LONDON -- Admit it, sports fans. Yeah, you -- the one waiting for football season (American or European) to start. The one who plays fantasy, wears jerseys and spouts trivia. You couldn't care less about the women's steeplechase.
But, right now, you should care. You're missing something amazing.
You may not even know what a steeplechase is. To appreciate the improbable, entertaining madness of what happened Friday night at the IAAF World Championships, you need to know that the steeplechase is a race of 3,000 meters, on a track, featuring 28 barriers and seven water jumps. (Full disclosure: I had to Google for that info.)
You need to know that Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs had NO BUSINESS winning gold and silver. I've never used all caps in a column before, even when Justin Gatlin beat Usain Bolt in the 100 meters a few days ago. But Americans beating Kenyans in this steeplechase was like Gatlin beating Bolt in the 100, with the added excitement of trips, what looked like a tackle, and the front-runner having to double back as if she forgot her cellphone at home.
Even Coburn and Frerichs admitted they had no business medaling. On the final lap, Coburn said, "I was just waiting for three Kenyans to pass me."
"I was just hoping to finish in the top five or six," said Frerichs.
Coburn's time was nine minutes, two-point-five-eight seconds (track people call that 9:02.58). It was the fastest she had ever run, and the fastest time ever in the world championships, which is like scoring your career high and setting the record for most points ever in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
And Coburn didn't even run the most remarkable time.
Before Friday's race, Frerichs' fastest steeplechase time was 9:19.09. She beat that time by an enormous 15 seconds to win silver in 9:03.77. That's like scoring a hat trick in a World Cup soccer game after totaling three goals all season.
In third place was Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi, who ran 9:04.03. She is Kenyan. She sat at the postrace press conference looking like Pat Riley when LeBron James left the Heat and went back to Cleveland.
You sports fans see where I'm going with this, right? With the metaphors? I'm trying to explain just how huge these women's performances were in a sport with no next possessions, no bottom of the ninths, just one chance to make or break your entire season. As if the entire Stanley Cup finals consisted of one penalty shot.
Speaking of hockey, there were some serious collisions in this race. That's another reason to enjoy the steeplechase. Remember the barriers? They're not called hurdles for a reason. Hurdles get knocked over. Barriers knock runners over. Barriers are thick, long and heavy. They may even be attached to the track. (Google didn't say.)
The mayhem started when the front-runner, Beatrice Chepkoech, who is of course Kenyan because she was the front-runner, approached the first water jump. For some reason, she simply ran around it. Totally ignored the barrier and just kept moving, like she hit a single and proceeded straight to second base.
Chepkoech's trance was broken by the water splashing from the feet of runners to her left. She skidded to a halt, U-turned, ran 10 yards in the opposite direction as everyone else, and then jumped over the barrier. This put her so far back of the lead, you might have thought she was American.
Incredibly, she caught up to the pack. Then came another barrier. Chepkoech stumbled on the far side and, while falling to the track, took down a few other runners with her.
After all that, Chepkoech still finished fourth, in 9:10.45. That's just how Kenyans roll.
After Coburn and Frerichs crossed the finish line, they shared an exhilarated, exhausted embrace and traded incredulous profanities. "'Holy guacamole' is the PG version," Coburn said. "Courtney just kept saying, 'Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming?'"
No American had won a world title in steeplechase since 1952. No U.S. women had ever finished 1-2 in any world championship distance race. Track nerds -- why isn't there such a thing as a football nerd? -- are calling this the most thrilling race of the 2017 World Championships, and one of the greatest moments in American distance running history.
You sports fans can just call it amazing. Like a football game where -- nah, forget that. After a race like this, nobody cares about football.