In this exciting feature, Deji Ogeyingbo writes about Jakob Ingebrigtsen, his Olympic win and his amazing rise to the top of racers from 1,500m to 5000m? This editor has observed brothers Jakob and Filip on the indoor circuit and know that father Gert handles the details of hydration, nutrition, training, rest and recovery with the precision of a finely trained surgeon. Gert once told me that he is not a coach, he observes.
Please enjoy this feature on Jakob Ingebrigtsen, by Deji Ogeyingbo. Email us at runblogrun@gmail on your thoughts on this piece or any suggestions on what we might want to cover!
Jakob Ingebrigtsen is nearly unstoppable right now–how amazing is his athletic rise?
The endless pursuit of athletics greatness is one that takes many athletes to threshold the average person cannot comprehend. The zeal to achieve sporting immorality that doesn’t come easily. The challenges that seem insurmountable, times that can’t be beaten and records that can’t be broken. And suddenly, the glass ceiling is broken. A gifted athlete comes around and makes us all rethink what insurmountable is. An athlete that can make the impossible possible.
August 7, 2021, under the night sky of the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, 21-year-Old Jakob Ingebrigtsen smashed the men’s 1500m Olympic record as he streaked to gold in 3:28.32s. The fact that this young Norwegian won the Olympic title is still difficult to believe at times. He not only won the title in style, he handed defeated to his long-time rival, Timothy Cheruiyot, to claim victory.
It was a fitting end to what has been tagged as Track and field’s most fascinating science experiment as he has been training as a professional under the guidance of his father, Gjert since he was eight. Jakob’s magnificent combination of strength and speed in handing out defeat to his rivals this year is one that has got the athletics faithful waxing lyrical about his rise.
Aside from being an almost perfect 1500m runner, Jakob did something special this season. Before this year, only Kenya’s could boast of running a sub 3:30 in the 1500m, sub 3:50 in the one mile, a sub 7:30 in the 3000m and a sub 12:50 in the 5000m. It’s a feat that has proved insupermontable over the years by even the best of middle-and long-distance runners. Maybe because of how distance running is famously low in noise and grid. Well, not anymore. Ingebrigtsen shattered that ceiling and equaled that feat by running 12:48.45 in June in Italy.
Jakob comes from a family of astonishing talent; his older brothers Henrik and Filip are decorated distance and mid-distance runners themselves, both having also competed at the Olympic Games in London and Rio respectively. All three of them have been 1500m champions at the European Championships. In fact, they have a younger sibling, Ingrid, who has taken up professional running. However, without a doubt, Jakob is the most brilliant of the lot.
“It had to be his own choice. Just because he grew up in this family, it can’t be an obligation to become a 1500m runner. As a father, I try to tell him that his mother and I are comfortable with any direction he wants to take in life, but as a father, I couldn’t stop him from his dream of becoming the world’s best runner”. Gjert said in his book “How to raise a world champion”.
They say opportunities always meet preparation. And yes, Jakob could have taken a different path, he however made the decision to take up this sport as a kid, something that has propelled him to global recognition. Since then, his father has had a huge influence on how his career goes, but one area Jakob refuses to listen to is when it comes to racing, given his dad’s lack of experience.
“I’m not allowed to talk to Jakob about tactics,” says Gjert. “He said, ‘This is my race and I don’t want you to interfere’. I asked him, ‘Do you have a plan?’ ‘Yes, I have a plan’. ‘Are you going to win?’ ‘Yes, I’m going to win’. That was all.”
The reason behind Ingebrigtsen’s rise?
Going through Jakobs training plans, it’s important to know that he runs about 105- 120 miles per week for the last two years, well of course, not all year round, as he takes about one to two months of rest at the end of the track season in the summer. From 2017 to 2020, he has improved in every single distance running event (800m- 5000m). If you look beyond the numbers though, it is easy to see why he’s transitioning into being one of the world’s greatest athletes.
His father is very intentional about how they work on Jakob’s training sessions. Unlike many of the East Africans who take advantage of their high-altitude training camps in the region, they’ve taken advantage of the environment Norway presents to them.
His build-up phase is not fierce. Most part of his running is done well below his maximum heart rate and rather than running an intense track session, he builds himself in the cold temperatures and latching rain of Norwegian winter. These surely are some of the things that toughen him up.
When Efficiency meets volume
Growing up in a family that stimulated him from an early age to be active in sports, it’s no surprise that Jakob has been able to assimilate the best of training programs in middle distance running that has seen him break records at almost every age category. Jakob joined a track club at 7, participating in sprints, hurdles, and jumps. At 10, he ran an 8.2K cross-country course at sub-6:00/mile.
At the same tender age, his dad tightly controlled all his interval sessions with measures of heart rate and blood lactate concentration. During adolescence, the primary focus was aerobic conditioning. The volume of intense anaerobic training was limited. Also, he has followed a training program with relatively high levels of weekly intervals at and above the anaerobic threshold (20 to 25% of the weekly volume).
Most importantly, his brothers are tough competitors just like he is and have always pushed him all the way in training as they learn and inspire each other. Lately though, he’s been having a different training regime unlike his brothers.
Where does he go from here?
By virtue of his Olympic win, Jakob has cemented his name as one of the all-time greats, and he’s still only 21 years of age. Eight National Records, four European Records, and after his mouth-watering win in Tokyo, he now holds an Olympic record. The future seems limitless. From each of the distances he competes in, it seems his ability keeps getting better.
Who knows, we might see him take it a notch higher by competing in the 10000m and Half marathon in subsequent seasons. He however has stated that his new aim is to shoot for World records. The bar for middle distance running is Hicham El Guerrouj when it comes to that. Jakob isn’t too far away and he has taken up the challenge.