Sifan Hassan Runs 4:12.33 to Break World Record in Brave Like Gabe Mile in Monaco

July 12, 2019

For the second year in a row, and the third time in five years, the Herculis Diamond League meeting in Monaco produced a stunning world record in a women’s distance race as Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and the Nike Oregon Project ran 4:12.33 in the Brave Like Gabe women’s mile. The time shaved .23 of a second off the previous world record, set by Russia’s Svetlana Masterkova in 1996.

World Record Sifan Hassan in Brave Like Gabe Mile World Record Sifan Hassan in Brave Like Gabe Mile

The race was billed as a clash of world record holders earlier in the week, with the last two women to break world records in Monaco — Genzebe Dibaba (1500, 2015) and Beatrice Chepkoech (steeplechase, 2018) — both entered in the mile. But when those two women scratched earlier in the week, any chance of a world record — unlikely to begin with — looked to have vanished.

Even halfway through the race tonight, the world record seemed impossible as Hassan hit 800 meters in 2:08.5 — three seconds off world record pace (2:05.54). She picked it up over the next 400 (61.7), but still required an extremely fast close — 60.2 or faster for her last lap — for the WR.

Hassan had another gear left, however. Early in the final lap, she separated from Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, who had been with her at the bell, her lead growing to 20+ meters by 200 to go over Tsegay, who in turn had 15 meters on the chase pack.

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As Hassan entered the home straight, she started to strain as flames began to go off on the infield. But her form never broke, her arms pumping high and hard with every stride. She dipped, just barely, at the finish line, and the world record was hers: 4:12.33, thanks to an incredible final 400 meters of 60.0 (we timed her final 800 in 2:01.9).

Just after finishing, Hassan threw her hands up in celebration before collapsing to the track in a wonderful combination of exhaustion and exhilaration, emitting sporadic yelps of joy. She was then congratulated by Laura Weightman — who came .03 shy of the British record by running 4:17.60 for second — before receiving a kiss from her coach Alberto Salazar trackside.

1 Hassan , Sifan NED 4:12.33
2 Weightman , Laura GBR 4:17.60
3 DeBues-Stafford , Gabriela CAN 4:17.87
4 Tsegay , Gudaf ETH 4:18.31
5 Arafi , Rababe MAR 4:18.42
6 Embaye , Axumawit ETH 4:18.58
7 Nanyondo , Winnie UGA 4:18.65
8 Mageean , Ciara IRL 4:19.03
9 Schneider , Rachel USA 4:20.91
10 Samuel , Alemaz ETH 4:23.35
11 Praught-Leer , Aisha JAM 4:26.14
12 Courtney , Melissa GBR 4:27.76
Lyakhova , Olha UKR DNF

Quick Take: Sifan Hassan is having a year for the ages

No matter what she does at Worlds, Sifan Hassan has already put together one of the greatest seasons in the history of women’s distance running. Here’s what she’s accomplished so far.

February 17: Runs 14:44 5k world record on the roads in Monaco.

April 7: Runs 65:45 to win the Berlin Half Marathon. Tied for the #4 time in the world this year.

May 2: Runs 31:18.12 to win her first-ever 10,000 at Stanford.

June 16: Runs a personal best of 3:55.93 in the 1500 in Rabat.

June 30: Runs 8:18.49 for 3,000 at Stanford — the fastest time ever outdoors by a non-Chinese woman.

July 12: Runs 4:12.33 mile world record in Monaco.

So that’s two world records, in addition to her 8:18 3k, which you could argue should be a world record too given the top Chinese times in that event are widely assumed to be doped. A simply incredible season, and she still has three months to go.

Quick Take: Hassan’s time converts to roughly 3:53 for 1500 meters

Our rule of thumb for converting mile times to 1500 meters is to divide by 1.0802, and if you divide Hassan’s 4:12.33 by that number, you get 3:53.60. That would put her seventh on the all-time 1500-meter list. Here are the six women who have run faster, per All-Time Athletics:

1      3:50.07    Genzebe Dibaba                 ETH 08.02.91 1 Monaco                      17.07.2015
2      3:50.46    Qu Yunxia                     CHN 25.12.72 1 Beijing                     11.09.1993
3      3:50.98    Jiang Bo                     CHN 13.03.77 1 Shanghai                    18.10.1997
4      3:51.34    Lang Yinglai                   CHN 22.08.79 2 Shanghai                    18.10.1997
5      3:51.92    Wang Junxia                    CHN 09.01.73 2 Beijing                     11.09.1993
6      3:52.47    Tatyana Kazankina              RUS 17.12.51 1 Zürich                      13.08.1980

There are serious doping questions about most — if not all — of the women on that list. Of course, Hassan is coached by Alberto Salazar, who has been under investigation by USADA for anti-doping violations. Hassan herself has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs and began working with Salazar in late 2016, over a year after the ProPublica/BBC report was published.

