American distance runner Dathan Ritzenhein broke the American Record for the 5K (5000 meters) on August 28, 2009 with a time of 12:56:27 at the Weltklasse Meet in Zurich, Switzerland. The previous American record was 12:58.21, set by Bob Kennedy in 1996. The current 5K world record of 12:37.35 was set in 2004 by Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia. If the significance of Ritzenhein’s record time is hard to grasp, think of it this way – his pace was about 4:10 min/mile for 3.1 miles.
In addition to breaking the American Record, the 26 year-old Ritzenhein, who finished third overall in the Weltklasse race (Kenenisa Bekele won in 12:52.32), became only the third American ever to go sub 13:00 in the 5K (Kennedy and Bernard Lagat being the other two). Along with the recent successes of American distance runners like Ryan Hall, Kara Goucher, and Shalane Flanagan, Ritzenhein’s performance is yet another example of increasing American competitiveness at the international level in major distance running events – lets hope the trend continues!
You can watch the race here – Ritzenhein’s final 800m are simply outstanding as he emerges from out of nowhere to finish 3rd (starting around 6:30 of the video):
Here’s an interview with Ritzenhein from after the race (via Flotrack.com):