Gabriela DeBues-Stafford has broken three Canadian record in as many races in 2019. The 23-year-old runner is having her best year yet and solidifying herself as one of Canada’s fastest-ever runners. Despite her Canadian dominance, she’s still relatively unknown on the international scene, but that started to change yesterday.
Stafford ran a 14:51.59 to set a new Canadian 5,000m record and finish fourth at the Stockholm Diamond League. She made a big push with 300m to go that landed herself in the lead and track fans took notice. It’s rare to see a Canadian that strong in a longer distance event. DeBues-Stafford said, “Truthfully I was just trying to get out of trouble, I didn’t think I would land myself in the lead.”
Before Thursday’s race the runner didn’t event have an outdoor 5,000m time to her name, the only 5,000m race she’d ever run was indoors in early January of this year when she also broke that Canadian record. “I felt like I belonged in the race on Thursday, like I’d earned my spot, but I certainly still felt like an underdog. I didn’t have a time next to my name on the start list and all of the other women I was racing are very well established.”
DeBues-Stafford knew that no one expected much of her in Stockholm. “I knew if things went well I could get the Canadian record, but no one was watching for me in that race. The 5,000m in Glasgow where I set the indoor record was essentially a time trial, all I had to do was chase Laura [Muir]. But the Diamond League is a more dynamic race, so it felt different. I wanted to run the best race I could and make sure the indoor 5,000m wasn’t a fluke.”
It certainly wasn’t a fluke and people have certainly taken notice of DeBues-Stafford. Her next big goal is to break four minutes for the 1,500m, something no Canadian woman has ever done. “I’m just going to keep competing and the time will come. That’s essentially what I’ve done with the 5,000m. The 1,500m is a more personal race for me, it’s the first distance I ran and where my love of track started.”
Her race was far from clean on Thursday, with two women falling and DeBues-Stafford stepping on the infield for a moment to avoid falling herself. “The falls broke my stride for sure. When Helen Obiri fell I had to step on the infield for a few seconds to save myself. The rule is that you’re allowed a couple steps on the infield on the straight away.”
Next on the docket is for DeBues-Stafford is the Rome Diamond League. Rome was her first Diamond League where ran her one of her fastest-ever 1,500m times of 4:04.80. The runner will also be coming home for in late July for the Canadian Championships. “I’m not sure what event I’ll do, but I’ll be there.”