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September 8, 2017

Revisionist Record Books: Examining track and field’s decade records suggested by Malcolm Gladwell

In a recent episode of the House of Run podcast, Malcolm Gladwell joined the show to geek out on track with Kevin Sully and Jason Halpin. It’s a very good episode and we recommend that you give it a listen and subscribe to their podcast as well as Gladwell’s “Revisionist History.”

Halpin asks Gladwell what his thoughts are on all of the talk about wiping the slate clean with world records pre-dating 2005.

Here’s a piece of what Gladwell had to say around the 24-minute mark:

“I wonder whether we should do records by decade. We’d just say, in each era, we’d have a series of people who set the world record. Jim Ryun would continue to hold the world record in his era. Seb Coe is the 800 meter world record holder in his era…You’d have a complete reset at the turn of every decade…I wonder whether that could a way of reinvigorating the sport.”

usain bolt era record“You could say, wow, the 2000’s were quite a decade for distance running. But then we’d say those marks are not relevant to today. We’ve living under different circumstances — people train differently and have different rules.

“I think it’s wrong to erase the historical record because those were extraordinary performances. The point isn’t to forget them or nullify them, the point is to put them in context.

“Maybe it’s going to be impossible to define exactly the context for middle distance running in 2004, but all we can say is the context is different. Hicham El Guerrouj was churning out 3:27’s like they’re a walk in the park. I’m sorry, but that’s not how distance runners look today. So let’s put [those marks] in their time and place.

“We’re holding two things in our head by saying that guy was the best ever, but now we’re rewarding the best in our time. I don’t see that as negating the best. We’ll still recognize who the all-time greats are.

“We’re balancing two contradictory notions — one is the absolute nature of records, and two is the clear fact that eras change. Maybe this is a way to compromise between those two realities.

“The biggest crisis track and field faces right now is legitimacy. We’ve staked our claim on the absolute nature of these records. Now that’s working against us because so many of the records are clearly bullshit. We’ve said we’re all about the sanctity of these records and then it turns out there’s nothing to sanctify about them. Every time we have one of these arguments about who was or wasn’t using [drugs], we just undermine the sport even more. So I say, let’s move on and create another [set of records].

“In basketball, people have no problem with this. They can simultaneously say Bob Cousy was an unbelieveable talent at point guard, and that he couldn’t even start on most college teams today. They have no problem with this. Why do we [as track fans] have a problem with this?”


It’s a very interesting point and so out of curiosity we decided to do our best to compile the Decade or Era records that Gladwell suggested. Here’s what world records would look like for the last 60 years so six “eras.” (We threw in the mile and half marathon in the chart for fun.) We used the track and field all-time performances page, which is constantly updated and maintained by Peter Larsson.

Below the record charts, we’ve shared a few of our observations.

MEN’S DECADE RECORDS

2000-2009

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 9.58 Usain Bolt JAM Berlin Aug. 16, 2009
200 meters 19.19 Usain Bolt JAM Berlin Aug. 20, 2009
400 meters 43.45 Jeremy Wariner USA Osaka Aug. 31, 2007
800 meters 1:42.01 David Rudisha KEN Rieti Sept. 6, 2009
1,500 meters 3:26.12 Hicham El Guerrouj MAR Brussels Aug. 24, 2001
Mile 3:44.95 Hicham El Guerrouj MAR Rome June 29, 2001
3,000 meter steeplechase 7:53.63 Saif Saeed Shaheen QAT Brussels Sept. 3, 2004
5,000 meters 12:37.35 Kenenisa Bekele ETH Hengelo May 31, 2004
10,000 meters 26:17.53 Kenenisa Bekele ETH Brussels Sept. 26, 2008
Half Marathon 58.33 Sammy Wanjiru KEN The Hague March 17, 2007
Marathon 2:03:59 Haile Gebrselassie ETH Berlin Sept. 28, 2008
110m hurdles 12.87 Dayron Robles CUB Ostrava June 12, 2008
400m hurdles 47.24 Kerron Clement USA Carson June 26, 2005
High Jump 2.40m Vyacheslav Voronin RUS London Aug. 5, 2000
Pole Vault 6.05m Dmitriy Markov AUS Edmonton Aug. 9, 2001
Long Jump 8.74m Dwight Phillips USA Eugene June 7, 2009
Triple Jump 17.92m Jonathan Edwards GBR Edmonton Aug. 6, 2001
Shot Put 22.67m Kevin Toth USA Lawrence April 19, 2003
Discus 73.88m Virgilijus Alekna LTU Kaunas Aug. 3, 2000
Javelin 92.80 Jan Zelezný CZE Edmonton Aug. 12, 2001
Hammer Throw 84.90 Vadim Devyatovskiy BLR Stayki July 21, 2005
Decathlon 9026 Roman Sebrle CZE Götzis May 27, 2001

