Faith Kipyegon assessed

Last summer, Faith Kipyegon set three world records in a 7 week period – 2 in 8 days

1500m (Florence) 3:49.11

5000m (Paris) 14:05.20

1 mile (Monaco) 4:07.64

I was privileged to be in the stadium each time and speak to Faith afterwards.  After the final world record of the summer in Monaco, she told me: “It was a blessing to do this with these ladies. I can see that they are all happy for me, and it is so emotional. It is a blessing, it just does not happen every time you run. I have to say ‘thank God for this’. I really enjoyed the race. I wanted to chase the world record, and thank God, it was amazing. When I started this season, my goal was to just break the 1500 WR. That was in my head and in my mind. Thank God I did also the 1 mile and the 5000”.

Faith Kipyegon, photo by Diamond League AG

I had spoken to her in Florence the day before the 1500m race when she told me she was confident that she could break the world record for 1500m in 2023, but definitely not in Florence – then she went out and did it.

So much has been written about Faith’s achievement and by people who know more than me.  The assessment of Faith in this piece comes not from me but from two athletes who were in the races.  It reminds me of an occasion when I heard Kriss Akabusi ask if he had ever run with Ed Moses.  Akabusi surprised the questioner by saying, “No, I have never run with Ed Moses,” before adding “, But I have run behind him many times!”

Ciara Mageean was in the mile and 1500m world record races, as well as following Faith in Budapest and the Diamond League final. Her assessment of Faith is: “The Women’s 1500 is being brought into a whole new realm of times and places, and I do believe that’s huge thanks to Faith and what she’s doing up at the front. She’s bringing all the rest of us with us and raising the bar of what we expect of ourselves and what you need to do whenever you’re coming to major champs. I’ve said before that it’s tough being in a generation of the women’s 1500 metres being just as spectacular as it is because the times that I’m running would have won major medals in the past.

A jubilant Ciara Mageean, who won the Memorial Van Damme 1,500m in 3;56.63 PB/NR on 2 September 2022, photo by Diamond League AG

“I look at athletes I really look up to like Jenny Simpson, who medalled at major champs with a really good astute tactical mindset, when she may not have been the fastest athlete in the race, and she was able to come out of championships with major medals. But I wonder if those days are gone because now we have athletes that can front run a low 3:50s or sub 3:50 if that is required. And so it is tough, but I think it’s a huge honour to be able to get out there and race against an athlete who I quite likely think will be going down as the greatest of all time – to be able to be on the track the same day that you see world records fall like that. Faith is an amazing woman, a fantastic athlete and a fantastic person. You’ll cool down after running, major champs with her and she’s chatting away to you and she’ll say ‘oh fantastic, you ran a national record’ and I’m looking wondering ‘like at what point did you think to look at my name on the board’.

Faith Kipyegon, Budapest 2023, photo by World Athletics

“She’s just such a genuine person. So, I feel very fortunate to be out there racing against her. I think it says a lot that all of our field, all the women’s 1500 field, I can guarantee you that we’re all watching her race in the 5Ks. And we’re screaming at her every step of the way. And she’s our competitor. And so I think it says a lot. And I think that’s the beauty of sport. And I’ve kind of spoken to other people about it. They’re like ‘you can’t be friends with the people you compete against’. I beg to differ because we’re all fierce competitors when we toe the line, but we have the utmost respect for one another, and nobody can quite understand the journey that each of us is on like the other girls that we’re shoulder to shoulder on that line. I think it’s a huge honour to race against Faith, and I’m excited to see what’s in the future for her because it’s a beauty to behold”.

Faith Kipyegon, Mondo Duplantis and Desire Inglander, photo by Diamond League

Laura Muir was in all three 2023 World Record races. Laura jokes: “I feel that I am a world record lucky charm because I was in all three of Faith’s 2023 races, Dibaba’s 2015 record in Monaco, and Tsegay’s world record in was it 2021.

“It’s crazy. I think it was expected in Monaco but not so much in Florence and Paris. I think even Faith said she was a bit surprised at Florence and Paris. To do it in Florence, in the first race of the season, was pretty impressive. To get three world records in – was it a month – is pretty special. And it was amazing to be part of all three events. But it was lovely to see her get those records and to be able to celebrate with her – particularly in Florence and Monaco, which were really nice. But it makes everyone else’s job harder. But I think at the end of my career, to be able to say that I’ve been in several world record races will be really nice”.

Laura Muir, Zurich DL, photo by Diamond League AG

Laura also addressed the issue of how you run against her and do you accept running for second place: “I did try to run with her in Florence – going through 800 in about 2:04. I still got second in 3:57, but I think I could have run faster if I had eased off a bit earlier in the race. In Monaco, I just ran my own race, and that went very well. It is hard because you don’t ever want to admit that you’re going to lose, but with what Faith is doing, it is kind of hard to argue with that. It’s good to be constant and to try to visualise winning but also have perspective and run the race that’s going to suit you best and produce the best performance for yourself. Sometimes that means not going with the pace”.

What is very noticeable is not just how good Faith is and how much Laura and Ciara admire her but the genuine warmth and friendship between Faith and her main rivals.