The King Remains On The Throne: Muktar Edris Surprisingly Repeats As 5,000 World Champ

September 30, 2019

DOHA, Qatar — Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris, the man who two years ago shocked the world by knocking off Mo Farah to capture the men’s 5000-meter world title, has done it again. Edris came into the 2019 IAAF Worlds Athletics Championships as a 15/2 underdog, having done nothing this year (his SB was just 13:29), but he will leave it once again with a gold medal hanging around his neck as he used a 55.07 final lap to close out a 3:59.63 final 1600 (64.62, 60.84, 58.99, 55.07) and come from behind to win gold in 12:58.85.

Edris’ compatriot Selemon Barega, who ran 12:43 last year, nabbed silver in 12:59.70. Moh Ahmed of the Bowerman Track Club made history for in third (13:01.11), earning Canada’s first-ever world or Olympic medal in an event longer than 1500 meters, after a confident run that saw him lead from 3800 until just after the bell.

Muktar Edris of Ethiopia celebrates winning gold (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

Norway’s teen sensation Jakob Ingebrigtsen, 19, the youngest sub-4 miler in history and betting favorite, ended up fifth in 13:02.29 after putting forth his best impersonation of Steve Prefontaine at the 1972 Olympics. Ingebrigtsen boldly ran for gold taking the lead with just less than 300 meters to go before totally running out of gas in the last 100, which he covered in just 17.17 seconds.

Two of Ingebrigtsen’s older brothers were also in the race. Filip Ingebrigtsen was still with the lead pack with a lap and half to go and actually still ahead of the race winner Edris when he raised the white flag and stepped into the infield with 550 meters remaining, saving himself for the 1500 meters, where he won bronze in 2017. Henrik Ingebrigtsen was dropped early in the race and finished 13th in 13:36.25.

American Paul Chelimo, who had medalled as the last two global outdoor championships in the 5000, entered the final lap in 4th but ended up 7th in 13:05.27.

The race

Edris took things out fast and led for most of the first two laps, running the first 200 in a 29.9 and 400 in 61.52. However, the paced slowed on the second lap as eventual 4th placer, Telahun Bekele, the 2019 world leader in the event, hit 800 in 2:07.41. Bekele kept the lead until almost 1600 (4:13.14) when Barega took over and re-injected some real pace, running his next 400 in (61.50) to hit 2k in 5:14.81 after the opening kilometer was run in 2:39.07 (2:35.74 2nd km). The reinjection of pace splintered the lead pack, but Jakob and Filip Ingebrigtsen hung back and bet that things would slow down. They were proven correct as they caught back up with the lead pack around 2700 meters as 3k was reached 7:53.04 (2:38.23).

With the leaders running laps in just the 65-second range, the Ingebrigtsens kept running consistently and at 3200 meters (8:25.80), they found themselves just off of leader Chelimo’s shoulder. With the 3 laps remaining, the Canadian Ahmed decided he better do something about the pace rather than turn it into a kick with two 3:30 1500 runners. He went to the lead and ran a 60.71 lap. Heading into the final 600, the lead pack still consisted of 10, but not for much longer. As they rounded the third-to-last turn, a pack of four men — Ahmed, Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Chelimo and Barega — gapped the rest of the field as Filip stepped into the infield and Bekele and Edris tried to stay in contact.

Here is how things looked with just over 500 meters left :

Filip Ingebrigtsen dropped out of this one while he was ahead of the eventual winner. Filip is 5th from right. Edris is 7th.

and how they looked just before the bell.

Edris- in 6th – would make up the gap and win it

Jakob Ingebrigtsen took the lead coming of the penultimate turn and opened up a few meters on his pursuers. Entering the final 200, Ingebrigtsens’ gap was gone as Barega and Edris were running single-file behind him in second and third. Coming off the final turn, they moved wide and showed they still had something left in the tank as Ingebrigtsen ran out of gas. Barega led for the first 30 meters of the final straight but in the end Edris got the win thanks to a 27.29 final 200.

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Behind them, Ahmed measured out the last lap very well (28.83, 29.17), avoiding the big blow up that would befell the others battling for gold, to get the bronze. Jakob Ingebrigtsen ran his last lap in 59.70 but he did that by going 27.88, 31.82. At the finish line, he dove/fell over the line to barely hold on to 5th.

