Jakob Ingebrigtsen breaks four minutes

The 16-year-old Norwegian runner becomes the youngest ever to run a four-minute mile

Jakob Ingebrigtsen leading the pack in September 2016.

Photo: Svein Hagen / Aftenposten
Jakob Ingebrigtsen leading the pack in September 2016.

Jo Christian Weldingh
Oslo, Norway

Norwegian 16-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen became the youngest mile runner in history to break four minutes at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, on May 27, with his time of 3:58.07.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “I felt really strong, ran with really good tactics, stayed at a stable pace, and had a good finish. I felt strong this week and knew I would run fast.” He finished in 11th place overall, while Thiago Do Rosário André from Brazil won the race.

“It’s hard to believe he’s really Norwegian, but he is,” Norwegian commentator Jann Post yelled when Ingebrigtsen crossed the finish line, subtly pointing out the fact that Norwegians aren’t primarily known for exceeding in sports that don’t involve snow.

Most experts believed Ingebrigtsen had a good chance at breaking the 53-year-old record set by American runner Jim Ryun, who was a little over 17 years old when he set the old record. The old world record for 16-year-olds is 4:06.04 and was set in 1972.

Coach and father Gjert Ingebrigtsen tried, as usual, to stay grounded when he was asked about his son’s performance. “It was good. He is disciplined and runs four even laps, which was the main focus today.”

The coach tried hard to tone down all the talk about the record, but he was clearly both proud and satisfied. “No one has done it before, but not for lack of trying,” he said. “It’s always good for Jakob to come here, even though he’s not quite fast enough to keep up with the very best.”

Jakob’s big brother, Henrik, also participated in the race. The 26-year-old, who struggled the majority of last season because of injuries, finished third with the time of 3:53.79 and seems to be on the right path leading up to the World Championship later this summer. A championship Jakob won’t be participating in, mostly because his father doesn’t think he’s ready yet. He will, however, be competing in the European Championship in Belgrade next year.

Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who set the record at 16 years and 250 days old, has caught the attention of the athletics world with extraordinary results for his age throughout the last couple of years. Following the lead of older brothers Filip and Henrik, he became a middle-distance runner at the age of 10. Both Henrik, 26, and Filip, 24, have already won European titles in the 1500m, and their younger brother appears to have the same potential, if not more. Soon after his sons took up the sport, Gjert quickly realized their potential. Though he had no coaching qualification, he amassed every drop of knowledge he could, and he is still their coach today.

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, but is currently living in Oslo. He has a BA in Archaeology from The University of Oslo and a BA in Business Administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

This article originally appeared in the June 16, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.