We have so obviously entered a new historical cycle that what came before, even two days ago, no longer merits close inspection. It’s just another weigh-station on the road to So What. And the benchmarks that came before, well they have been broken into shards.
Letesenbet Gidey’s 29:01.03 women’s 10,000-meter world record today (8June 2021) in Hengelo at the Ethiopian Olympic Trials didn’t just erase Sifan Hassan’s 29:06.82 on the same track at the FBK Games two days ago but knocked 1/2 a second off Emil Zatopek’s 29:01.60 10,000m men’s WR from November 1953! Wake me when today’s women rub the great Czech’s final mark of 28:54 from 1 June 1954 off the books. At least now we can calculate the gap between men and women over 6.2 miles as 68 years, meaning the women’s world record will eclipse Joshua Cheptegei’s current men’s mark of 26:11 in 2088.
Everyone loves a new world record, and Gidey is one smooth operator, but when times begin dropping faster than a peregrine falcon on the wing, it can begin to look a little funny. But this is what happens when, as a practical matter, regulators become too entwined with the industry they were created to regulate. First, they allow (or are asleep) as the innovators get way ahead of any oversight. Then, after records come tumbling down and the regulators get called out, they fudge the regulations ex post facto to accept that which ought to have been regulated in the first place by setting standards that fall into line with the established innovations.
God knows the engines of athletes haven’t changed, nor their training, their will, or their fuel – previous generations were fooling around with too much exogenous octane, too, remember. Since 2016 only the equipment has changed, and it’s made all past comparisons moot.
Remember when Wang Junxia staggered us with her 29:31 10,000-meter world record in Beijing in 1993 off Coach Ma‘s turtle soup-fueled training (wink, wink, nod, nod)? That massive record broke Ingrid Kristiansen‘s 30:13.74 from Olso in 1986 and held until Almaz Ayana’s eye-popping 28:17.45 at the Rio Games in 2016. Major League Baseball lost connection to its rich history during their Steroid Era. Now athletics is losing its past due to their Super Shoe Era. At least we can hope for a whale of a competition between Hassan and Gidey in Tokyo where the times won’t mean a damn thing.