Gudaf Tsegay Wins Classic 5,000 at 2023 London DL as Alicia Monson (14:19) Smashes American Record

With world champion Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, Olympic champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, and world cross country champion Beatrice Chebet of Kenya on the start line, the women’s 5,000 meters at Sunday’s London Diamond League promised to be one of the highlights of the meet. It more than lived up to expectations.

For the first time in history, five women broke 14:20 in the same race as Tsegay outkicked everyone to win in 14:12.29 (#4 all-time) to Chebet’s 14:12.92 (#7 all-time) and Hassan’s 14:13.42 (#9 all-time). Behind them, 18-year-old world U20 champ Medina Eisa of Ethiopia ran 14:16.54 to crush the world U20 record (Tirunesh Dibaba had the previous mark at 14:30.88) while Alicia Monson bravely hung onto the fast pace until the final lap, running 14:19.45 to break Shelby Houlihan‘s 14:23.92 American record and become the first American woman under 14:20.

The target pace for both the pacemakers and the wavelights was Hellen Obiri’s 14:20.36 meeting record from 2019. After the initial fighting for position off the line, Tsegay, Hassan, and Chebet all found themselves immediately behind the pacers in that order 400m into the race. There was not too much action in the first few kilometers of the race, and the pacemaking was immaculate as the leaders went through 2:51 for the first kilometer and 5:42 through 2,000m, which was directly on pace for the meeting record. The faster pace did drop a majority of the field as the leaders went through 3,000m at 8:35, Monson doing her best to hang onto the group.

Kevin Morris photo

After another 400m, five women were left in the first pack: Tsegay, Hassan, Chebet, Eisa, and Monson. Once the pacers stepped off, the pace did not slow so much, as the front pack went from running 68.5 seconds per lap to 69.1 seconds per lap. Tsegay led once the pacers stepped off, but Hassan took the lead with a mile to go, and continued to hold the pace for the next three laps as the five women in the first pack stayed together. The leaders hit the bell at 13:12 in the order of Hassan, Tsegay, Chebet, Eisa, Monson.

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Tsegay and Hassan were able to pull away from the rest of the field with 250m to go, as Eisa and Monson really dropped off the hot pace. The positions of the field did not change until the final straightaway, as Tsegay threw in a devastating last 100m of 14.0 seconds compared to Hassan’s 15.3 to win in 14:12.29 (60.3 last lap for Tsegay). Chebet looked a sure third placer with 200m to go, but she also kicked hard in the final straightaway to overtake Hassan and claim second in a PB of almost 22 seconds. Chebet was stunned as much as anyone else with this huge PB, “I’m so happy but very confused, I didn’t expect it. 14:12 from 14:34 is an amazing result.”

American Elly Henes also ran a five-second pb of 14:47.15 to finish 11th and move to #9 on the all-time US list. Monson’s OAC teammate Josette Andrews was 16th in 15:04.39.


Quick Take: This was the deepest 5,000m race of all time

The front five in the first pack all set PBs as this race set the record for the most women under 14:20 in one race with five. The previous record was set at three women, which took place on two separate occasions. The first time was in Faith Kipyegon’s world record in Paris this past June. The second time was at the FBK Games in Hengelo in 2021. One commonality between today and the FBK games in 2021? Gudaf Tsegay won both races. 

Quick Take: World Championships 5,000m will be a good one

The women’s 5,000m reached new heights earlier this year with Faith Kipyegon breaking the world record in Paris. Kipyegon has stated she will be going for the double in the 1500m and 5,000m. Letesenbet Gidey, who was the previous 5,000m WR holder before Kipyegon, proved she’s in good form in 2023 only finishing two seconds back of Kipyegon in Paris. Those two women, coupled with the top women in today’s field will definitely produce a top quality race.

In the past, the Ethiopian federation has been reluctant to double its athletes at global championships in order to give people the best chance of medaling in one event. But Tsegay won the Ethiopian 10,000 trials and would not be taking anyone’s spot in the 5,000 since she has the bye as world champion. (She also doubled in the 1500/5000 at Worlds last year). After today’s race, Tsegay said that she will “decide about the 5,000 or 10,000 closer to world championships” but also said the double is on the table.

The final in Budapest will be interesting in how it plays out, as last year the winning time was 14:46. That being said, the landscape of the women’s 5,000m is very different this year than last. For the entirety of last year, only one woman broke 14:20 over 5,000m. This year, eight have done it. With the class of the field being this fast this year, it would not be surprising to see a quicker race than the 14:46 from last year or the 14:36 winning time from Tokyo.

Quick Take: Alicia Monson has put together a historic 2023 campaign

Alicia Monson was one of America’s best distance runners in 2021 and 2022 but has gone supernova in 2023 in a record-breaking campaign reminiscent of the one Grant Fisher put together last year on the men’s side. It began in February at the Millrose Games, when Monson ran 8:25.05 to set the American record at 3,000 meters (the race was indoors, but no US woman has run faster, indoors or out). A month later, she ran 30:03.82 in California to break Molly Huddle‘s 10,000 AR, and now she has the 5,000 as well, taking down Shelby Houlihan’s 14:23.92 set in Portland during the COVID summer of 2020. It’s pretty remarkable to be able to break American records in three distances during an entire career but for Monson to do it all in the span of six months is truly impressive running.

As good as Monson has been this year, however, she won’t be satisfied with just breaking records. She has yet to win a US track title, finishing second behind Elise Cranny at USAs in the 5,000 and 10,000 this year. Winning a medal is another long-term goal, but today’s race showed just how difficult that will be as Monson gave a monster effort but still finished more than seven seconds behind the win. Between Tsegay, Chebet, Hassan, Kipyegon, Gidey, and now Eisa, there is a ton of talent in this event right now. A more realistic goal for Monson at Worlds next month would be to match or better the best finish by a US woman in the 5,000 at Worlds — 6th by Huddle in 2013 — but even that will be tough.

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