Daniel Komen is a Kenyan middle- and long-distance runner. Remembered for his rivalry with Haile Gebrselassie, Komen’s most notable achievements came in a two-year period between 1996 and 1998, during which he broke a string of world records.
He currently holds the world record for the 3000 metres both outdoors (7:20.67 set in 1996) and indoors (7:24.90 set in 1998). In addition, with his 7.58.61 world record in the 2-mile race set in 1997, he remains the only man in history to run back-to-back sub-four-minute miles, splitting circa 3:59.4 on both the first and second half of the race.
Komen was also the second man, after Saïd Aouita, to break both the 13-minute mark for the 5,000 m, the 7½-minute mark for 3,000 m, and the 3½-minute mark for the 1,500 m.
Komen is from the Keiyo sub-tribe of Kalenjin people and grew up in a rural area of Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. One of fourteen children, Komen began running at the age of seven as a means of getting to and from school.Komen had an exceptional junior career: at age 17, he placed second at the World Junior Cross Country Championships, and in 1994, he became the World Junior Champion in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.
Komen first appeared in the senior ranks in 1994 when he won a place on Kenya’s 10,000 m team for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, later that same year helping pace Moses Kiptanui to a 5,000 m record.
Two years later, Komen began to dominate the 5,000 m. On 1 September 1996 in Rieti, Italy, Komen ran a spectacular world record time of 7:20.67 in the 3000 metres, breaking Noureddine Morceli’s former record by 4.44 seconds.
A year later, Komen made history again. In Hechtel, Belgium, Komen became the first (and so far only) man to run two miles in under eight minutes, clocking a world record 7:58.61. His first mile was faster than Roger Bannister’s first-ever sub-four, while his second equalled it. Just seven months later, at an Australian athletics meet in Sydney, Komen ran 7:58.91, missing his world record by 0.30 seconds.
In August 1997 he broke the 5000 m world record and took two seconds off of Haile Gebrselassie’s best to bring it to 12:39.74.
Only twelve days after the previous world record of 7:26.15 was set by Haile Gebrselassie, Komen broke the indoor 3,000-metre record with a time of 7:24.90, set in Budapest on 6 February 1998. This mark is still referred to as “Mount Everest” in athletics circles and has been bettered only twice outdoors, one of them being Komen’s own world record. Kenenisa Bekele believes that breaking Komen’s record is only “possible on a special day if the pace is good and if everything else also is perfect.”
Other accolades include being the 1997 World Championships in Athletics and 1998 Commonwealth Games 5,000-meter champion. He won the 5000 metres race at the 1998 IAAF World Cup.
Out of the limelight since the late 1990s, Komen now serves as chairman of the Keiyo North Rift Athletics Association and as co-director of a private school with his wife, Joyce.
Daniel Komen’s personal records, and their place on the world ranking of all times, unless otherwise noted. All times and placings are taken from Komen’s IAAF bio (as of August 2011):
1500 Meters 3:29.46
1 Mile 3:46.38
2000 Meters 4:51.30
3000 Meters (outdoor) 7:20.67
3000 Meters (indoor) 7:24.90
2 Miles 7:58.61
5000 Meters 12:39.74
10,000 Meters 27:38.32