After the race, the distraught Moroccan received a call from his country’s monarch, King Hassan, who offered encouragement and told El Guerrouj that better times were ahead. A revitalized El Guerrouj defeated Morceli in another 1500-meter race later than year and became the world’s dominant distance runner for the rest of his career. Three years after his Olympic disappointment, El Guerrouj took aim at Morceli’s world mile mark of 3:44.39, set in 1993.
Two other rabbits – including 1992 Olympic 800-meter champ William Tanui of Kenya – set the race’s early pace. El Guerrouj quickly settled into third behind the pacemakers, with Ngeny close behind in fourth. The pacemakers led the field through the first lap in 55.07 seconds. One pacemaker dropped out midway through the event after crossing the line in 1:51.58. El Guerrouj and Ngeny remained behind Tanui, with the rest of the field out of the picture. Tanui then dropped out at the bell after setting a three-lap pace of 2:47.91.
Race to the Finish:
Ngeny pulled within about one stride halfway down the home straight, but El Guerrouj had a bit more in the tank and his final burst gave him the victory by about two strides.
El Guerrouj crossed the finish line in a world record 3:43.13. Ngeny’s time of 3:43.40 was also inside of Morceli’s former mark, the first time that two men broke the mile record in the same race since 1958, when Herb Elliott won the race in 3:54.5, with Merv Lincoln in second at 3:55.9, beating Derek Ibbotson’s old mark of 3:57.2.
Ngeny and El Guerrouj faced off in several more memorable races during their careers, with El Guerrouj winning more often than not, although Ngeny edged him by a quarter-second in the 2000 Olympic final.
Read more about the mile run:
The Men’s Mile World Record Progression
The Greatest Olympic 1500-Meter Run: El Guerrouj Nips Bernard Lagat