Heading into last weekend I read that a distance runner named Letensenbet Gidey had run a world record 5000M time of 14:06 in a track meet in Valencia, Spain.
I sat there for a moment and thought, “14:06. That means she ran through three miles probably 20-30 seconds under the 14:00 mark.”
That made me think about how amazingly fast women are now running. My personal best at 5K is 14:45. I ran the first two miles that night at 4:40 pace. The winning time of the race that evening was just over 14:00, run by eventual Olympic Trials winner Jim Spivey.
Gidet’s world record is now not far behind the time of another runner I admire, Tom Burridge, whose 13:45 5K as a University of Kentucky distance runner put him in the national class category. Tom also held the US national record for the half-marathon at one point after his college career.
Gidey would also have beaten the men’s cross country course record at Detweiler Park, where in 1972 I watched Craig Virgin race to a 13:51 time that stood for nearly fifty years. Please, please watch this video of this 22-year-old Ethiopian woman flow around the track. An inspiring effort.
Letensenbet Gidey and a host of other world-class women runners are now eclipsing the times set by national and even world-class male counterparts from a couple decades back.
The women’s world marathon record set by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei in Chicago in 2019 is 2:14:04. That pace is within a mile’s reach of the best male marathoners of the late 1970s and early 80s. She would keep pace with the likes of Frank Shorter, 1972 Olympic Marathon champion, who ran times of 2:10, and Bill Rodgers, who won the NYC and Boston marathons multiple times. He ran a 2:09.
Imagine the sight of these women clipping along with those famous icons of the sport!
It’s no longer shocking to the world that women should run or ride or swim so fast. Ever since Joan Benoit (Samuelson) led the way in the first women’s marathon in the 1984 Olympics, running somewhere around 2:22 if I recall, the supposed barriers of running and athletic achievement that once stood in front of women continue to tumble like dominos. The same holds true with age barriers. In her sixties, Benoit completed a marathon in 3:04. That’s just over 7:00 a mile for 26.2 miles.
I recall the first time being beaten by a young woman named Karlene Erickson in a 15-mile race called the Midnight Madness out in central Iowa. Her thin frame passed me in the darkness. She was just 15 years old at the time. A few pieces of male pride fell away that evening, but I learned that you can survive after being bested by women.
Since then, occasions to train with strong women have increased dramatically. This past weekend I rode sixty miles with two women that are stronger than me on the bike. I led much of the first fifteen miles just to lead us to the country roads. But out there in the wind I could feel the strength of those two gals. It’s a tremendously liberating thing, in a way, to accept the strength of women and revel in its aura.
It’s a long line of strong women that led up to today. It will be a long line of strong women carrying all this energy into the future.
I hope you find inspiration in all this progress for women like I do. It’s so much fun to share in keen athletic efforts. It makes the world a better place.