Turns out there is very simple tactic behind winning European titles over 1,500 metres. Run the first 100m slower than anyone else in the field, then run the next 1,400m faster than anyone else in European distance running history.
It works for Jakob Ingebrigtsen anyway, the still only 21-year-old from Norway completing a second successive European double just the way he likes it – jogging for that first 100m, moving swiftly to the front around the first bend and then leading all the way home in 3:32.76.
That took almost three seconds off the European Championship record set in 1994 by Fermin Cacho of Spain, two years after he too won the Olympic title.
Ingebrigtsen’s front-running splintered the rest of the 12-man field, most struggling to keep up after he passed 400m in 56.40, the 800m in 1:54.16. Among them was Ireland’s Andrew Coscoran, who found himself next to last at 800; still he managed to work his way back up to ninth, running 3:39.91.
Light rain during the evening session in no way dampened the superb atmosphere inside the Olympic Stadium and Ingebrigtsen was happy to rise to it.
It brings his tally now to four European gold medals on track, his Olympic gold from last year, and World Championship gold and silver from Oregon last month.
Once he hit the front Maria Garcia led the chase, though he paid for it, passed for silver by Britain’s Jake Hayward, who took silver in 3:34.44. Coscoran finished strong but wanted better.
“Disappointed a little with ninth place, not what I wanted, but I had to knock the legs out today just to keep up,” he said.
“I was hoping to get a medal, but with Jacob in the race, you’re trying to judge the effort, you have that sense of what you can run before you’re going to tie up, and I’m constantly on that edge, pushing hard, also if I push that tiny per cent further I’m not going to have the legs. You’re on that edge between just about doing as much as you can without blowing up.”
When Ingebrigtsen won four years ago as a 17-year-old in in Berlin, his father and coach Gjert advised he celebrate his victory in the 1,500m “with a glass of warm milk”, then straight to bed. He might enjoy something stronger this time.
The evening atmosphere reached a crescendo when Germany’s favourite distance runner Konstanze Klosterhalfen won the 5,000m with a brilliant last two laps to race away from Yasemin Can of Turkey, who earlier in the week won the 10,000m.
Klosterhalfen, coached at her US training base by Sonia O’Sullivan, secured the win in 14:50.47, Ireland’s Roisin Flanagan taking 15th place in 15:33.74
For Thomas Barr, his Munich medal hopes ended after a short wait in the hot seat and the sudden realisation he wasn’t going through to the final of the 400m hurdles. Other times simply ran away and like the Tokyo Olympics last summer he missed out by one place.
The bronze medal winner from four years ago, and running out in lane eight, Barr possibly knew for himself that times were going to matter more than positions, and so it proved. Friday’s eight-man final invited only the top two across the three semi-finals, plus two more non-automatic qualifiers.
Barr finished third in his heat in a season best of 49.30, at that point the best non-automatic qualifier; after the next semi-final he was gone.
“I’ve come to these championships enough and I know the disappointment is huge, but it’s also fleeting,” he said in his typically positive style.
“If I was to allow it drag me far down, I wouldn’t come back year on year. I’ve had my share of good luck, this year was one of those unlucky, frustrating years.”
There was still exciting progress from some of the other Irish here, Mark English and Louise Shanahan moving on to Friday’s 800m semi-finals, Michelle Finn also advancing to the final of the 3,000m steeplechase on Saturday as one of the non-automatic qualifiers.
English, the bronze medal winner from 2014, made bold and classy move down the back stretch which saw him sneak inside an open door left by the Frenchman Benjamin Robert, and the Donegal doctor never looked back after that. nailing the win in 1:47.54. Robert held on for second.
Shortly after that Louise Shanahan ran a smart race backing up her ever-improving experience to finish third in her 800m heat in 2:02.80, securing one of the top three automatic qualifying places, those semi-finals set for Friday morning (9.50 am).