Despite being one of the most dominant individual athletes in the history of college sports, Edward Cheserek only managed to break one collegiate record in his four years at Oregon: the indoor mile, where he ran a scintillating 3:52.01 last winter to not only set an NCAA standard but a new Kenyan one. Whenever you break a Kenyan record in a distance event, you are officially good as hell.
The indoor mile appears to be Cheserek’s best event. Last night, he topped that performance by a ridiculous two and a half seconds, running a 3:49.44 mile at Boston University. That makes him the second fastest man in the history of the world, behind only indoor and outdoor mile world record holder Hicham El Guerroj. After the race, El Guerroj tweeted that Cheserek should focus on the mile; Cheserek told reporters that he doesn’t consider himself a miler. (His best events outdoors have been the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.)
El Guerroj ran 3:48 indoors and 3:43 outdoors, but that doesn’t mean that Cheserek can run much faster than this outdoors. BU is a disgustingly fast track, and the race was entirely set up for this result—there were two pacers just for him and zero other finishers. That doesn’t make any of this any less impressive, though. Only four men in history have broken 3:50 for a full mile indoors, and the other three are El Guerroj, Bernard Lagat, and Eamonn Coghlan. All three of those men are world champions, and El G and Lagat are two of the greatest middle distance runners of all time. No matter what else happens in Cheserek’s career, he’s on at least one extremely short list.
The 24-year-old Cheserek was born in Kenya, and moved to the United States in 2010 for high school. He’s always said he only wants to compete for the U.S. at meets like the Olympics and world championships. Due to a perfect storm of bad advice and international rule changes, though, Cheserek might not be able to compete internationally for the United States until 2022 or so.
It’d be easy for King Ches to just try to make as much money as possible in the sport until then, or on a darker timeline, lose focus and slowly fade out. Instead, he’s doing what only one other person in the history of the planet has done. He’s somehow racing again tonight.