The events were weird. The spectators were weirder. But there was a real, honest-to-goodness track meet inside empty Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi and Bislett Stadium in Oslo, Norway, on Thursday night.
And it featured an incredible 4:50.04 European record in the 2,000m by 19-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who remains a remarkable talent, global pandemic or not.
In an impressive display of fitness, 19-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen ran 4:50.01 to break the European 2000m record of 4:51.39 held by Steve Cram — who also happened to be doing the commentary for this race on the international feed.
Technically, this event was one race — Ingebrigtsen and his brothers competing in Oslo against Timothy Cheruiyot, Elijah Manangoi, and Edwin Melly in Nairobi — but it quickly became clear that this was two completely different events, and the results should be judged accordingly.
Cheruiyot said: “We don’t have time for recovery. We were using this virtual race as part of our preparations for upcoming Diamond League races and hope to compete in Monaco Diamond League in August.”
The Ingebrigtsens were competing under pristine conditions at sea level Oslo — 73 degrees, partly cloudy — and also had the added benefit of Wavelight pacing technology (plus human pacers) while Team Cheruiyot faced damp, rainy conditions (63 F), no Wavelight, and 5,800 feet of altitude. Wavelight is a series of lights circling the inside of lane 1 on the rail that moves at the correct pace.
It didn’t help that the Kenyans’ pacer, Timothy Sein, towed them through 400m in a ludicrous 54.57. They slowed significantly for the second lap (60.99), at which point Manangoi was already starting to fade and the race between the teams was effectively over.
The Ingebrigtsens, meanwhile, with the benefit of Wavelight pacing technology, hit 400 in a much more sensible 58.91. The two teams recorded near-identical splits at 1200 — 2:57.15 for Cheruiyot, the only racer left up front for his team; 2:57.60 for the Ingebrigtsens, with Jakob and Henrik still up there as Filip, doubling back from a 1k just 45 minutes earlier, began to fade.
But Cheruiyot was slowing significantly (61.59 for the previous 400) while the Ingebrigtsens continued to cruise along (59.31). This was only going to end one way.
Jakob continued to look incredibly smooth, passing 1,600 in 3:55.85 (Cheruiyot came through in 4:01.04, with Melly and Manangoi well back), and it was clear he had plenty left in the tank, quickly gaping older brother Henrik and streaking away to a 4:50.01 final time thanks to a 54.16 last lap. Henrik (4:53.72) and Filip (4:56.91) trickled in behind to give Team Ingebrigtsen a comfortable win.
Cheruiyot (5:03.05) led the way for Team Cheruiyot, with Melly (5:13.12) second and Manangoi — perhaps not back to full fitness following the ankle stress fracture that kept him out of the 2019 Worlds — coming last in 5:18.63.