Jakob Ingebrigtsen to Yared Nuguse: “Stick to Me as Long as You Can and We’ll Get You Sub-3:46”By Jonathan Gault
EUGENE, Ore. — The 2023 Prefontaine Classic begins tomorrow at Hayward Field, and as usual the men’s Bowerman Mile is one of the most heavily-anticipated events. Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen enters the race fresh off a world record at 2000 meters in Brussels and the pace should be hot: Erik Sowinski has been assigned to lead the field through 800 meters in 1:51.5 (that’s 3:44.30 mile pace — not far off the 3:43.13 world record). Ingebrigtsen’s desire to push the pace in Diamond Leagues has led to fast times all season long — there have been 17 sub-3:30’s in 2023, every single one of them in races featuring Ingebrigtsen — and both Ingebrigtsen and the rest of the field expect that to continue on Saturday.
None other than Julia Webb — wife of current American mile record holder Alan Webb — has suggested that Alan’s 3:46.91 AR could be under threat on Saturday, and Nuguse, who ran 3:47.38 in his first mile of the season at the Millrose Games on February 11 agrees.
“If the race goes out nearly anywhere as fast as any other Diamond League, I’m sure that that’s something that could be managed,” said Nuguse at the pre-race press conference on Friday morning.
Ingebrigtsen, seated to Nuguse’s right, couldn’t resist piping up. We all know who has been pushing the pace in this year’s Diamond League races.
“What do you mean by ‘the race’?” said Ingebrigtsen, revealing a wry smile. “If ‘the race’ goes out that fast?”
Nuguse went on to say that he expects a fast race and that his 3:47 indoors showed he has a shot to break the AR on the right day.
Ingebrigtsen interjected again.
“Stick to me as long as you can, and we’ll get you sub-3:46,” Ingebrigtsen said.
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Later, Nuguse told LetsRun he plans on sticking with Ingebrigtsen for a while. The entire mile, in fact.
“I’m going to stick with him no matter what,” said Nuguse, who is 0-3 lifetime against Ingebrigtsen but has won his last two Diamond League races. “Even beyond the time, I still want to win.”
Ingebrigtsen, never lacking in confidence, is fully embracing the role he plays on the circuit. This is, after all, the same man who famously declared “I am the pacemaker” after LetsRun’s Robert Johnson asked him in July whether he’d consider requesting a race with zero pacemakers in a Diamond League to simulate championship conditions.
On Friday, he was asked by moderator Paul Swangard what he would do after pacing the mile on Saturday.
“I’ll probably pace [the 3000] Sunday,” Ingebrigtsen said.
That “I am the pacemaker” approach has proved unbeatable on the circuit: 10 wins from 10 Diamond League races over the past two years, with fast times delivered at a frequency we haven’t seen since the days of Hicham El Guerrouj. It has not been as successful in global finals — Jake Wightman and Josh Kerr were both very grateful for Ingebrigtsen’s pacing work when they beat him to win world titles in 2022 and 2023. Ingebrigtsen must wait 11 months, until the Paris Olympics, to address that deficiency. But he’ll get one last chance to chase a fast time tomorrow in Eugene.
How fast will the Bowerman Mile go? “It all depends if we can get lucky for a couple laps”
Considering the quick pace requested through 800 (presumably by Ingebrigtsen), it’s not outrageous to wonder whether El Guerrouj’s 3:43.13 world record, which has stood since 1999, could go on Saturday. 1:51.5 is 3:44.30 mile pace and in the two world records he has broken this year, at 2000m and two miles, Ingebrigtsen has gone out slower than record pace before closing hard. But no one is billing this as a world record attempt — not organizers, and not Ingebrigtsen himself.
“I think if he was, he’d say something by now,” Nuguse said.
LetsRun did not get the chance to spefically ask Ingebrigtsen about whether he is targeting El Guerrouj’s record, but if Ingebrigtsen is to even come close, he will need good conditions. The weather will be hot — mid-80s by the 1:50 p.m. PT start time on Saturday — but that isn’t as important in a race that lasts less than four minutes. The wind is the bigger issue, and Ingebrigtsen knows all about that in Eugene. He has been racing at Hayward Field since 2017, when, at 16, Ingebrigtsen became the youngest man in history to break 4:00. Including prelims, Ingebrigtsen has raced a total of seven times at the new Hayward Field (plus two more at the old version) and owns the stadium record for the mile at 3:47.24 — the fastest outdoor mile ever run on US soil. That experience has taught him to temper expectations.
“Hayward Field is a difficult track to manage and to run fast – especially in the distance events,” Ingebrigtsen said. “With 300m to go, there’s always headwind so that can be a little bit tricky. So it all depends on if we can get lucky for a couple of laps. If not, we’re going to have a good race on our hands. We’re going to have to be able to run fast to win.”
Nuguse bullish on American record chances
Nuguse is as laid-back as they come and not prone to boasting. Which means that when he starts talking about specific times, you pay attention. Nuguse has been running fast all year long (that 3:47 mile at Millrose, followed by four times of 3:30 or faster in the 1500 this summer) and thinks he has a strong chance to break his third American record of 2023 (or fourth, depending on whether you recognize Bernard Lagat‘s 3:27.40 in the 1500).
“I do feel really confident in my ability to go for it in this race, this last race of the season, and see if I can add more one more American record to my resume,” Nuguse said. “…My fitness has just never been in doubt this whole year, honestly. Especially after Zurich, I felt great there. It’s all there. It’s just about making sure I’m in the right position, the right place I want to be in that race to make it happen.”
Nuguse’s 2023 campaign will go down as one of the greatest ever by an American miler. And while his 3:47 at Millrose suggested he might be capable of something special this season, the consistency of his performances has been staggering. He has run 13 races, and his “worst” performance came at Worlds in Budapest, where he finished 5th — the best result by an American 1500 runner since Matthew Centrowitz won Olympic gold in 2016. Truly, he has not had a bad race all year.
“If I just run 3:46 tomorrow, it’s like wow, I’ve basically done pretty much the same thing for seven months straight, which is just crazy,” Nuguse said.
Nuguse is a self-described nerd, but not about track. He didn’t know much about Webb, the man he is chasing, until this year, and says he still has never watched Webb’s legendary 3:53.43 from the 2001 Pre Classic.
“Did he have one of the collegiate records?” Nuguse said. “I heard his name around, but I didn’t really look into him too much or really know too much about him until this year. Like, oh, he has the American record that I might want to go for.”
When Webb ran that 3:53, Nuguse was four days away from his second birthday. And while Nuguse hesitated in calling Webb’s American record “old,” he would not be wrong to do so. Webb ran 3:46.91 in 2007, well before Wavelights and super shoes. It’s now one of the oldest American distance records on the book. By record standards, 16 years is ancient — though it may not live to see 17.
“It’s just amazing that he did what he did so long ago and it’s been able to withstand the test of time,” Nuguse said.
Discuss the 2023 Bowerman Mile on the LetsRun messageboard: MB “Stick to me as long as you can and you’ll get your 3:46,” Jakob to Nuguse
Correction: The initial version of this story said Jakob Ingebrigtsen told Nuguse, “stick to me as long as you can and you’ll get yourself 3:46.” Ingebrigtsen actually said “stick to me as long as you can and we’ll get you :46.”