Faith Kipyegon Runs 3:49.11 to Smash Women’s 1500m World Record in Florence

(Our recap of the rest of the 2023 Florence Diamond League is here: 2023 Florence DL Recap: 13 Men Break 13:00 as Fred Kerley Kerley Keeps Rolling)

The greatest women’s 1500-meter runner of all time is now the fastest 1500-meter runner of all time.

Faith Kipyegon, the two-time Olympic and two-time world champion, sprinted her way into the history books on Friday night at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea in Florence, Italy, running 3:49.11 to smash Genzebe Dibaba’s world record of 3:50.07 set in 2015. Kipyegon, who was paced by Americans Brooke Feldmeier and Sage Hurta-Klecker, ran a big negative split: she hit 800 in 2:04.1 (WR pace is 2:02.7) but was sensational over the final two laps, running her last 800 in 2:00.6, her last 400 in 58.9, and her last 200 in 29.2.

Before tonight, Kipyegon was the second-fastest woman in history at 3:50.37. Now she stands alone as the world record holder and the only woman in history to break 3:50.

The Race

Faith Kipyegon Wins the Women’s 1500m in a new World Record of 3:49.11  MATTHEW QUINE FOR DIAMOND LEAGUE AG FOR DIAMOND LEAGUE AG

From the gun, Faith Kipyegon looked serious and went straight to business as she immediately got on the heels of the two pacers, Brooke Feldmeier and Sage Hurta-Klecker. The pacing lights were set at an obscure time of 3:51.15, neither the previous WR of 3:50.07 nor Kipyegon’s previous PB of 3:50.37. That being said, Kipyegon went through 400m in 62.8, with Laura Muir and Jessica Hull at her heels. By 600m, Kipyegon created a gap between her and the other top contenders, and she was sticking to Hurta-Klecker like glue. Tasked with pacing through 800m in 2:04, the pacing was very good by the Americans as the 800m split was 2:04.00 by Hurta-Klecker with Kipyegon right on her heels at 2:04.1.

However, there was a lot of work for Kipyegon to do to break the world record, especially considering she was by herself from 900m onwards. Kipyegon hit the bell at 2:50.2. She caught the 3:51 pacing lights at 1200 and the rest of the race was quite the spectacle, as Kipyegon sprinted away from the pacing lights with 200m to go, lengthening her gap from the green lights as she rounded the turn and entered the home straightaway. The loud Italian crowd got behind her as she powered to the new world record of 3:49.11, closing the last lap in a blistering 58.91.

Kipyegon’s time of 3:49.11 equates to approximately a 4:07.44 mile, which is almost a full FIVE seconds faster than the current women’s mile record set by Sifan Hassan in Monaco in 2019.

Behind Kipyegon, Laura Muir was second in 3:57.09. Jessica Hull’s brave early running was rewarded in third as she SMASHED her own Australian record of 3:58.81 by running 3:57.29. No one else broke four as Irish record holder Ciara Mageean was fourth in 4:00.95.

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Watch the race below. International visitors click here.

Results and analysis

1. Faith KIPYEGON 10 JAN 1994 KEN 3:49.11 WR*, AR
2. Laura MUIR 09 MAY 1993 GBR 3:57.09
3. Jessica HULL 22 OCT 1996 AUS 3:57.29 AR
4. Ciara MAGEEAN 12 MAR 1992 IRL 4:00.95
5. Axumawit EMBAYE 18 OCT 1994 ETH 4:00.98
6. Abbey CALDWELL 03 JUL 2001 AUS 4:01.34
7. Josette ANDREWS 15 DEC 1995 USA 4:01.39
8. Cory Ann MCGEE 29 MAY 1992 USA 4:01.45
9. Sintayehu VISSA 29 JUL 1996 ITA 4:01.98
10. Linden HALL 20 JUN 1991 AUS 4:02.43
11. Ludovica CAVALLI 20 DEC 2000 ITA 4:03.04
12. Gabriela DEBUES-STAFFORD 13 SEP 1995 CAN 4:03.64
13. Federica DEL BUONO 12 DEC 1994 ITA 4:05.09
14. Marta GARCÍA 01 JAN 1998 ESP 4:07.22

Leader to leader Splits 62.37 (1st lap), 61.63 (2nd lap), 61.28 (3rd lap), 58.81 (last lap).