 

1990-1999

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 9.79 Maurice Greene USA Athens June 16, 1999
200 meters 19.32 Michael Johnson USA Atlanta Aug. 1, 1996
400 meters 43.18 Michael Johnson USA Sevilla Aug. 26, 1999
800 meters 1:41.11 Wilson Kipketer DEN Cologne Aug. 24, 1997
1,500 meters 3:26.00 Hicham El Guerrouj MAR Rome July 14, 1998
Mile 3:43.13 Hicham El Guerrouj MAR Rome July 7, 1999
3,000 meter steeplechase 7:55.72 Bernard Barmasai KEN Cologne Aug. 24, 1997
5,000 meters 12:39.36 Haile Gebrselassie ETH Helsinki June 13, 1998
10,000 meters 26:22.75 Haile Gebrselassie ETH Hengelo June 1, 1998
Half Marathon 59:17 Paul Tergat KEN Milan April 4, 1998
Marathon 2:05:42 Khalid Khannouchi MAR Chicago Oct. 24, 1999
110m hurdles 12.91 Colin Jackson GBR Stuttgart Aug. 20, 1993
400m hurdles 46.78 Kevin Young USA Barcelona Aug. 6, 1992
High Jump 2.45m Javier Sotomayor CUB Salamanca July 27, 1993
Pole Vault 6.14A Sergey Bubka UKR Sestriere July 31, 1994
Long Jump 8.95m Mike Powell USA Tokyo Aug.30, 1991
Triple Jump 18.29m Jonathan Edwards GBR Gothenburg Aug. 7, 1995
Shot Put 23.12m Randy Barnes USA Westwood May 20, 1990
Discus 71.50m Lars Riedel GER Wiesbaden May 3, 1997
Javelin 98.48m Jan Zelezný CZE Jena May 25, 1996
Hammer Throw 84.62m Igor Astapkovich BLR Sevilla June 6, 1992
Decathlon 8994 Tomás Dvorák CZE Prague July 4, 1999

 

1980-1989

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 9.92 Carl Lewis USA Seoul Sept. 24, 1988
200 meters 19.75 Carl Lewis USA Indianapolis June 19, 1983
400 meters 43.29 Harry Reynolds USA Zurich Aug. 17, 1988
800 meters 1:41.73 Sebastian Coe GBR Florence June 10, 1981
1,500 meters 3:29.46 Saïd Aouita MAR Berlin Aug. 23, 1985
Mile 3:46.32 Steve Cram GBR Oslo July 27, 1985
3,000 meter steeplechase 8:05.35 Peter Koech KEN Stockholm July 3, 1989
5,000 meters 12:58.39 Saïd Aouita MAR Rome July 22, 1987
10,000 meters 27:08.23 Arturo Barrios MEX Berlin Aug. 18, 1989
Half Marathon 60:11A Matthews Temane

