Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Olympics

That Moment: 10 Best Running Memories from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

A few of our favorite moments from the Tokyo Games that inspired us for their demonstration of courage, commitment, passion and excellence.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Looking back on 10 days of track at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Games, many moments stand out. But a few will stick with and inspire us in the coming months as examples of courage, guts and excellence.

Hassan’s Fall

The day after announcing she was going for the 1500m, 5,000m and 10,000m triple, Sifan Hassan’s quest appeared over when she tripped and fell to the track with less than a lap to go in the 1500m. Our hearts leapt when she showed that even this set back wasn’t going to deter her — she quickly picked herself up and gave chase, passing the entire field by the finish.

Sifan Hassan getting up off the track after falling in her heat of the 1500.
Sifan Hassan of Team Netherlands gets back up after falling over Edinah Jebitok of Team Kenya in round one of the Women’s 1500m heats on day ten of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 02, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Frerich’s Audacity

Many of the distance races followed a familiar script: the field of experienced runners bided their time, staying bunched in a pack until the final lap, trusting to their superior speed to find their way to the front at the end. This is all well and good unless you don’t have the fastest top-end speed of the field (which is one reason you ended up a distance runner). Courtney Frerich’s showed us how you can succeed anyway, boldly taking the lead and pushing the pace 1200 meters out in the 3000m Steeplechase final. She still got caught by Peruth Chemutai, but fast-twich-challenged runners everywhere cheered her on as she kept the petal to the medal and held on to second place.

Courtney Frerichs leads Peruth Chemutai during the women's 3000m steeplechase final at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 4, 2021.
Courtney Frerichs leads Peruth Chemutai during the women’s 3000m steeplechase final at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 4, 2021. Photo: Li Ming/Xinhua via Getty Images

Chelimo’s Dive

Paul Chelimo had cruised through the heat of the 5,000 so coolly that he starting given his competitor, Mohamed Katir, a hug even before they had crossed the line. In the final, however, Chelimo proved that he could also be fiercely competitive. Approaching the finish in a dead heat with Kenya’s Nicholas Kipjorir Kimeli for third, Chelimo dug deep for a final push that launched him .12 seconds ahead — and put him flat on his face. We felt his joy as he lay on the track and relished the result of his supreme effort.

USAs Paul Chelimo falls across the finish line to win the bronze medal in the mens 5000m race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
USAs Paul Chelimo falls across the finish line to win the bronze medal in the mens 5000m race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Molly’s Mettle

Having only run two marathons prior to competing in the Olympic Games, Molly Seidel, 27, pulled off a shocking upset in the Olympic women’s marathon in Sapporo, Japan, finishing in third-place securing a bronze medal — only the third American women in history to do so. It was a triumphant and cinematic underdog-prevailing moment that showed us, in Seidel’s words, “what it means to be an athlete.”

Molly Seidel of Team United States reacts after winning the bronze medal in the Women's Marathon.
Molly Seidel of Team United States Sapporo, Japan. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Friends to the Finish

Approaching the finish of the men’s marathon, Dutch runner Abdi Nageeye was poised to pass Kenyan Lawrence Cherono and take second. But his training partner and friend fellow Somali-born Bashir Abdi, running for Belgium, was struggling. Negeeye slowed to run beside Abdi beckoning his friend to come with him, risking his own glory in the process. In the end, Abdi responded, and the two friends shared the podium with Eliud Kipchoge. We warmed to the amazing display friendship taking precedence over personal glory, as well as the demonstration of how human relationships transcend nationality, even in the patriotically-charged culture of the Olympics.

Netherlands' Abdi Nageeye (R) runs to second place ahead of third-placed Belgium's Bashir Abdi in the men's marathon final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Sapporo on August 8, 2021.
Netherlands’ Abdi Nageeye (R) runs to second place ahead of third-placed Belgium’s Bashir Abdi in the men’s marathon final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Sapporo on August 8, 2021. Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

Sidney and Delilah’s Domination

For the past two years, American 400-meter hurdlers Sydney McLaughlin, 21, and Dalilah Muhammad have lowered their times against each other breaking prestigious record after prestigious record. Nearly every time the two line up a world record falls. 