Results, analysis and race highlights below.

Race Highlights (For US Visitors)

Results *100m splits here
1 Muktar EDRIS ETH 12:58.85 SB
2 Selemon BAREGA ETH 12:59.70
3 Mohammed AHMED CAN 13:01.11
4 Telahun Haile BEKELE ETH 13:02.29
5 Jakob INGEBRIGTSEN NOR 13:02.93
6 Jacob KROP KEN 13:03.08 PB
7 Paul CHELIMO USA 13:04.60 SB
8 Nicholas Kipkorir KIMELI KEN 13:05.27
9 Birhanu BALEW BRN 13:14.66
10 Justyn KNIGHT CAN 13:26.63
11 Hassan MEAD USA 13:27.05
12 Stewart MCSWEYN AUS 13:30.41
13 Henrik INGEBRIGTSEN NOR 13:36.25
14 Isaac KIMELI BEL 13:44.29

Quick Take: The Ethiopians played this one perfectly

Ethiopians dominated the Diamond League circuit this year, winning four of the five meets; the only one they lost was the final, and the winner there, Joshua Cheptegei, is running the 10k only in Doha (Ethiopians took four of the next five places in the DL final).

Selemon Barega was the fastest man in the world last year and Telahun Bekele was the fastest man in the world this year. But neither of them could even make the podium at the World U20 champs last summer, a race that was won in 13:20.

They knew their strength was a fast race, so they worked together to push the pace and essentially turn this into a Diamond League race. The result was a winning time of 12:58 — the fastest since Eliud Kipchoge’s 12:52 in 2003 — and a 1-2-4 finish for Ethiopia.

Edris, meanwhile, proved he can win any sort of final. Two years ago, Edris won Worlds in 13:32. Tonight, the race was 34 seconds faster, and he was still the champ. He is some runner.

Quick Take: Where has Edris been the last two years?

In 2017, Edris did something no one had been able to do for six years: beat Mo Farah in a global championship final. If anyone was set to own the 5,000 in 2018 and 2019, it was Edris. Yet last year, Edris was fairly ordinary for most of the season — 13th at the Pre Classic, then 5th, 6th, 2nd, 4th in his other four DL races (though he did run 12:55 in the DL final).

This year, he was a total non factor on the circuit. He dropped out of the Ethiopian 10k champs in May, and was just 11th in the 3k in Oslo on June 13, behind the likes of Drew Hunter and Ben True. In his next race in Lausanne, he was even worse, finishing 18th in the 5k — almost 30 seconds off the win. He raced once more before Worlds and took a step in the right direction — 7:39 for second in a 3k race in Hungary on July 9 — but he wasn’t considered a major contender in Doha. Without his bye as defending champion, he would not have even made the Ethiopian team.

Edris said after the race that the last two years have been tough for him. He battled through an Achilles injury last year, and in 2019 he’s been fighting an abdomen injury. Even in Doha, Edris said he’s been sore — he felt the injury after the prelims, and had been getting treatment on it the last few days — but Edris fought through it to earn his second world title.

(Note: English portion of interview begins at 1:23)

Quick Take: A historic medal for Moh Ahmed

Ahmed never won an NCAA title at Wisconsin, but now he has a greater prize: a World Championship medal. It was a big medal for Canada, and for the Bowerman Track Club as well. Prior to today, Evan Jager was the only man to win an outdoor world or Olympic medal while running for BTC. Now Ahmed has joined the club, and with Matthew Centrowitz and Lopez Lomong still to come in Doha, that number could grow.

In terms of coach Jerry Schumacher’s “don’t race for two months” strategy, tonight was a mixed bag. Ahmed was clearly very fit after his rabbit job three weeks ago and all his work paid off with a World Championship medal. Steepler Courtney Frerichs, meanwhile, had just a sixth-place finish to show for two months of no racing.

Quick Take: Jakob Ingebrigtsen ran for gold

If you turned on the broadcast of this race with 300 meters remaining, you likely would have thought the gold was going to Ingebrigtsen. He made a big move, was starting to gap the field, and was running as smooth as ever, but the bear soon jumped on his back.

