On Saturday Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, 24, ran two seconds under the old World Championship record, smashed her own Canadian record by three seconds and didn’t win a World Championship medal. That’s right–a 3:56.12 didn’t get her a medal. It didn’t even get her fourth–it landed her in sixth position.
The score board following this race was littered with championship, area and national records, along with personal bests for nearly every runner in the field. It was the fastest women’s 1,500m race in history, and a Canadian was a contender.
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Still in shock. I'm at a loss for words, but ironically I can't shut up about it. I ran 3:56.1 and came *6th* at Worlds. Yes, I want a medal, I want to win, but my primary commitment has always been to push my limits and find out how fast *I* can get myself around a track. And damn, do I feel lucky to be a part of a class of women that makes that goal easier to achieve, even if it means that they also make it more difficult to medal. The competition in the 1500m is fierce right now and everyone is stepping up to run faster than we would have if we were in another era. I for one am all for it. Game on! #LikeaG #FamilyYoung #nike #justdoit 📸: @geofflowe
The five-time Canadian record-holder says that she had no idea how fast she was running on Saturday. “I didn’t look at the clock once. I was on the very outside (hip number 12), so I led for the first 200m. I wanted to get out quickly so I wasn’t running wide or at the very back.” From there, Sifan Hassan (the eventual champion) took over and injected some speed into the pace.
Stafford stayed on the rail for the rest of the race, only moving out with 200m to go. “I really believed I had a chance at a medal, even 200m from the finish. But once I was into the homestretch, I knew I didn’t have it. The top three were too far gone. But then I saw the clock and couldn’t believe how fast the race was.”
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Yeah, we don't know what just happened either. So I broke the World Championship record by over 2 seconds… Unfortunately so did the 5 women in front of me. 3:56. Wot. That's a pretty good consolation prize. Lots of people to thank for this crazy year, but I'll start with these guys. Thank you Laura, Andy, and Jemma for taking a chance on me. Xo – G
Hassan finished in 3:51, Faith Kipyegon was second in a Kenyan national record of 3:54.22 and third place went to Gudaf Tesgay in a personal best of 3:54.38. Shelby Houlihan ran an American record for fourth (3:54.99) and DeBues-Stafford’s training partner, Laura Muir, a season’s best of 3:55.76 for fifth.
American Jenny Simpson finished eighth in the race, but still ran a season’s best of 3:58.42. DeBues-Stafford describes Simpson as a catalyst for this age of women’s middle-distance running. “She was part of the first class of women who were running under four minutes for the 1,500m consistently. She certainly has helped raise the bar in the event. There were so many good women in this race and that’s partly because of women like Jenny.” Simpson has been a staple on the scene for years, winning her World Championship medal (a gold) in 2011. She medalled again at the 2013 and 2017 World Championships and the 2016 Olympics.
DeBues-Stafford is back in Glasgow for a couple of days before flying home to Toronto for Thanksgiving. “I’m going to spend 10 days at home and see my family. I’ll take about two weeks of time off [of training] before getting back into easy running. I won’t start sessions until after about a week of easy work.”
DeBues-Stafford isn’t exactly sure what her road to Tokyo looks like. “Andy [her coach] likes to plan things as we go. We’ll certainly do a couple of training camps in South Africa in the fall and winter but I’m not sure about the details.” For now DeBues-Stafford is focused on recovering from a monster season that included 10 months of racing, five Canadian records, getting married and a move across the world.