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“The times, they are a-changin’,”
— Bob Dylan.
Florence, Italy, the birthplace of the 16th-century Renaissance; the blossoming of art, commerce, science, technology, literature, sport, and education.
The Florence Diamond League meet on Friday, brought a race for the ages. Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, schooled a class field in the 1500 metre event, breaking the world record and the 3:50 benchmark, that Ethiopian great Genzebe Dibaba once attempted. Dibaba’s record is 3:50.07 from Monaco’s edition of the Diamond League from back in 2015.
At the time, it seemed impossible that anyone would break the long string of Chinese performances that were called into question for two decades — the products of Ma’s Army. To do one better with a 3:49.11 performance was one of art and the use of science.
During the first 400 metre lap, Kipyegon was paced by Americans, Brooke Feldmeier and Sage Hurta-Klecker to 1:02.37 then Hurta-Klecker took her through 800m in 2:04.00. Kipyegon clocked 3:05.28 after three laps and then sped up to become the first woman to break the 3:50 barrier.
Her competitors vociferously celebrated the achievement with her, ” We get along very well with my opponents, so I’m not surprised by their congratulations,” said the Kenyan.
When New Zealand’s John Walker broke the 3:50 mile record so long ago, it made a ripple of news in comparison to Roger Bannister’s sub-4-minute mile in 1954 — but within the running community, it is legendary. Kipyegon’s performance deserves as much broadcast and print time as did Bannister, certainly as much as Walker.
So fast was the race that Australia’s Jessica Hull broke the Australian and Oceania records taking third and clocking a 3:57.59 performance. Going better than a second faster than her own personal best. Scotland’s Laura Muir took second in 3:57.09, which is a season-best.
Gabriela DeBues-Stafford of Canada, still coming back from injury, improved her season efforts by more than three seconds — it was a good sign for her return to competition. Her first comeback race resulted in a 4:06.71. She ran 4:03.64 in Florence. Unlikely what she was looking for, as her best is a national record of 3:56.12, but a steady improvement nonetheless.
Kipyegon is a two-time Olympic and world champion in the distance.
In August 2022, in Monaco, the 29-year-old Kenyan had already come close to the feat clocking a 3:50.37.
Led by two pacemakers, and assisted by Wavelight technology and no doubt the best shoe technology afforded her camp, she was able to break the once-thought impossible barrier. Perhaps, she will create a revival in middle-distance running, or a rebirth in interest; a renaissance, if you will.