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Breaking down Letesenbet Gidey’s incredible 10,000m world record

Gidey ran the race of her life on Tuesday in the Netherlands

On Tuesday, Letesenbet Gidey broke the 10,000m world record with an amazing 29:01.03 run at the Ethiopian Olympic Trials in Hengelo, the Netherlands. Her time beat the two-day-old world record of Sifan Hassan, who ran 29:06.82 on the same track in Hengelo on Sunday. Gidey’s run was unexpected and extremely entertaining, and there’s a lot more to her result than just the final time on the clock when she crossed the finish line. 

14th-fastest 5,000m

Gidey ran an enormous negative split in Hengelo. Her opening 5,000m was 14:42, well off record pace, but she ran the second half 24 seconds faster, closing in 14:18. The latter split would give her the fourth-fastest 5,000m result of 2021, and it would rank as the 14th-fastest 5,000m ever run.

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For some more context, Gidey’s second split on Tuesday would have won her 5,000m gold at the Rio Olympics and the 2019 world championships, and it is also five seconds faster than Shelby Houlihan‘s North American record of 14:23.92. Within that final 5,000m, Gidey’s closing mile was clocked at 4:26, a time that only eight Canadian women have ever hit in outdoor competition. 

Two days 

Hassan only had two days to enjoy her 10,000m world record. Her 29:06.82 run in Hengelo on Sunday lowered Almaz Ayana‘s world record of 29:17.45 from the Rio Olympic final. The closest anyone else had come to Ayana’s record in the past five years was Gudaf Tsegay, who ran 29:39.42 earlier this year. When Hassan smashed Ayana’s time, it was easy to imagine that her record would stand for years to come. 

It wasn’t until Gidey was well into her race at the Ethiopian Trials that it looked like Hassan’s record was in danger of being beaten, and even then, it was hard to believe that Gidey would be able to maintain such a blistering pace. She did just that, though, and crossed the line five seconds ahead of the time Hassan had set just two days earlier.  

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Fourth race 

The race in Hengelo was just the fourth 10,000m of Gidey’s career. Her previous three shots at the event came in 2019, and while she won silver at the world championships in Doha, Qatar, she had never come close to breaking 30 minutes. Her PB, which she set in that world championship race, was 30:21.23, more than a minute off Hassan’s world record. That all changed on Tuesday, and Gidey’s fourth 10,000m race turned into the run of her life. 

Three records

Gidey now owns three world records: the 10,000m record of 29:01.03, her 5,000m best of 14:06.62 that she set in Valencia in 2020 and the 15K road world record of 44:20 that she ran in the Netherlands in 2019. The 15K isn’t contested at the Olympics, but the other two events are, and if Gidey wasn’t a favourite to medal in both in Tokyo before, she certainly is now. 

Three remarkable seasons

Gidey’s 10,000m run is yet another huge result in a string tremendous seasons. In March 2019, she won bronze at the World Cross Country Championships in Denmark. Later that year, she won silver at the world championships in the 10,000m, and a couple of months after that, she set her 15K world record.

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The pandemic prevented her from racing much in 2020, but of the two events she entered, one of them resulted in a world record, this time in the 5,000m. Finally, this year she has also only raced twice, and once again, one of those runs is a world record. She’ll have more opportunities to compete in the coming months, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if she continues to lay down some big wins.