Zithulele Sinqe

RSA

RSA

East London

East London

July 25, 1987
Marathon 2:06:50 Belayneh Dinsamo ETH Rotterdam April 17, 1988
110m hurdles 12.92 Roger Kingdom USA Zurich Aug. 16, 1989
400m hurdles 47.02 Edwin Moses USA Koblenz Aug. 31, 1983
High Jump 2.44 Javier Sotomayor CUB San Juan July 29, 1989
Pole Vault 6.06m Sergey Bubka UKR Nice July 10, 1988
Long Jump 8.86A Robert Emmiyan ARM Tsakhkadzor May 22, 1987
Triple Jump 17.97m Willie Banks USA Indianapolis June 16, 1985
Shot Put 23.06m Ulf Timmermann GER Chania May 22, 1988
Discus 74.08m Jürgen Schult GER Neubrandenburg June 6, 1986
Javelin 87.66m Jan Zelezný    CZE Nitra May 31, 1987
Hammer Throw 86.74m Yuriy Syedikh RUS Stuttgart Aug. 30, 1986
Decathlon 8847 Daley Thompson GBR Los Angeles Aug. 9, 1984

 

1970-1979

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 9.98A Silvio Leonard CUB Guadalajara Aug. 11, 1977
200 meters 19.72A Pietro Mennea ITA Mexico City Sept. 12, 1979
400 meters 44.26 Alberto Juantorena CUB Montreal Aug. 29, 1976
800 meters 1:42.33 Sebastian Coe GBR Oslo Aug. 5, 1979
1,500 meters 3:32.03 Sebastian Coe GBR Zurich Aug. 15, 1979
Mile 3:48.95 Sebastian Coe GBR Oslo July 17, 1979
3,000 meter steeplechase 8:05.4 Henry Rono KEN Seattle May 13, 1978
5,000 meters 13:08.4 Henry Rono KEN Berkeley April 8, 1978
10,000 meters 27:22.47 Henry Rono KEN Vienna June 11, 1978
Half Marathon N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Marathon 2:09:06 Shigeru Soh JPN Beppu Feb. 2, 1978
110m hurdles 13.00 Renaldo Nehemiah USA Westwood May 6, 1979
400m hurdles 47.45 Edwin Moses USA Westwood June 11, 1977
High Jump 2.34m Volodymyr Yaschenko UKR Tbilisi June 16, 1978
Pole Vault 5.71m Mike Tully USA Corvallis May 19, 1978
Long Jump 8.52m Larry Myricks USA Montreal Aug. 26, 1979
Triple Jump 17.89A João Carlos de Oliveira BRA Mexico City Oct. 15, 1875
Shot Put 22.86m Brian Oldfield USA El Paso May 10, 1975
Discus 71.16m Wolfgang Schmidt GER Berlin Aug. 9, 1978
Javelin N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Hammer Throw 80.32m Karl-Hans Riehm FRG Heidenheim Aug. 6, 1978
Decathlon 8634 Bruce Jenner USA Montreal July 30, 1976

 

1960-1969

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 9.95A Jim Hines USA Mexico City Oct. 14, 1968
200 meters 19.83A Tommie Smith USA Mexico City Oct. 16, 1968
400 meters 43.86A Lee Evans USA Mexico City Oct. 18, 1968
800 meters 1:44.3+

1:44.3y

Peter Snell

Jim Ryun

NZL

USA

Christchurch

Terre Haute

Feb. 3, 1962

June 10, 1966

1,500 meters 3:33.1 Jim Ryun USA Los Angeles July 8, 1967
Mile 3:51.1 Jim Ryun USA Bakersfield June 23, 1967
3,000 meter steeplechase 8:22.2 Vladimiras Dudinas LTU Kiev Aug. 19, 1969
5,000 meters 13:16.6 Ron Clarke AUS Stockholm July 5, 1966
10,000 meters 27:39.89 Ron Clarke AUS Oslo July 14, 1965
Half Marathon N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Marathon 2:08:34 Derek Clayton AUS Antwerp May 30, 1969
110m hurdles 13.33m A Willie Davenport USA Mexico City October 17, 1968
400m hurdles 48.12m A David Hemery GBR Mexico City October 15, 1968
High Jump N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pole Vault N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Long Jump 8.90m A Bob Beamon USA Mexico City Oct. 18, 1968
Triple Jump 17.39m A Viktor Saneyev GEO Mexico City Oct. 17, 1968
Shot Put 21.78m Randy Matson USA College Station April 22, 1967
Discus 68.40m Jay Silvester USA Reno Sept. 18, 1968
Javelin N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Hammer Throw N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Decathlon 8310 Bill Toomey USA Los Angeles Dec. 11, 1969

