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Desiree Linden celebrates her 2018 Boston Marathon win, and Eliud Kipchoge celebrates his 2018 BMW Berlin Marathon victory and new marathon world record
Photos: Winslow Townson / USA TODAY Sports (left); Maja Hitij / Bongarts (right)

If 2018 taught us anything, it’s that records are made to be broken. From the GOAT’s dominance in Berlin to a flurry of 100-mile records to a one-legged ultra marathoner, the human drama of the past 12 months kept us on the edge of our seats. So as the sun sets on 2018, we’re excited to recap the top moments from a remarkable year in racing.

Off to a fast start: The year exploded out of the blocks at January’s Aramco Houston Half Marathon, where American 10K record holder Molly Huddle added the U.S. half marathon record to her storied résumé. The two-time Olympian eclipsed Deena Kastor’s 12-year-old mark by a narrow nine seconds, breaking the tape in 1:07:25. Huddle would close out the year with a strong fourth-place showing at the TCS New York City Marathon.

Speedgoat at the summit: In setting the course record at February’s Lone Star 100, Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer added to his legacy as the “winningest 100 mile runner on earth,” notching his 40th career 100-mile victory at the age of 50. Meltzer also owns the mark for the most 100-mile wins in a calendar year, with six in 2006.

“The time was three…”: March began on a sad note with the passing of Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes. Norris McWhirter’s announcement of Bannister’s 3:59.4 finish time on May 6, 1954 was drowned out by the roar of the crowd after four words: “The time was three….” Seven months later, Bannister would again shock the sports world by retiring from competitive running to focus on his medical career.

Cue “Taps”: As often happens at the country’s most notorious foot race, none of the 40 starters finished this year’s Barkley Marathons. And nobody was surprised.

Wicked bittah weathah: In April the 122nd Boston Marathon seized the spotlight with a race for the ages, as many of the nation’s top marathoners battled hypothermia courtesy of icy rain and howling headwinds. In the end, Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi (2:15:54) and American Desiree Linden (2:39:54) each weathered the storm to wear the laurel wreath for the first time, despite posting the slowest winning times in 40+ years. Even the traditional Red Sox Patriots’ Day game was postponed for the first time since 1984.

No Big Sur-prise here: Coastal California’s bucket-list favorite, the Big Sur International Marathon, blew away 63 strong contenders — including the New York City Marathon in the finals — to capture the title of “America’s Rave Race” in the second annual RaceRaves March Lunacy Tournament. With its marquee mix of soaring redwoods, unspoiled coastline and top-notch production, Big Sur shows why there’s no running like Running on the Ragged Edge of the Western World.

The Ultimate Human Race: In June, Xolani Luvuno of South Africa completed his nation’s iconic Comrades Marathon, the world’s largest ultramarathon — with one leg. Luvuno, who lost his right leg to amputation following a bone cancer diagnosis in 2009, conquered the 90.184 km distance on crutches in an official time of 15 hours, 50 minutes. Despite not earning a finishers medal after missing the 12-hour cutoff, Luvuno earned much love and respect for embodying the true Spirit of Comrades.

Third time’s a charm for King James: After high-profile failed attempts in back-to-back years, Jim Walmsley smashed the course record at the nation’s most prestigious ultramarathon, the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. Withstanding near-record heat and a bear encounter that cost him several minutes late in the race, Walmsley crossed the finish line on the track at Placer High School in 14:30:04 (8:42/mile), outrunning Timothy Olson’s 2012 course record by over 16 minutes.

Better than a Netflix marathon: In June, DC Comics announced its inaugural Wonder Woman Run Series with five events across California. Four months later Universal Studios unveiled its own inaugural running event, the Minion 5K, coming to its Southern California theme park in 2019. With runDisney canceling all of its California events for the foreseeable future, these new races will appeal in part to restless runDisney fans.