So when the two rivals and compatriots lined up for the 400-meter finals in Tokyo, drama was high. At the start of the race, McLaughlin was the world record holder while Muhammad was the defending Olympic gold medalist in the event. It was McLaughlin who surged to first in the final stretch to take gold, clocking a 51.46 and breaking her own world record. Muhammad took silver with her fastest time ever, a blazing 51.58. Ultimately, their performances showed us what the core of competition and rivalry is all about, pushing one another to reach new highs of human potential. 

Teammates Dalilah Muhammad of Team United States and Sydney McLaughlin hug after winning silver and gold in the Women's 400m Hurdles Final on day twelve of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Teammates Dalilah Muhammad of Team United States and Sydney McLaughlin hug after winning silver and gold in the Women’s 400m Hurdles Final on day twelve of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 04, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images

King Kipchoge’s Break

For the first 17.5 miles of the men’s Olympic marathon in Sapporo, Japan, Galen Rupp, 35, was on the heels of world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, 36. At that point, Rupp seemed to clip Kipchoge’s heels to which the favorite for gold gestured to Rupp to join him in leading the race. When Rupp didn’t respond, an apparently vexed Kipchoge took off, beginning his decisive break away from the rest of the field. He ran alone for more than eight miles of the field winning his second consecutive Olympic marathon in 2:08.38 — 80 seconds ahead of silver medalist Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands. Watching Kipchoge take off was a special moment because we knew as well as he did that his royal status as the greatest marathoner in history was about to be affirmed. It was a glorious, satisfying, and slightly humorous moment.  

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge takes the lead as he competes in the men's marathon final, Galen Rupp (USA) is pictured right behind him.
Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge takes the lead as he competes in the men’s marathon final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Sapporo on August 8, 2021. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

Teens Take Names 

At just ages 19, Team USA’s Athing Mu and Team GB’s Keeley Hodgkinson won gold and silver in the Olympic women’s 800m final. Mu dominated the race winning with a time of 1:55.21 — a new American record and the 11th fastest time any woman has ever run the distance. It was an inspiring moment in its own right, but it also symbolized the ushering in of a new generation of track stars making us feel hopeful and excited about the future of the sport. 

Athing Mu of Team United States reacts after winning the gold medal in the Women's 800m final in Tokyo.
Athing Mu of Team United States reacts after winning the gold medal in the Women’s 800m Final on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 03, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Ingebrigtsen’s Gift

In the Olympic men’s 1500m, 20-year-old Norwegian superstar Jakob Ingebrigsen overtook Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot, 25, in the final stretch of the race for an Olympic record (3:28.32) and gold medal. After Ingebrigsen’s win was a touching display of sportsmanship when Cheruiyot, the 2019 world champion, accepted his defeat with grace and gifted his younger rival his bracelet after embracing him.  

Timothy Cheruiyot gifting gold medalist Jakob Ingebrigtsen his bracelet.
Silver medalist Timothy Cheruiyot of Team Kenya gifts gold medalist Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Team Norway his bracelet after the Men’s 1500m Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Hassan Joins Legendary Multi-Medalists

The moment it dawns on you that you’ve witnessed history being made is a riveting one. When Sifan Hassan out kicked world-record holder Letesenbet Gidey for the gold medal in the 10,000m, she solidified her spot as a track and field legend coming away with two gold medals (5,000m and 10,000m) and one bronze medal (1500m). Among the few multi-medalists in the Games history includes Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zátopek, and Hannes Kolehmainen. Her performances throughout the 2020 Tokyo Games were a thrilling display of phenomenal athletic prowess and heroism. Watching Hassan finish victoriously in her sixth race of the Games was an awe-inspiring reminder of what the human spirit can accomplish with bravery and fierce determination.