Who is the best ever? Not purely on times, records, or Olympic medals – though all these must figure heavily in any decision. With middle-distance running, there’s also a huge psychological component, and an athlete’s ability to win big races while blocking out rivals, local conditions, and pain also play a part in determining who is the greatest ever. And consistency counts as well: even the most recent names on our poll have shown they’re among the world’s best for at least several seasons.
Middle distance? We’re talking 800m up to 3,000m, including non-Olympic distances like the mile and the 2,000m. So if you’re considering, say, Haile Gebrselassie, you can’t pick him based on his fabulous long-distance achievements. On the other end of the scale, there’s not as much of a problem: so far, there haven’t been many 800m men to challenge at shorter races – besides the great Cuban 400m and 800m champ Alberto Juantorena.
As training, tracks, and techniques improve, so too do times. But we have to measure each man against the standards and competitors of his own era. Take a look at the list and make your pick.