Bear-y scary: Brendan Morphet was lucky to lose only the lead following a mid-race encounter with two grizzly bears at August’s Yukon River Trail Marathon in Whitehorse, Canada. After trying to shoo away the bears, Morphet himself was forced to retreat when one of the animals charged him. Despite eventually finishing second, the close call left him unnerved and feeling “totally spaced out,” he admitted. #MotherNatureWinsAgain

Where no man has gone before: Widely acknowledged as the greatest marathoner of all time, Eliud Kipchoge further cemented his legacy when he shattered the world record at the BMW Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:01:39 (4:38/mile). Kipchoge’s historic run, his 10th win in 11 career marathons, bested Dennis Kimetto’s 2014 record by an astonishing one minute, 18 seconds. Meanwhile, Kipchoge’s “Bottle Bro” Claus-Henning Schulke earned rave reviews for his own on-course exuberance.

Not half bad: Six weeks after Kipchoge set a new standard at the marathon distance, fellow countryman Abraham Kiptum seized the half marathon world record at the Valencia Half Marathon in Spain. The 29-year-old Kiptum clocked a sole-scorching 58:18 (4:27/mile), surpassing Zersenay Tadese’s 2010 time by five seconds and marking the first time both the marathon and half marathon world records have fallen in the same year since 2007.

The Biggest Apple: The TCS New York City Marathon, the last of six annual events on the Abbott World Marathon Majors calendar, topped its own world record set in 2016 when 52,811 runners crossed the finish line this year in Central Park. Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia won the men’s race in 2:05:59 while Kenya’s Mary Keitany earned her fourth NYC victory in five years, a streak broken only by American Shalane Flanagan in 2017.

The buck doesn’t stop here: At the Mooresville/Lake Norman Turkey Trot 5K in North Carolina, a frightened deer bolted from the trees alongside the course and attempted to leap over race volunteer Anne Mautner, kicking the startled woman in the face mid-jump before fleeing the scene. Ms. Mautner was taken to the hospital with minor injuries including a black eye, bruises and cuts to her head. Oh, deer!

Bitter’s sweet: Already the owner of the 100-mile world record on the track, Zach Bitter captured the trail world record as well with a jaw-dropping 12:08:36 (7:14/mile) at November’s Tunnel Hill 100. Bitter later tweeted that he’d like to run Tunnel Hill again and thinks he “can pace it a bit better early now that I know the course.” Stay tuned!

… and Camille’s the real deal: One month after Bitter’s feat Camille Herron, who likewise set the women’s 100-mile trail world record at Tunnel Hill last year, claimed the 100-mile (13:25:00) and 24-hour (162.9 miles) track world records along with the overall win at the Desert Solstice Track Invitational. And in typical Camille fashion, she did it smiling all the way.

Move over, Energizer Bunny: It’s not every day an ultra runner is featured in The New York Times, but that’s the type of year it was for Courtney Dauwalter. Dauwalter, the likely favorite for female UltraRunner of the Year, followed up a brilliant 2017 by racing 12 ultras and winning nine. Her 2018 highlight reel included the second-fastest women’s finish time ever at Western States, as well as second-place finishes at the Tahoe 200 and Big‘s Backyard Ultra, where she logged 279.2 miles in 67 hours.

Over the hill and into the record books: The year in racing ended on a high note as 70-year-old Gene Dykes of Pennsylvania set a new world record for his age group with a 2:54:23 finish at the Jacksonville Marathon. Dykes’ feat came ten weeks after 70-year-old Jeannie Rice of Ohio likewise shattered the women’s 70+ world record by running a 3:27:50 marathon in Chicago. Waiter, we’ll have what they’re having!

Here’s to a 2019 filled with effortless miles and personal bests in everything you do!


Other RaceRaves articles you’ll enjoy (trust us!):

Best Marathons in the U.S.
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Best Bets for Boston Marathon Qualifying Races
Best Half Marathon Series in the US
Introducing your (smart) 50 States Map
Unconventional Races that dare to be different
2017: The Year in Racing

And for more helpful articles, check out our blog!

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