September 28, 2019
DOHA, Qatar — In one of the most spectacular performances in women’s 10,000-meter history, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands captured her global outdoor title by running her last 1500 meters in 3:59.09 (last 1600 in 4:17.15) to win the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships final in 30:17.23. Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, the 21-year-old two-time world junior cross country champion who did her best to break Hassan with 4 laps to go, earned her first global track medal in second in 30:21.23 as Agnes Tirop of Kenya, the 2015 world cross country champion, settled for third for the second straight Worlds in 30:25.75.
Reigning world 5000 and cross country champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya lost contact with the top three on the third-to-last lap and ended up fifth as she was passed at the line by compatriot Rosemary Wanjiru, who ran 30:35.75 to Obiri’s 30:35.82. World record holder and defending champ Almaz Ayana, who had only raced once all year, did not start.
Two-time NCAA champ Susan Krumins (née Kuijken) of the Netherlands won the battle for top non-African-born honors that developed early when the three entrants from both Kenya and Ethiopia had gapped the field some nine laps into this race (Hassan would later join them), by finishing seventh in a personal best of 31:05.40, just ahead of the three Americans in the race — Marielle Hall (8th in a 32-second pb of 31:07.24), Molly Huddle (9th 31:07.24), and Emily Sisson (10th 31:12.56).
Hassan’s competitors did everything right in this one. In theory, when you are facing the world record holder in the mile, the strategy that should be employed in a 10,000 is to make the pace honest. That’s what the Kenyans and Ethiopians tried to do. After a 10:07 opening 3200 meters, Kenya’s Wanjiru went to the front and ratcheted down the pace. Almost instantly, the three Ethiopians and Kenyans separated from the field, with Hassan content to take her time to bridge the gap.
The third 1600 was covered in 4:47.96 as the leaders hit 5000 in 15:32. The pace slowed a bit as the 4th and 5th 1600s were run in the 4:53-54 range. With four laps remaining (25:59.75), six were still in the lead pack and Gidey realized she needed to try to do something so the race wouldn’t come down to a kick with the world record holder in the mile. She put in a big surge that broke the race wide open.
After a 64.39 lap, she had a three-meter lead on Tirop and Obiri, who in turn had two meters on Hassan. Gidey followed that up with a 65.32 lap, but the problem was Hassan hadn’t been broken — she was only 1.2 seconds back and was gaining on Gidey as Hassan had run a 65.72 and a 64.95. Hassan really started to eat up the gap on the back straight of the penultimate lap. With 500 meters to go, Hassan had closed the gap. What would she do? Like Mo Farah, Hassan wanted to control this from the front so she went to the lead with 450 meters remaining.
As Hassan hit the bell in 29:16.13 after a 4:30 sixth 1600, the question was what did she have left?
The answer: Plenty.
It was game over with 200 meters left (even though Hassan was still repeateadly looking over her shoulder for the first 300 of the last lap) as Hassan DESTROYED Gidey over the final 400, thanks to her remarkable 61.49 final lap. When it was all over, the stats almost seem to defy logic and certainly raised the bar on what many imagined was possible. Hassan ran the final 1500 meters of 30:17.23 10,000 in 3:59.09 to close out a second half of 14:43.80 (first half was 15:33.82). If everyone in the world lined up fresh for a 5000, someone running a 14:43.80 with a 3:59.1 last 1500 would have a great shot at winning gold. Hassan had just done this at the end of a 10,000.
Heck, if everyone in the world lined up fresh for a 1500 and went up against Hassan’s final 1500 tonight, she’d beat almost all of them. Jenny Simpson, the US runner-up this year and a four-time 1500 medalist between Worlds and the Olympics, has a 2019 season best of 3:59.83 — .74 slower than Hassan’s split tonight.
Quick Take: Sifan Hassan just broke the 10,000 meters
Nothing about this makes sense. 10,000-meter runners shouldn’t be able to close in 3:59 for their last 1500. Hassan isn’t just posting phenomenal times; she is redefining the limits of women’s distance running.
Hassan’s final 1500 split of 3:59.09 would, on its own, rank 9th on the 2019 world list at 1500 meters. For comparison, the 9th-fastest men’s 1500 man of 2019 is George Manangoi, who has run 3:31.49.
We are nowhere close to seeing a man close a 10,000-meter race in 3:31 for his final 1500 meters. Hell, it could take a man 50 years to do that, assuming it ever happens.
But then again, nothing about Sifan Hassan makes any sense — 1:56 800-meter runners shouldn’t be able to run 65:15 in the half marathon. We may have seen better runners than Hassan, but we have never seen someone with her range.
Here are her final 4 laps: 65.72, 64.95, 64.99, and 61.49.
Quick Take: Hassan has to run the 1500
Hassan didn’t stop to talk to us after the race (in her defense, she had done a ton of interviews beforehand and LetsRun was at the very end of the mixed zone), but she said that she has not yet decided whether to run the 1500 or the 5,000 as her second event in Doha. Hassan said she is leaning toward the 1500, while her coach Alberto Salazar is leaning toward the 5k.
