Although the following story might seem like an April Fools’ joke, it’s not. A 21-year-old trail runner, Théo Detienne of France, clocked a 12:52 5K earlier this year, just barely missing Joshua Cheptegei‘s world record of 12:51. It should be noted that Detienne was running downhill for his run, but still, a sub-13 5K is nothing to scoff at, regardless of the route.
The unofficial record attempt was set up by Salomon, Detienne’s main sponsor, and the young frenchman was joined by two other runners for the downhill time trial. Detienne averaged 23.32 kilometres per hour on the descent, which works out to two minutes and 34 seconds per kilometre.
The event was held in the Pyrenees mountains in France, and the course had a negative elevation of -320 metres. Detienne posted on Instagram following the run to share his blazing-fast time with the world. He wrote that he passed through 1K in two minutes and 20 seconds, and he posted a three minute and 26 second 1,500m split. There’s nowhere to verify these splits, but if the latter is true, Detienne unofficially tied Hicham El Guerrouj‘s 1,500m world record en route to his near-record in the 5K.
Not legal, but who cares?
Some people might shake their heads at this and say Detienne’s run wasn’t legal and it was just a big publicity stunt by Salomon, and this certainly has some truth to it. It was the same deal with Nike’s Breaking2 project or the INEOS 1:59 event with Eliud Kipchoge. None of that was official, and Kipchoge’s records weren’t legal, but it was still thrilling to watch a human run that fast. Plus, imagine running downhill for 5K at any speed, let alone a maximum effort. Detienne’s record may not make it into any record books, but it should certainly count for something.