Josh Kerr, Jakob Ingebrigtsen Putting the “Diss” in “Middle-Distance”

By David Melly

May 29, 2024

The Challengers boys worked out their love-hate relationship. Everyone is tired of Kendrick and Drake. And Barbenheimer was so last summer and Hollywood is coming off its worst Memorial Day box office weekend in nearly three decades. 2024’s newest, best rivalry is Joshkob Kerrgebrigtsen.

A [less than] 4-minute race received hours – if not days – of coverage leading up to the Pre Classic, in large part because of the seemingly endless back-and-forth between its co-headliners. It’s hard to say when the off-the-track rivalry between the reigning Olympic champ and reigning World champ really began. Sometimes in sport and in life, two dudes just don’t like each other. But the flashpoint appears to have been last summer in Budapest, when Ingebrigtsen’s movie villain antics in the 1500m semifinal and subsequent loss to Kerr (and his movie villain sunglasses) in the final ignited excuses on one side and accusations of insecurity on the other.

The duo then spent much of the next few months chirping at each other in the media, with Jakob spending his winter recovering from an Achilles injury and giving quotes to Norwegian press about how he’s the greatest and Kerr being asked to react. Anyone who’s had to spend time on the bike or in the pool in the middle of someone else’s racing season knows how Ingebrigtsen must feel – even Olympic champs must get a little FOMO from seeing world records get broken and medals get handed out without them.

So by the time they had to sit on the same stage in the days leading up to the Bowerman Mile, these two frenemies (the “friend” part is debatable) had thrown more shade than a California redwood at each other. This made it all the more exciting when the hugely stacked race came down to a two-way battle (with American Yared Nuguse on their heels), with Kerr making a big move from 600 meters out then holding off the Norwegian to break the tape in 3:45.34. It’s only the second time in their careers that Kerr has beaten Ingebrigtsen head-to-head, but it’s also the second time in a row. Ingebrigtsen, to his great credit, ran 3:45.60 in his season opener, and if that’s what a “rust buster” looks like, he’ll be very, very dangerous come August.

Before then, there may more opportunities to match up in a Diamond League or two and plenty of chances to talk shit on one another. The official Lap Count position is that it doesn’t matter who you root for, but having someone to root for – and against – is fun. So in order to help make your summer track viewing as rewarding as possible, we present:

The Unofficial Guide To Deciding Which Miler To Stan

Important factors to consider when picking up your Scottish flag or Viking hat for your Olympic viewing party:

Jakob is fearless. Few runners are as unambiguous and consistent with the race strategy of “get to the front and make them hurt,” and if you’re looking for a Prefontaine-type front runner with a real shot at gold, he’s your guy.

Josh doesn’t take himself too seriously. One of the big knocks against Jakob from the personality standpoint is that he seems a bit thin-skinned when criticisms are raised, and he doesn’t seem to find the media frenzy around his rivalry with Kerr particularly amusing. While it’s important to remember that the spiciest Ingebrigtsen quotes are either being filtered through a translation or communicated in a second language, it does seem like he struggles with being able to laugh at himself and instead reacts to any questions about his performance with utmost seriousness and a little wounded pride.

Jakob isn’t afraid to race. One knock on Kerr is that he is a bit more sparing with his appearances on the Diamond League circuit than his rival, whereas Ingebrigtsen shows up on the pro circuit as frequently as anyone when he’s healthy. If you like athletes who prioritize regular-season racing as much as championships, Jakob is your guy.

Josh’s social media presence is… interesting. Longtime fans have humorously noted that, ever since Kerr farmed out the bulk of his social media to a marketing team, his Instagram presence has changed. If you’re a fan of professionally-edited thirst traps and SEO-oriented hashtags, look no further. #joshkerr #athletemotivation #runner

Jakob is going to be a dad. If you tune into NBC Olympic coverage for heartwarming interstitials about the human interest behind the results, you’re probably thrilled to learn that we’ll be getting cute Ingebaby pics come June.

Josh is taking CITIUS along for the ride. Okay, we’re biased here but the Brooks Beasts are bringing in the cameras for a 10-part web series we think is pretty darn fun.

Jakob is the underdog now. Or is he? Rooting for underdogs is fun, but that also requires knowing who the underdog is. A year ago, that would’ve inarguably been Kerr, but he now has the fitness and momentum, and Jakob hasn’t won a 1500m title since 2021. If you’re really looking for a dark horse, however, you may want to put all your energy on a slightly longer shot

– The only thing more fun than another battle royale would be both big dogs falling to the likes of Yared Nuguse or Jake Wightman.

Wherever you land, we can all agree that filling the days and weeks between matchups with debate, discourse, and maybe a little Real Housewives-style drama is fun, harmless, and great for the sport.

David Melly

David began contributing to CITIUS in 2018, and quickly cemented himself as an integral part of the team thanks to his quick wit, hot takes, undying love for the sport and willingness to get yelled at online.