 

WOMEN’S DECADE RECORDS

2010-2019

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 10.70 Carmelita Jeter USA Eugene June 4, 2011
200 meters 21.63 Dafne Schippers NED Beijing Aug. 28, 2015
400 meters 49.16 Antonina Krivoshapka RUS Cheboksary July 5, 2012
800 meters 1:55.27 Caster Semenya RSA Monaco July 21, 2017
1,500 meters 3:50.07 Genzebe Dibaba ETH Monaco July 17, 2015
Mile 4:14.30 Genzebe Dibaba ETH Rovereto Sept. 6, 2016
3,000 meter steeplechase 8:52.78 Ruth Jebet BRN Saint-Denis Aug. 27, 2016
5,000 meters 14:12.59 Almaz Ayana ETH Rome June 2, 2016
10,000 meters 29:17.45 Almaz Ayana ETH Rio de Janeiro Aug. 12, 2016
Half Marathon 64:52 Joyciline Jepkosgei KEN Prague March 1, 2017
Marathon 2:17:01 Mary Keitany KEN London April 23, 2017
100m hurdles 12.20 Kendra Harrison USA London July 22, 2016
400m hurdles 52.47 Lashinda Demus USA Daegu Sept. 1, 2011
High Jump 2.07m Anna Chicherova RUS Cheboksary July 22, 2011
Pole Vault 5.00m Sandi Morris USA Brussels Sept. 9, 2016
Long Jump 7.31m Brittney Reese USA Eugene July 2, 2016
Triple Jump 15.31m Cathrine Ibargüen COL Monaco July 18, 2014
Shot Put 21.58m Nadezha Osapchuk BLR Minsk July 18, 2012
Discus 71.41m Sandra Perkovic CRO Bellinzona July 18, 2017
Javelin 71.99m Mariya Abakumova RUS Daegu Sept. 2, 2011
Hammer Throw 82.98m Anita Wlodarczyk POL Warsaw Aug. 28, 2016
Heptathlon 7013 Nafissatou Thiam BEL Götzis May 28, 2017

 

2000-2009

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 10.64 Carmelita Jeter USA Shanghai Sept. 20, 2009
200 meters 21.74 Veronica Campbell-Brown JAM Beijing Aug. 21, 2008
400 meters 48.70 Sanya Richards-Ross USA Athens Sept. 16, 2006
800 meters 1:54.01 Pamela Jelimo KEN Zurich Aug. 29, 2008
1,500 meters 3:55.33 Sureyya Ayhan-Kop TUR Brussels Sept. 5, 2003
Mile 4:17.75 Maryam Yusuf Jamal BRN Brussels Sept. 14, 2007
3,000 meter steeplechase 8:54.81 Gulnara Galkina RUS Beijing Aug. 17, 2008
5,000 meters 14:11.15 Tirunesh Dibaba ETH Oslo June 6, 2008
10,000 meters 29:53.80 Meselech Melkamu ETH Utrecht June 14, 2009
Half Marathon 64:40A Paula Radcliffe GBR Newcastle-South Shields Sept. 21, 2003
Marathon 2:15:25 Paula Radcliffe GBR London April 13, 2003
100m hurdles 12.33 Gail Devers USA Sacramento July 23, 2000
400m hurdles 52.34 Yulia Pechonkina RUS Tula Aug. 8, 2003
High Jump 2:08m Blanka Vlasic CRO Zagreb Aug. 31, 2009
Pole Vault 5.06m Yelena Isinbayeva RUS Zurich Aug. 28, 2009
Long Jump 7.42m Tatyana Kotova RUS Annecy June 23, 2002
Triple Jump 15.39m Françoise Mbango Etone CMR Beijing Aug. 17, 2008
Shot Put 21.46m Larisa Peleshenko RUS Moscow Aug. 26, 2000
Discus 69.38m Natalya Sadova RUS Halle May 24, 2003
Javelin 72.28m Barbora Spotáková CZE Stuttgart Sept. 13, 2008
Hammer Throw 77.96m Anita Wlodarczyk POL Berlin Aug. 22, 2009
Heptathlon 7032 Carolina Klüft SWE Osaka Aug. 26, 2007