Hassan in final 100

Quick Take: What events will Hassan run at Worlds?

When we spoke with Hassan at the Pre Classic, she said her plan was to run the 5k and 10k at Worlds — she wants to double, and the 1500/5k double looks impossible since the two finals are back-to-back, just 30 minutes apart. Yet today Hassan told meet organizers that she wants to do the 1500/5k in Doha.

“I knew I could run fast, but the first 800 was a bit slow, so after that I wasn’t thinking it would be a world record,” Hassan said. “When I crossed the line I was so surprised. After you run the last 400 like that, and set a world record, it gives me so much confidence over 5000m. I want to double over 1500 and 5000 in Doha and the way I finished the last 400 there, it’s amazing – to run a world record the way I did makes me so happy!”

We don’t know whether Hassan got caught up in the excitement of her world record or something got lost in translation, but we’d be shocked if Hassan tries the 1500/5k double in Doha. Not only are the finals on the same day, but so are the prelims — the 1500 starts at 5:35 p.m. on October 2, with the 5k the next event at 6:25 p.m. ET. 

Trying to run both would be monumentally stupid and hurt her chances of succeeding in both. Either try the 5k/10k — heck, the 1500/10k is even doable — but don’t get greedy.

Also, attention IAAF: why are the 1500 and 5k back to back? Plenty of athletes — Hassan, Shelby Houlihan, Genzebe Dibaba — are capable of running both events, and would be willing to if the schedule was amenable. Why the IAAF wouldn’t make this double doable is beyond us.

Hassan celebrates

Quick Take: Another Alberto Salazar-coached athlete breaks the mile world record

This was mile world record #2 in 2019 for Alberto Salazar, as another one of his athletes, Yomif Kejelcha broke the men’s indoor WR in Boston in March.

Not everyone at the Nike Oregon Project has gone on to successful careers, but Salazar has a strong track record of taking elite international athletes and making them even better. Mo Farah went from also-ran in global finals to a world beater under his tutelage, while Kejelcha and Hassan have been thriving.

Hassan was already extremely accomplished prior to joining Salazar at the end of 2016 — she had PRs of 1:58/3:56/8:29/14:59, a World Outdoor bronze in 2015, and a World Indoor title in 2016. But she is unquestionably a better runner now. Her PRs (1:56/3:55/8:18/14:22/65:15) are faster across the board, and now she’s a track world record holder, albeit in an event where there 6 faster performances in a similar/more popular distance.

Quick Take: Super times across the board

While the 2:08 first 800 was slow for someone trying to break the world record, it was perfect for the rest of the field, and with a fading Tsegay to chase over the final lap and great weather, everything was in place for fast times. 

Personal bests can be a little misleading in the women’s mile since the event is rarely contested outdoors, but with that caveat, nine women managed PBs, including national records for the Netherlands (Hassan), Canada (Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, 4:17.87), Morocco (Rababe Arafi, 4:18.42), and Uganda (Winnie Nanyondo, 4:18.65). Weightman was just .03 off another national record, but Zola Budd’s 34-year-old mark of 4:17.57 will live to see another day. American Rachel Schneider hit the World Championship standard for the 1500 by running 4:20.91 in 9th place.

Neither Weightman, who finished second today, nor DeBues-Stafford (third) have ever broken 4:00 for 1500, but today’s result showed that they certainly have the fitness to do so. Using the 1.0802 conversion, their times today were worth 3:58.47 (Weightman) and 3:58.72 (DeBues-Stafford).

Quick take: #BraveLikeGabe

The women’s race was named the Brave Like Gabe Mile in memory of Gabe Grunewald, who lost her battle with cancer this year. The women all wore the logo of Gabe’s Brave Like Gabe Foundation on their vests. Grunewald’s PR in the 1500 was set in Monaco in 2013 and she ran her last race in Europe in the 3,000 in Monaco in 2016.

Pretty unbelievable and cool that the world record fell in the #BrabeLikeGabe race in the most improbable of circumstances. The pre-race splits had called for an 800m time of 2:04-2:05, yet the rabbit hit 800 in 2:08.20 and the world record still fell.

That being said, it’s a little awkward that that coach of the world record holder, Salazar, once had a highly-publicized run-in with Grunewald’s husband, Justin.

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