400 – Feldmeier-62.37
800 – Hurta-Klecker 2:04.00
1200 – Kipyegon – 3:05.28

Quick Take: The women’s 1500 has its John Walker moment

New Zealand’s John Walker won the Olympic 1500 title in 1976, but among running fans he is most widely known for becoming the first human to run the mile in under 3:50. Nearly 50 years after he first accomplished the feat, Walker is indelibly linked with the achievement and for helping push middle-distance running into a new dimension.

Kipyegon’s 3:49.11 may be viewed similarly by track fans 50 years from now. The women’s 1500 world record has not changed much over time: this was just the third time in the last 42 years that it has been broken (Qu Yunxia in 1993, Dibaba in 2015), so for Kipyegon to take almost a full second off the record is a monumental accomplishment. And considering Dibaba is the only other woman in the last 25 years to have run within two seconds of Kipyegon’s time tonight, the new record could stand for quite some time.

Quick Take: Faith rewarded

Kipyegon has been thinking about this record for a while now, and you could see from her celebrations – which began with Kipyegon pointing at the clock just after it flashed the record time – that this one meant a lot to her. Two years ago in Monaco, Kipyegon ran 3:51.07 to miss the WR by a second. Last year, she came even closer, running 3:50.37 in Monaco to move to #2 all-time. Tonight, all the pieces came together and Kipyegon was rewarded with the world record.

In mixed zones through the years, it is clear how much respect the other women in this event have for Kipyegon, and the runners in Florence tonight got to show that, each of them congratulating her before gathering together for a group picture. It was a nice moment, especially given the dirty history of the women’s 1500-meter world record.

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Before Kipyegon, the 1500 WR belonged to Genzebe Dibaba, whom many regard with suspicion given Spanish police found EPO in a raid on the hotel of her coach Jama Aden in 2016. Although it should be pointed out neither Dibaba nor Aden was ever punished for the incident and Aden was acquitted in Spanish court last year after being charged with supplying banned substances to an athlete. Before Dibaba, the record belonged to China’s Qu Yunxia (part of the notorious “Ma’s Army” under coach Ma Junren), and before her, a series of East German and Soviet athletes in the 1970s and 1980s.

In Kipyegon, finally, women’s 1500-meter runners have someone to believe in, at least judged by the way the rest of the field celebrated with her tonight. Kipyegon’s home country of Kenya, obviously, is in the midst of a major doping crisis. But Kipyegon has never been linked to drugs, she’s been performing at a high level for over a decade (she was the World Youth champ way back in 2011), and both Kipyegon and her coach Patrick Sang have strong reputations in the sport. There’s a better chance the women’s 1500 record is clean right now than any point in the last 50 years.

Quick Take: Here’s why the lights were set for 3:51.15

We’ve seen in the past that some athletes run their best when they are chasing something down over the final lap or two rather than trying to hold on to the record pace. And that’s the sort of situation Kipyegon was trying to create tonight. We texted her agent Valentijn Trouw to see why they set the lights at 3:51.15 pace instead of WR pace. Here’s what he told us:

“At times, it’s nice to create a situation in which the record can come, without forcing it,” Trouw wrote.

That’s exactly what happened. Following the lights got Kipyegon to the bell at 2:50.2, and from there she was free to slam it home and chase the record if she was still feeling good – which she evidently was.

Quick Take: Faith Kipyegon has completed the 1500 meters

With two Olympic and two world titles and the second-fastest time in history (3:50.37), Kipyegon was already the 1500m GOAT before this race. The only thing missing on her resume was the world record, and now she has that as well. At this point, we’re beyond the 1500 and have to start wondering where Kipyegon ranks among the greatest female distance runners ever, regardless of event.

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Our recap of the rest of the 2023 Florence Diamond League is here: 2023 Florence DL Recap: 13 Men Break 13:00 as Fred Kerley Kerley Keeps Rolling

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