Why Is The Men's 800m Not As Thrilling This Year?

By Kyle Merber

July 26, 2023

Step into my head Being John Malkovich-style. I’m (we’re?) leaning forward on the couch, almost falling out of it, watching the Monaco Diamond League action. The men’s 800m is next on the track and I am not buzzing for it. I FEEL NOTHING. That’s weird – I love this event! I checked in with some friends to confirm if I was being crazy. Am I the only one who isn’t excited?

Responses came fast and in the negative. I am not crazy.

But still, I can’t help but check my pulse. It’s a great field of 10 lined up, including Americans Bryce Hoppel and Clayton Murphy, two guys I like that also have global medals. And yet I still struggle to yell at the television like a guy in a potato chip commercial! After Kenya’s Wyclife Kinyamal runs 1:43.22 to set a new world lead, it feels like I need to get to the bottom of this conundrum.

The easiest thing to point to is that the times just aren’t that fast right now. For all the talk of super shoes and wave lights “breaking” every other event, they seemingly have not had a huge impact on the men’s 800m. 1:43.22 is equivalent to a 3:31.15 – 15 guys have done that in the 1500m this year. But I think this goes a bit deeper than just the times being run.

I think the bigger issue is that there are so many guys close together. In theory, this is a good thing, right? Parity? Anyone can win any race! Except it is pretty hard to develop storylines and nurture fan debate if literally, every time out, anyone can win. There are 14 guys within a second of that world leading time right now, and that doesn’t include Emmanuel Korir, the defending Olympic and world champion. And if there is one race where a dude can come out of nowhere it’s the ol’ two-lapper.

Now of those 14 guys, 11 of them have set their personal best in the last year. The fact that the majority of the men in the field are running the best they ever have is another reason this should be an exciting race, but that also means almost too many new faces. These are mainly guys that have just entered the global scene and we haven’t yet had the opportunity to get to know them.

Maybe everyone is too nice?

If you go down the descending order list, you’re really just looking at a few countries that make up the entire potential field. There are Kenyans, Algerians, the French, Americans, Spaniards, the British, and Australians. We just need some shit talk here or something or I will be falling asleep on that third 200.

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Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.