 

1990-1999

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 10.65A Marion Jones USA Johannesburg Sept. 12, 1998
200 meters 21.62A Marion Jones USA Johannesburg Sept. 11, 1998
400 meters 49.25 Marie-Jose Perec FRA Atlanta July 29, 1996
800 meters 1:54.82 Ana Fidelia Quirot CUB Cologne Aug. 24, 1997
1,500 meters 3:50.46 Qu Yunxia CHN Beijing Sept. 11, 1993
Mile 4:12.56 Svetlana Masterkova RUS Zurich Aug. 14, 1996
3,000 meter steeplechase 9:48.88 Yelena Motalova RUS Tula Aug. 31, 1999
5,000 meters 14:28.09 Jiango Bo CHN Shanghai Oct. 23,1997
10,000 meters 29:31.78 Wang Junxia CHN Beijing Sept.8, 1993
Half Marathon 66:43A Masako Chiba JPN Tokyo Jan. 19, 1997
Marathon 2:20:43 Tegla Loroupe KEN Berlin Sept. 26,1999
100m hurdles 12.26 Ludmilla Engquist RUS Sevilla June 6, 1992
400m hurdles 52.61 Kim Batten USA Gothenburg Aug. 11, 1995
High Jump 2.05m Heike Henkel

Stefka Kostadinova

Inga Babakova

Stefka

Kostadinova

GER

BUL

UKR

BUL

Tokyo

San Marino

Tokyo

Atlanta

Aug. 21, 1991

July 4, 1992

Sept. 18, 1993

Sept. 15, 1995

Aug. 3, 1996

Pole Vault 4.60m

4.60m

Emma George

Stacy Dragila

AUS

USA

Sydney

Sevilla

Feb. 20, 1999

Aug. 21, 1999

Long Jump 7.49m Jackie Joyner-Kersee USA New York City May 22, 1994
Triple Jump 15.50m Inessa Kravets UKR Gothenburg Aug. 10, 1995
Shot Put 21.69m Viktoriya Pavlysh UKR Budapest Aug. 20, 1998
Discus 71.68m Xiao Yanling CHN Beijing March 14, 1992
Javelin 68.19m Trine Hattestad NOR Fana July 28,1999
Hammer Throw 76.07m Mihaela Melinte ROU Rüdlingen Aug. 29, 1999
Heptathlon 7044 Jackie Joyner-Kersee USA Barcelona Aug. 2, 1992

 

1980-1989

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 10.49 Florence Griffith-Joyner USA Indianapolis July 16, 1988
200 meters 21.34 Florence Griffith-Joyner USA Seoul Sept. 29, 1988
400 meters 47.60 Marita Koch GDR Canberra Oct. 6, 1985
800 meters 1:53.28 Jarmila Kratochvílová CZE Munich July 26, 1983
1,500 meters 3:52.47 Tatyana Kazankina RUS Zurich Aug. 13, 1980
Mile 4:15.61 Paula Ivan ROU Nice July 10, 1989
3,000 meter steeplechase N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
5,000 meters 14:37.33 Ingrid Kristiansen NOR Stockholm Aug. 5, 1986
10,000 meters 30:13.74 Ingrid Kristiansen NOR Oslo July 5, 1986
Half Marathon 66:[email protected]