What happened? The others simply ran a better race than he’s ever run at 5000. The splits in this one were very similar to the splits in the 5000 at the London Diamond League meet earlier this year when Jakob got second in 13:02, with tonight’s splits being ever so slightly faster. 

Split Jakob in London Jakob in Doha Edris in Doha
1k 2:40.4 2:40.4 2:39.4
2k 5:17.6 5:16.9 5:15.4
3k 7:57.1 7:53.9 7:53.8
4k 10:36.2 10:34.2 10:34.6
5k 13:02.03

Even if you give Jakob the same close as he did in London for the last 1k, 2:25.9, he still wouldn’t have won gold as he would have run just 13:00.1 and placed third. 

Perhaps if he hadn’t gone for gold, he might have been able to get a bronze, but Jakob let it be known after the race he was going for broke.

“It was a really good race. It’s crazy being a part of this and running against those crazy fast guys going but I was going for gold and I gave it my best but I’m exhausted. It’s cool to be a part of this…We already made history with three brothers (making the final),” said Jakob.

Did inexperience cost Jakob? Why open a gap so early?

Embed from Getty Images

We caught up with Jakob’s dad and coach, Gjert, before he had spoken to his sons after the race. We asked him what his thoughts were and he said, “I’m a little surprised by my boys pushing the pace, but I’ll have to talk to them.” On paper, Jakob was not the best 5,000m runner in the field, but he is the best 1,500m runner. The only way you’re going to run away from the field early in the final lap and maintain it is if you are clearly superior than the field. Gauging how far and how long you can sprint is not an easy thing and it’s clear Ingebrigtsen did not get it right. Why not just sit, sit, sit, and see what you’ve got the final 100? That seems to be what his dad was wondering, but there was something beautiful about a 19-year-old Norwegian 1,500m runner briefly running away from the field with 250 meters to go.

Everyone should remember Mo Farah tried to run away from the world’s best in 2011 and came up short. He was unstoppable at the Worlds after that.

Quick Take: Paul Chelimo said that becoming a father took a toll on his training this year

Chelimo was very confident after winning his semifinal with just one shoe, and said that he didn’t make any big mistakes today. He put himself in the race with a lap to go, and said his foot felt fine after running barefoot in the semis. He just didn’t have the same close today as in his previous championship finals (he closed in 53.1 in Rio but just 61.19 tonight).

Chelimo hasn’t been in the same form in 2019 as he was the last few years, and there was one big difference in his life this year: he became a father on December 20, when his wife gave birth to daughter Arianna. For the first few months, Chelimo had help raising her as his mom came to the States from Kenya, but once his wife went back to school — she was gone from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. three days a week — he had to do a lot more of the work and said that impacted his training in March and April.

Of course, we saw mothers Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce win gold last night (Felix gave birth in 2018, Fraser-Pryce in 2017), so Chelimo didn’t want to use his baby as an excuse.

“It’s part of family,” Chelimo said. “It is what it is. I can’t have an excuse or anything. I gave it all out there. I was with those guys all the way. I can’t change anything.”

Quick Take: What a thrilling race to run — we really hope the Diamond League considers its decision to not support the event on the DL circuit in 2020

Today’s 5000 was very exciting and we weren’t the only ones to enjoy it.

Yes, we understand that watching 5000 time trials on the DL circuit isn’t the best thing in the world, but does the IAAF think a 3000 time trial is really that much better? The 5000 needs to be supported on the DL circuit so the top talents have a financial incentive to stay on the track and so we get great races like tonight.

How many other events in Doha will be like the men’s 5000: when the gun goes off, there are at least 7-8 legitimate potential gold medal contenders. We imagine at the start of this one, many would have ranked the following people all ahead of Edris in terms of gold medal chances: the two other Ethiopians, Chelimo, Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Moh Ahmed and Kimeli of Kenya.

Talk about the action on our fan forum / messageboard.

*MB: The Mo Farah slayer is back. Muktar Edris wins SENSATIONAL 5k. Pre would be proud of Jakob!!!
*MB: All Ingerbrigtsens no medals in 5k- go home devastated! There is a god
MB: Official 2019 IAAF Worlds Day 4 Discussion Thread 

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