When it comes to distance running, Oslo’s Bislett Stadium seems to be the gift that keeps on giving for Australians, Georgia Griffith the latest beneficiary with a national record in the 3000 metres on Thursday (30 May).

Delivering her trademark from-the-clouds finish, Griffith came over the top of Ethiopia’s Likina Amebaw and Jessica Hull to grab victory in 8:24.20, clipping 0.19 seconds off the mark Hull had set at the world indoor championships in Glasgow in March.

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It was Griffith’s second outing over 3000 after her debut at the distance in Sydney earlier this year when she also flew home in almost catching Hull, running 8:37.85. For an athlete who has previously confined herself to 800 and 1500, the 3000 – and even the 5000? – looms as a possibility.

“Much to my surprise, I’m really enjoying the longer distances,” Griffith said after her win. “The 3000 might be my new favourite distance.”

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Bad choice maybe, as the 3000 is not an Olympic or world championship distance. Regardless, it’s an indicator of further improvement in Griffith’s 3:59.04 1500 pb, perhaps as early as Monday morning (3 June) AEST when she is down to race in the next Diamond League meeting in Stockholm. If she stays sound, those 5000 possibilities might firm up, too.

More of that in a minute, but first let’s reflect on what a happy hunting ground Bislett Stadium has been for Australians especially in the 59 years since the Bislett Games were inaugurated.

Ron Clarke – who else – highlighted that first edition on 14 July, 1965 with – what else – a world record. Not just any old world record, but the one many consider his greatest, 27:39.89 for 10,000 metres. This was the race Clarke had to convince promoter Arne Haukvik to put on, even then only after Clarke scoured Oslo in search of an extra competitor to ensure there was the required minimum three in the race.

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Slashing almost 40 seconds off the previous world record allayed any lingering misgivings Haukvik may have harboured. Indeed, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth Bislett meeting, Clarke’s performance was acclaimed as the greatest in Bislett Games’ history. It’s still right up there.

Clarke’s record-breaking was the beginning of a long Australian association, a link only bolstered through the late Maurie Plant’s long-time involvement as the meeting manager. Plant could usually find a spot for in-form Aussies in the program and great performances followed. Middle and long-distances were the main focus, but the likes of Catherine Freeman, Darren Clark and Sally Pearson also featured prominently at Bislett.

The Dream Mile -both men and women – has occupied a special place in Oslo, even pre-dating  the emergence of a hometown hero in Jakob Ingebrigtsen. The past four men’s Australian records have been set at Bislett. Simon Doyle ran the first sub-3:50 by an Australian with 3:49.91 in 1991, Craig Mottram improved that mark to 3:48.98 in 2005, and Stewart McSweyn and Oliver Hoare have run 3:48.37 and 3:47.48, respectively, in 2021 and 2022.

Marg Crowley set an Australian women’s 1500 record of 4:01.34 in 1996, the year she finished fifth at the Atlanta Olympic Games, and in the 2023 women’s Dream Mile Jessica Hull and Linden Hall ran the then two fastest women’s miles with 4:18.24 and 4:19.60.

At men’s 1500, Hoare ran the current men’s national record, 3:29.41, in Oslo last year in what turned out to be his last race of the season due to injury. He was back on Thursday night with a 3:31.08 as he returns to peak form ahead of the Olympics.

Griffith’s 3000 confirmed her own form leading into Paris and suggests she may be on the way to realising the potential she first showed in finishing fourth in the 800 metres at the world junior championships in Eugene, Oregon in 2014. Despite regular glimpses of something better – making the 1500 final at the 2022 world championships on her return to Eugene, making the team for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and world championships in 2017 and 2019, running sub-2:01 for 800 in six years from 2017 to 2024 – Griffith has remained unfulfilled.

Mainly that has been down to an inability to get through a season unhampered by injury. “It’s really nice when you’re in pb form and you’re stepping on the line knowing that you’re at your best in comparison to last year when I was in the trenches (with an achilles injury),” Griffith told Athletics Australia media in Oslo.

If that situation can maintain through to Paris, Griffith could deliver something special. Her talent has always been evident, just waiting for the platform from which to launch it.

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