Sorry, Alberto, but we have to disagree with you. The 5,000 is the safer pick for gold, but winning the 10k and 1500 at the same World Championships would earn her all-time legend status in the sport of track & field. Hassan already has one gold locked in, so no matter what she chooses, she’ll leave Doha a champion. She needs to go for the 1500 and history.
Quick Take: Letesenbet Gidey ran like a hero tonight
Were it not for the brilliance of Hassan, we’d be freaking out about Gidey’s arrival as a major star as she was also exceptional. Her official 1500 pb is 4:11, but she closed her last 1500 tonight in 4:03.68. When she took off with a mile to go and dropped a 64, it seemed suicidal, and though she could not maintain that pace, she didn’t slow too much and was easily better than everyone outside of Hassan. She ran perfectly and just got beat by a supreme athlete.
Quick Take: Hellen Obiri is worn down
Obiri has been one of the planet’s finest distance runners in recent years, racking up an Olympic silver in 2016, a World Champs gold in 2017, and a World XC title in March. She wasn’t bad tonight — 5th in the world (narrowly outkicked for 4th) is nothing to be ashamed of. But she wasn’t at her brilliant best, and she was pretty depressed during her interview in the mixed zone. Though she hung with the leaders through five miles, she couldn’t touch Gidey and Hassan once Gidey made her push and her famous kick was not there when she needed it on the last lap.
“I tried to push, but the body was not responding,” Obiri said. “I think I’m a little tired.”
It’s been a long year for Obiri, who won World XC in March, and Obiri said that pushing hard during the XC season may have left her worn-down for track Worlds in late September. Obiri added that she needs to take a break now and is considering scratching from the 5k.
Quick Take: Marielle Hall ran the race of her life for 8th
Two months ago, Hall was only 5th at USAs, behind not only Molly Huddle and Emily Sisson, but NAZ Elite’s Kellyn Taylor and Stephanie Bruce. She only made it onto the Worlds team because Taylor didn’t have the IAAF standard and Hall, as the NACAC champion, did.
Hall has gone from the 5th-best 10k runner in the US to the 8th-best 10k runner in the world as she ran a humongous 32-second PR of 31:05.71 and in the process notch her first win over Huddle in 17 attempts.
Hall was asked whether tonight was the best race of her life. She took a second to consider the question, then responded, “I feel like [it is], yeah.”
Hall was one of the Bowerman Track Club athletes who chose not to race in the two months between USAs and Worlds, electing to train at altitude and peak hard for the race, and she was rewarded with a huge performance. Score one for Jerry Schumacher.
But wait a second. Hassan raced all over the globe this year, ran both Diamond League finals, and still destroyed everyone tonight. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Quick Take: Molly Huddle was hoping for more, says 2020 Marathon Trials is her next focus
The pack splintered fairly early in the race, and Huddle found herself doing a lot of work leading the chasers’ attempt to reel in Japan’s Hitomi Niiya, who ran alone in 7th for much of the race. That chase was ultimately successful, as the pack caught Niiya with a lap and a half to go, but Huddle couldn’t hold off Hall or Susan Krumins over the final 200.
“I ended up doing a bit of work in the middle there and just didn’t have the close because of it,” Huddle said. “I just used it up trying to catch people. And with a lap to go, I lost two spots. I think that’s the part I’m most upset with.”
Huddle, 35, said that switching her focus to the marathon has also sapped her speed — with the increased workload, she doesn’t go to every race feeling as fresh as she used to and said she may need to be more selective moving forward.
Huddle said that 2017 would be her final year on the track, but she came back and won US titles in the 10,000 in 2018 and 2019 and wouldn’t rule anything out for next year. But her focus is now squarely on the US Olympic Marathon Trials in February; any decisions on her future will come after February 29 in Atlanta.
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Video of final lap for US visitors:
1 1436 Sifan HASSAN NED NED 30:17.62 WL 2 723 Letesenbet GIDEY ETH ETH 30:21.23 PB 3 1318 Agnes Jebet TIROP KEN KEN 30:25.20 PB 4 1319 Rosemary Monica WANJIRU KEN KEN 30:35.75 PB 5 1314 Hellen OBIRI KEN KEN 30:35.82 PB 6 727 Senbere TEFERI ETH ETH 30:44.23 SB 7 1439 Susan KRUMINS NED NED 31:05.40 PB 8 1973 Marielle HALL USA USA 31:05.71 PB 9 1979 Molly HUDDLE USA USA 31:07.24 10 2005 Emily SISSON USA USA 31:12.56 11 1253 Hitomi NIIYA JPN JPN 31:12.99 SB 12 1507 Camille BUSCOMB NZL NZL 31:13.21 PB 13 207 Ellie PASHLEY AUS AUS 31:18.89 PB 14 194 Sinead DIVER AUS AUS 31:25.49 PB 15 893 Stephanie TWELL GBR GBR 31:44.79 16 1809 Stella CHESANG UGA UGA 32:15.20 17 442 Natasha WODAK CAN CAN 32:31.19 18 1805 Rachael Zena CHEBET UGA UGA 32:41.93 PB 19 1259 Minami YAMANOUCHI JPN JPN 32:53.46 20 1806 Juliet CHEKWEL UGA UGA 33:28.18 724 Netsanet GUDETA ETH ETH DNF 960 Alina REH GER GER DNF