68:23+

Ingrid Kristiansen

Joan Benoit

NOR

USA

Sandnes

Boston

April 5, 1987

April 18,1983

Marathon 2:21:06 Ingrid Kristiansen NOR London April 21,1985
100m hurdles 12.21 Yordanka Donkova BUL Stara Zagora Aug. 20, 1988
400m hurdles 52.94 Marina Stepanova RUS Tashkent Sept. 17, 1986
High Jump 2.09m Stefka Kostadinova BUL Rome Aug. 30, 1987
Pole Vault N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Long Jump 7.52m Galina Christyakova RUS Leningrad June 11, 1988
Triple Jump 14.52m Galina Chistyakova RUS Stockholm July 3, 1989
Shot Put 22.63m Natalya Lisovskaya RUS Moscow June 7, 1987
Discus 76.80m Gabriele Reinsch GER Neubrandenburg July 9, 1988
Javelin N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Hammer Throw N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Heptathlon 7291 Jackie Joyner-Kersee USA Seoul Sept. 24, 1988

 

1970-1979

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 10.88 Marlies Gohr GDR Dresden July 1, 1977
200 meters 21.71 Marita Koch GDR Karl-Marx-Stadt June 10, 1979
400 meters 48.60 Marita Koch GDR Torino Aug. 4, 1979
800 meters 1:54.94 Tatyana Kazankina RUS Montreal July 26, 1976
1,500 meters 3:56.0 Tatyana Kazankina RUS Podolsk June 28, 1976
Mile 4:22.09 Natalia Marasecu ROU Auckland Jan. 27, 1979
3,000 meter steeplechase N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
5,000 meters N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
10,000 meters N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Half Marathon N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Marathon 2:27:33 Grete Waitz NOR New York City Oct. 21, 1979
100m hurdles 12.48 Grazyna Rabztyn POL Fürth June 10, 1978
400m hurdles 54.78 Marina Stepanova RUS Moscow July 27,1979
High Jump 2.01m Sara Simeoni ITA Brescia Aug. 4, 1978
Pole Vault 7.09m Vilma Bardauskiené LTU Prague Aug. 29, 1978
Long Jump N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Triple Jump N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Shot Put 22.32m Helena Fibingerová CZE Nitra Aug. 20, 1977
Discus 70.22m Evelin Jahl GDR Dresden Aug. 12, 1978
Javelin N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Hammer Throw N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Heptathlon N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

 

1960-1969

Event Mark Name Country Record Set In Record Date
100 meters 11.08A Wyomia Tyus USA Mexico City Oct. 15, 1968
200 meters 22.58A Irena Szewinska POL Mexico City Oct.18, 1968
400 meters N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
800 meters 1:58.0 Sin  Geum Dan PRK Pyonyang Sept. 5, 1964
1,500 meters N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Mile N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
3,000 meter steeplechase N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
5,000 meters N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
10,000 meters N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Half Marathon N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Marathon N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
100m hurdles N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
400m hurdles N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
High Jump N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pole Vault N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Long Jump N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Triple Jump N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Shot Put 20.43m Nadezha Chizova RUS Athens Sept. 16, 1969
Discus N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Javelin N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Hammer Throw N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Heptathlon N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

 

Some observations:

  • Sebastian Coe has the most decade records with four but that’s because we happened to throw in the mile so that gives him the upperhand over several others with three.
  • The most recent decade record set was just a few weeks ago by Caster Semenya with the women’s 800 meter win at the Monaco Diamond League.
  • The women’s 70s are truly the decade with the most controversy.
  • We have an appearance by North Korea with the decade record for the women’s 800 meters in the 60s.
  • If it wasn’t for the Mexico City Olympics than results and marks from the 60s would be more difficult to come by.
  • It just seems wild that the best shot put performance by a woman in this current decade only falls into the 79th all-time best performance slot.
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