A Crazy Second Lap And Other Takeaways From Kejelcha's 3:48.46 Mile


Despite falling short of his goal of breaking Hicham El Guerrouj’s 3:48.45 by an excruciating 0.01 seconds, Yomif Kejelcha’s mile on Saturday completely lived up to the pre-race hype. Not only did he run the fastest time indoors in 22 years, but his inconsistent splits underscored a performance that could have been faster with smoother pacing. And at just 21-years-old, Kejelcha’s near-miss at the Armory felt much more like a triumph than a failure.

In the wake of such an epic run, here were my takeaways from the 3:48.46: 

The second lap was way too fast

If Kejelcha had run just 0.01 faster on Saturday, there would likely be no debate about how he could have cut off more time from his race. Had the 21-year-old gone 0.01 quicker to match Hicham El Guerrouj’s 3:48.45 record, no one would be lamenting Kejelcha’s failure to lean at the line or the fact that he swung into lane two in the final straight.

And yet, as masterful as Kejelcha’s 3:48.46 was, the tiny sliver of space between his race and the greatest indoor mile of all-time leaves every small detail open to scrutiny. That conversation should start with the second lap of the race— it was far too fast. 

Since the Ethiopian missed the record by so little, it’s easy to point to the microscopic mistakes I highlighted earlier— not leaning at the tape and running into lane two at the end— as the primary reasons he fell short, but I believe the 26.42 second lap is what truly doomed him. For whatever reason, pacer Rob Napolitano started hammering in that second circuit, and Kejelcha—  no doubt pumped full of adrenaline— made the mistake of doing the same. The 26.42 split was a huge outlier, as his next fastest split— the 27.96 third lap— was over a second and a half slower. 

The negative impact of the fast start was obvious— Kejelcha’s second to last lap was his slowest at 29.21. (I ignore the first lap since it's 209 meters.)

Kejelcha’s splits fluctuated dramatically relative to Cheserek’s metronomic 3:49.44 from 2018

Pacers are like referees— they don’t receive enough credit when they do their job correctly and way too much criticism when they don’t. But in comparing the splits from Edward Cheserek’s 3:49.44 mile from 2018— where he was paced to 1200m— to Kejelcha’s, it’s clear how much of a difference a good rabbit can make. Here’s the side-by-side comparison of Cheserek and Kejelcha’s splits:

Cheserek’s 3:49.44 splits: 30.59, 28.67, 28.47, 28.49, 28.37, 28.53, 27.98, 28.35

Kejelcha’s 3:48.46 splits: 29.83, 26.42, 27.96, 28.79, 28.80, 29.16, 29.21, 28.33

Between a wild second lap and only having a pacer for 750-ish meters, Kejelcha’s eight circuits around the track almost resemble a fartlek workout; Cheserek’s splits on the other hand, which were led masterfully by Brannon Kidder and Drew Piazza, are about as precise as one can get. Kejelcha is a better athlete which is why he ran almost a second faster, but he would be wise to find himself pacers like the ones Cheserek had last year in his next attempt at the record.

Edward Cheserek 3:49.44!

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Watch any time, on any device.
Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

The world record is attainable because Hicham El Guerrouj ran just one career indoor mile

It’s impossible to know for sure, but had the great El Guerrouj raced more than one indoor mile in his career, it’s very likely that the world record would be even faster than 3:48.45.  

El G’s indoor 1,500m world record of 3:31.18 converts to a 3:48.01 mile, but I’m of the opinion that a man who ran 3:43.13 outdoors could have gone much quicker than 3:48 had he taken multiple cracks at it. Now, his record is by no means weak; the fact that it has lasted for 22 years shows that El Guerrouj set the bar high, but a big reason that a 3k/5k guy like Kejelcha can come close to the mile GOAT is that the Moroccan’s time is modest by his own lofty standards.

Another Kejelcha record attempt is coming March 3. Will it be in the mile or 3k?

Kejelcha’s next record attempt won’t have the glamour of a national TV audience like the Millrose Games, but all signs point to it taking place on the slick Boston University track— the surface that produced Cheserek’s 3:49.44 mile last year and Galen Rupp’s 3:50.92 mile from 2013— on March 3. Given how close he came in NYC while running erratic splits, it would seem logical for Kejelcha to take another crack at the mile, however on the initial NOP hype video from Feb. 1 Alberto Salazar said that Kejelcha would possibly target the 3k world record (Daniel Komen’s 7:24.90) after the mile. Then, Kejelcha-- through a translator-- said after his race that he would in fact go after the mile again this indoor season.

Well, which is it?

No one knows for sure as of yet, but we do know that the winter of Kejelcha will continue for at least a few more weeks. The mile record is clearly in reach, and I would suspect the same to be true for the 3k, an event that he is twice over a world indoor champion.

NCAA West Preview: Stanford/Washington Battle Again

Top women's teams Stanford and Washington meet for the third time this season, while a loaded men's field features three teams in the top 10. Here's what to watch at Friday's West Regional meet in Colfax, Washington. 

NCAA Moves DI Northeast Regional To Road Course Due To Poor Conditions

Due to treacherous course conditions in Buffalo, New York, for Friday’s Division I Northeast regional, the NCAA has taken the extraordinary step to move the cross country races away from Audubon Golf Course and onto a road course.

NCAA Mountain Regional Preview: NAU Tangles With Colorado, BYU

Friday’s Mountain regional in Salt Lake City features a combined seven top ten ranked teams, the most among the nine NCAA DI qualifying meets. The men’s and women’s national champions have come out of the Mountain each of the last two years, a trend that could very well continue in 2019. As always, the sub-plot aside from the performance of the blue chip teams will be the bubble watch for the squads behind them. At-large bids figure to be in ample supply as teams outside the top two spots jostle for a trip to Terre Haute.

House Of Run: Mary Cain Speaks Out, Diamond League Changes

Kevin and Jason discuss Mary Cain’s experience being coached by Alberto Salazar, the changes to the Diamond League program and the conclusion of the Illinois state meet saga.

One Final Tune-Up For Monson: Great Lakes Preview

The Great Lakes region again looks like one of the best in all of Division I cross country with both genders expected to send multiple at-large bids to the NCAA Championships. In the individual race, Friday’s race in Madison is one final tune-up for NCAA favorite, Alicia Monson of Wisconsin. Here's what to watch for in both races. 

FloSports Announces Multiyear Partnership with MPSF

AUSTIN, Texas — November 12, 2019 — Today, FloSports, the innovator in live digital sports and original content, and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) announced an extended multiyear partnership to serve as the official broadcast partner. FloSports will provide live and on-demand content and coverage of two Conference Championships exclusively on FloTrack.org and FloVolleyball.tv.

2019 DII NCAA XC Championships Field Announced

The fields for the 2019 DII NCAA XC Championships in Sacramento, California, are set. The 34 teams per gender and individual qualifiers advancing to nationals can be found below.

Which DI Runners Are Still Undefeated This Fall?

With only two meets remaining on the NCAA Division I XC schedule, there are still seven undefeated runners. Some of the names are familiar, while others are lesser-known. Let's take a look at who has yet to lose heading into regionals on Friday. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Watch any time, on any device.
Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Salazar, Brown Appeal 4-Year Bans

As expected, Alberto Salazar and Jeffrey Brown have appealed their four-year suspensions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

DII XC Regional Recap: Mines, Adams State Strengthen Their NCAA Cases


Eight regional meets across the country went down on Saturday in Division II to build the 2019 NCAA XC Championship field.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Watch any time, on any device.
Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In