Ingrid Kristiansen began the 10,000 meters on her home track in Oslo's Bislett Stadium with solid credentials. At age 30, she is the only runner, male or female, ever to hold world marks at the same time in the 5,000, the 10,000 and the marathon. But what she did last Saturday night at the Bislett Games was of a different order. In her final laps the stadium announcer was screaming, "We are seeing something that can never happen again!" And the renowned Oslo crowd, though chanting her onward, did it reverently, for there was no sign that she was in any pain, in any need of support.
Later Kristiansen would explain simply, "It's always nice to run if you're running fast," meaning running strongly, in perfect balance. "It was easy."
Almost sinfully easy, for she reached the finish of the 10,000 in 30:13.74, an astounding 45.68 seconds better than her old world record of 30:59.42 set here last year. Her performance outshone a ragged men's mile and a bloody men's 10,000.
She looked effortlessly light in the first miles. Lesley Welch of the U.S. paced her through 73-second laps. Kristiansen, unused to racing with company, stayed unnecessarily wide, off Welch's shoulder, running extra distance.
The time at 3,000 meters was 9:10.01, 12 seconds ahead of record pace. Welch dropped back, and Kristiansen assumed the lead with what seemed a dangerous eagerness. There was a long way to go, and madwomen tie up in the last 5,000.
But Kristiansen was not worried. "I train for conditioning, but I have worked on my head, too," she had said earlier. "A sports psychologist has taught me a lot about being positive, about how a record breaker is simply one who goes first. If one does, other runners soon follow. There's nothing special but the timing, so there's no need to be afraid."
She passed 5,000 meters in 15:11.33, and picked up the pace. Where she once ran wide, now she stayed but an inch or two from the rail, a sign of control. Her only problem was the runners she was lapping. Track etiquette called for them to give her a clear path, but occasionally they didn't and Kristiansen had to weave. "If I'd been chasing 30 minutes and they got in the way, then I'd be upset," she said. "But it was fine."
She came down the last straightaway on the inside, shoving her way through a pack of women two and three laps behind, and dramatically broke free just before the end. She had run her last 5,000 in 15:02.41. Only four other women have ever run that fast for 5,000 alone.
Johan Kaggestad, Kristiansen's coach, noted that the 10,000 record was due for a cut. "It looked soft because in other races—for example the marathon—the women's records are about 11 percent slower than the men's. The 10,000 was 14 percent slower."
In this one race Kristiansen brought the women's 10,000 to full standing: 30:13.74 is almost exactly 11 percent slower than the men's mark of 27:13.81, held by Portugal's Fernando Mamede.