursor to the first World Championships in 1983, and produced, in the early incarnations at least, some of the greatest moments in T&F history.
The 1977 & 81 World Cups in particular, threw up fields that were in many instances better than the 76 or 80 Olympic finals.
By recognising these early versions of the World Cup (up to and including 1989) there is at least a continuity going back as far as 1977, rather than 1991.
So, the 10 marks for a victory (5 for 2nd, 2 for bronze) would be awarded for the 77, 79 & 81 World Cups. Then you have the 83 World Champs, then the 85 World Cup, then the 87 World Champs, the 89 World Cup, the 91 World Champs, and then every World Champs held every 2 years thereafter.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby deanouk » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:32 pm

(continued....)

5) My only other quibble with the AW system, is that it makes no allowance for European Champions. This is not, historically, such a big thing for men's distance events, but in some other events, especially pre 1990's, the European Champion in an event was often the best in the world. Of course now, it means little at all, if anything, but there was a time when, outside of the Olympics, the next biggest accomplishment was to win a European gold. Now the problem with this is that it obviously excludes Americans and other nations where they had a rich tradition at the time. Maybe Commonwealth and PanAm titles can be taken into consideration too, although generally they didn't have such in depth talent as the Europeans.

I hope I have outlined the criteria I would use in a relatively coherent format. Again, it's not perfect, and I appreciate it would take a little more analysis and research, but I believe it to be a fairer system to more athletes competing over a longer period.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby deanouk » Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:09 pm

Oh, one last thing!

I'm not sure why AW chose to start at 1500m when assessing the "Greatest distance runners"?

I don't consider 1500m to be a distance event, but a middle distance one. I would think that "distance" events start at 3000m and above!?

Alternatively, if you are going to include the 1500m, why not the 800m?

If I were to construct such an analysis, I would do one for "middle distances", ranging from 800m up to and including 2000m, and a separate one for "distance runners", ranging from 3000m to the Marathon.
If there is any overlap, e.g Aouita (1500 & 5000m), EL G, then there can be a separate third list where those that appear on both lists have their scores combined, to find an overall "greatest runner" top 20.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Daisy » Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:12 pm

What about Roger Bannister!!!???
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby Conor Dary » Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:33 pm

Daisy wrote:What about Roger Bannister!!!???


No Oxonians!
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Middle distance out, KUTZ and Benoit in

Postby GHM » Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:53 am

Thank you AW for a decent topic during lull track season.

Excellent list. I agree with most people above 1500 - 3000 is middle distance.

I would like to suggest Vladimir Kuts in men list instead of El G but in 9th place.

Joan Benoit instead of Bragina but in 10th place.

Do you guys remember good old days when there was track races all the way through middle of October in Europe and Aisa?
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby gibson » Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:53 am

Marlow wrote:This is what I make of the most pertinent data:

1. Nurmi
Olympics: 4 gold, 3 silver.
World No.1 rankings: 4 (1500m), 6 (5000m), 7 (10,000m), 1 (steeplechase).

2. Bekele
Olympics: 3 gold, 1 silver.
World No.1 rankings: 5 (5000m), 6 (10,000m).

3. Gebrselassie
Olympics: 2 gold.
World No.1 rankings: 5 (5000m), 6 (10,000m).


i would scrap nurmi.
his best times are equivalent to a nearly 11 seconds 100m in the iaaf tables.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby catson52 » Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:53 pm

gibson wrote:
Marlow wrote:This is what I make of the most pertinent data:

1. Nurmi
Olympics: 4 gold, 3 silver.
World No.1 rankings: 4 (1500m), 6 (5000m), 7 (10,000m), 1 (steeplechase).

2. Bekele
Olympics: 3 gold, 1 silver.
World No.1 rankings: 5 (5000m), 6 (10,000m).

3. Gebrselassie
Olympics: 2 gold.
World No.1 rankings: 5 (5000m), 6 (10,000m).


i would scrap nurmi.
his best times are equivalent to a nearly 11 seconds 100m in the iaaf tables.


He won the 1500/5000 double within an hour at the 1924 Oly. Also, if I recall, he set WRs at these distances within the same time frame at the Oly Trials for Finland. These performances are/were extraordinary, and even today, only El G has taken the same Oly double.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby lionelp1 » Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:59 pm

To look back at an earler time and state that the times or distances are too "poor" to compare with modern giants is ill advised in the extreme; in 200 years time when, as a possibility, athletes may be running 42/42.5 for a 400m , it would be equally fatheaded to regard Johnsons WR as not good enough to be seriously regarded.

Nurmi's record is self evidently supreme by OG and WR standards, but much more relevant, imo, is that he was the first great athlete to take times to a new level and to test out the possibilities of the body's potential by dint of his enormous training regimes.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby kuha » Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:41 pm

Yes, absolutely. This whole "greatest" exercise can ONLY start with an honest attempt to look at relative achievement: the quality of an individual in the context of his (her) own era. Nothing else makes any sense at all. If we're going to be absolutist about a 4:10 mile time, then we ALSO need to be absolutist about its DATE. You cannot separate one from the other and come up with any meaningful judgments.
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Re: AW Greatest Distance Runners of All Time

Postby deanouk » Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:47 pm

For anyone that's interested, I spent a couple of hours working out the ranking points for most of the top 20 listed in the men's list printed in AW the other week, using a slightly different points system, that I outlined in previous posts.

There are a few changes. Most notably, the top 3 change positions, Viren drops quite a few places, while Morceli and Clarke, move up quite a bit. I'm fairly happy with the results, and think it is a fairer system, though no system is perfect, as it gives more credit for longevity, consistency and marks set and other distances (Mile, 2000m, 3000m & 2 miles), where some of the records/performances were every bit as impressive as times set in Olympic distances.

Anyway, as perhaps a source of further discussion, this is what I calculated.

1) Paavo Nurmi - 374 points
2) Haile Gebreselassie -316
3) Keninisa Bekele - 308
4) Hicham El Guerrouj - 218
5) Emil Zatopek - 217
6) Said Aouita - 200 (208 if you include 800m)
7) Ron Clarke - 171 (up from 17th!)
8=) Noureddine Morceli & Hannes Kolehmainen - 155
10) Vladimir Kuts - 154
11=) Henry Rono & Moses Kiptanui - 147
13=) Paul Tergat & Lasse Viren - 133
15) Kipchoge Keino - 126

I stopped at 15th! I was interested in using my points system on a few other athletes who weren't part of the original list. I got the following findings:-
Daniel Komen -94, Jim Ryun - 86, Bernard Lagat - 69

Two points of note. In the original AW list, they stated that they awarded "two points for each FULL season as record-holder". I took that to mean that the world record lasted 365 days! When going through the athletes on the list, this didn't appear to be the case. Well, it wasn't clear. Anyway, I awarded 2 points for any record that lasted a year, and those records that were set that didn't last a year didn't get a bonus 2)

I also wasn't quite sure why the original criteria for "distance" runners included 1500m but not 800m? Perhaps they plan a future list for middle distance.
I looked at a few of the stand-out middle distance runners from over the years, and using the same points system (mine not AW's), I got the following points for distances ranging from 800 to 2000m
Coe - 250
El G - 190
Snell - 151
Morceli - 140
Ovett - 117 (135 if you go from 800 up to 2 miles)
Cram - 87
Ryun - 86
Aouita - 73
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