New York Times

Want to Run a World-Record Time? Follow the Green Lights.

Jakob Ingebrigtsen was ready to become a Pac-Man when he stepped on the track in early June.

Like the video game character that gobbles dots inside a maze, Ingebrigtsen, a Norwegian middle-distance runner, was focused on keeping up with the bright green flashes plotting his way along the inside of the track. The flashes, called Wavelights, were traveling at the exact pace of the two-mile best time. (The distance is not considered world-record eligible because it is not an official World Athletics distance.)

Wavelights have helped runners stay on a pace to break multiple world records. They were developed by a former pacer.

New York Times

So when he sprinted down the home straightaway, leaving the blinking lights in his wake, the spectators in the stadium knew they were witnessing the best performance in the world in the event. Ingebrigtsen finished in 7 minutes 54.10 seconds, shattering the previous best by more than four seconds.

Incredibly, it was one of three records set on that balmy summer evening at the Paris Diamond League meet. Faith Kipyegon of Kenya set a world record in the 5,000 meters just a week after setting the 1,500-meter world record, and Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia broke the world record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. All three performances were aided by Wavelights.

Pacemakers, runners tasked with setting a certain tempo in the early stages of a race, are nothing new. Roger Bannister was helped by two pacemakers when he became the first runner to clock a sub-four-minute mile in 1954, and few middle- or long-distance world records are set without the aid of a rabbit, as pacemakers are known. Bram Som, Wavelight’s co-creator and operational director, was a successful pacer himself after a career as a professional runner.