The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Saturday, November 07, 2009

RW and Greatest Distance Runners Ever

I've not seen the article, but from Let's Run...
In the December 2009 issue, RW, in a heading "Best Male Distance Runner of All Time" lists Haile Gebrselassie as the greatest. The 4 on their honor roll are; Bekele, Roger Banister, Frank Shorter and...

Jim Ryun? one silver medal in 2 Olympics, ahead of such runners as;
El Guerrouj

What are they smoking?
Thus follows four pages of arguments, some lucid, most not. Like I said, I didn't read the article, so I don't know the thought processes behind the choices. But I cannot come up with a situation in which I agree.

In terms of pure accomplishments, Ryun doesn't belong in the top ten. At his best--1966 and 1967--he was totally dominant. But if that's the criteria, the absence of Nurmi and Zatopek is curious. They were just as dominant, for a much longer time, and against better competition. Even among English-speaking milers with short-term domination, he's at least equaled by Herb Elliot.

The most commonly argued reason for including Ryun is cultural impact. (It's the only conceivable reason why Bannister is included.) Ryun (along with a bunch of others) inspired a generation of Americans to be runners. But again, he's beaten by several who were left out. The cultural impact of Abebe Bikila and Kip Keino on their respective nations literally cannot be overstated, and Hannes Kolehmainen may have single-handedly tipped a nascent Finnish independence movement into war.

Don't get me wrong. Ryun was a great runner. But the article in question simply can't have been done in more than five minutes.

No comments: