Track and Field Brings the Heat During Quarantine

An overview of track and field records set during quarantine.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cover Image
By Sunny Bok

Despite the cancellation of nearly all spring and summer track seasons this year, track athletes everywhere still strove to achieve great feats. Here’s a look at the most notable records set this year in track and field:

Joshua Cheptegei: Men’s 5000-meter Run World Record

At only 23 years old, Ugandan runner Joshua Cheptegei set a 5000-meter run record of 12:35.36, which had previously stood for 16 years, in Monaco on August 14. Cheptegei ran 60-second laps throughout almost the entirety of the race, stunning all with his seemingly effortless strides. In his second to last lap, he even split an astounding 59.97 seconds, electrifying the audience because they knew that it would be close. On the last lap, Cheptegei maintained the energy and effortless stride that would lead him to eventually break the record. After finishing the race, Cheptegei did not show the slightest bit of tiredness, a testament to his strength and fitness-level. He is now aiming to break the 10000-meter record, which he made clear is definitely within reach.

Shelby Houlihan: Women’s 5000-meter Run North American Record

American middle-distance runner Shelby Houlihan proved why she is considered one of the world’s best 5000-meter runners when she smashed her own record set in 2018 by over 10 seconds with an impressive time of 14:23.92 in Oregon on July 11. Houlihan managed to outsprint some of the best distance other competitors in her blistering 61-second last lap. This record moves Houlihan into 12th place on the women’s 5000-meter all-time runs list and second on the American women’s 5000-meter all-time runs list. While we do not yet know whether Houlihan will be competing in the 5000-meter race at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, we are certain that she will continue to amaze and inspire runners everywhere.

Mohammed Ahmed: Men’s 5000-meter Run North American Record

Similar to Houlihan, Canadian long-distance runner Mohammed Ahmed broke his own 5000-meter record by over 10 seconds in Oregon on July 11. His incredible time of 12:47.20 places him 10th on the men’s 5000-meter all-time runs list. “With two laps to go, the clock said 10:49 and I just thought, ‘you can run two [minutes] flat [for the final 800 meters].’ With 200 meters to go, I just tried to blast it as hard as I could,” Ahmed remarked after his race. His impressive accomplishment will keep the running community excited for what he will achieve at the 2021 Olympic Games and beyond.

Jakob Ingebrigtsen: Men’s 1500-meter Run European Record

Despite only being 19 years old, Norwegian runner Jakob Ingebrigsten has already made quite an impact on the professional running scene. Having set multiple national and junior world records, he has now added a European record to his name. Despite having to race with the chase pack for the majority of the race, Ingebrigtsen managed to close the race hard, almost chasing down his rival and this year’s world 1500-meter run leader, Kenyan runner Timothy Cheruiyot, with a lap to go on July 11 in Monaco. In his final lap, Ingebrigtsen closed in 54.5 seconds, averaging 55.65-second laps throughout the race. It is clear that with the support of his father and two brothers, all of whom are established runners themselves, he has been training hard and is ready for what’s to come.

Rheinhardt Harrison: Sophomore Boys’ Mile National Record

Rheinhardt Harrison has had a more productive quarantine than most rising juniors. The 16-year-old American high school runner from Nease High School in Florida ran an incredible 4:01.34 mile in Nashville on August 15, shattering the previous record of 4:03.29—set by Edward Cheserek back in 2011. Harrison placed seventh among nine professional athletes, splitting 62 seconds, 60 seconds, and 61 seconds for the first three laps and closing strongly with a sub-60 second final lap. Harrison is familiar with the art of breaking records; when he was just 10 years old, he set the world record for his age group at the Alexandria’s Running Festival half marathon, running 1:35:02. Only 11 high school athletes have run the mile in under four minutes since 1964; it would not be surprising if Harrison became the 12th to do so this year.

Even during these uncertain times, professional and amateur athletes alike have found ways to get the job done. As we enter the Olympic year, we can expect that the athletes will keep grinding, the records will keep falling, and history will keep being made because one thing is clear: track and field won’t be stopping anytime soon.