Galen Rupp To Make Half Marathon Debut At 2011 NYC Half Marathon
Coach Alberto Salazar Says Rupp's "Strength Is At A Place Where He's Way Ahead Of Where He's Been Before"
March 2, 2011
On a nationwide teleconference, the New York Road Runners announced today that Galen Rupp will make his half marathon debut at the 2011 NYC Half Marathon. The 24-year-old Rupp, who sports a 5,000 personal best of 13:07 and 10,000 personal best of 27:10, will race the 13.1-mile distance for the first time on March 20, 2011. Rupp and his coach, Alberto Salazar, a former three-time New York City Marathon champion, were both on the teleconference and answered questions from the media on Wednesday afternoon.
"I think this is simply a huge announcement today. We are simply ecstatic to welcome Galen Rupp to a New York Road Runner event. We have looked forward to hosting Galen for a number of years," said NYRR head Mary Wittenberg to start the teleconference. "As always, we treat debuts here very, very seriously. Our commitment to Alberto (Salazar) and Galen is that we'll take extraordinarily good care of Galen."
"I just want to say that I'm really, really excited to have this opportunity. I'm thrilled my first half marathon will be in New York," said Rupp.
The original plan that Alberto Salazar had for Rupp in 2011 was for Rupp go for the US indoor 5,000 record (which he accomplished by running 13:11.44 on February 19th) and then the US 10,000 meter record last week in New Zealand last week. However, the earthquake hit New Zealand and the 10,000 was cancelled and thus Salazar adjusted things on the fly. Salazar decided that Rupp's current fitness is too good to waste and, additionally, Salazar thought the move to the longer 13.1-mile distance would be good for Rupp as it will take him out of his comfort zone.
"I felt that Galen had done a significant amount of training, much more based on higher mileage and focused on the 10k (as compared to) the past where we've really been more 5k based. I thought this half marathon would be an opportunity for him to really see what all that training has amounted to. I really feel his strength is at a place where he's way ahead of where he's been before," explained Salazar.
"And it's not a matter of just taking advantage of that conditioning to hopefully do something very good. In my mind, the half marathon is a way for him to test himself, to put himself in a race that is out of his normal comfort zone which is the 5K to 10,000 and to go in there and test himself against literally some of the best in the world at the half marathon distance. It's not going to be easy. I mean, you could go and just stick with 5 and 10's. But I think putting himself in situations out of his normal comfort zone is something that ultimately will make him better when he goes into his normal races like the 5 and 10. So I look at it as not just an opportunity to do well given the condition he's in, but also an opportunity to improve himself as a runner by challenging himself at a distance that he's never run before."
Salazar said that after the half marathon, Rupp will still take some down time before building up again to get ready for the US Outdoor Championships in June and the World Championships in August. Salazar didn't seem concerned that the delay in Rupp getting some down time would effect him much. "(Even after the time off and a month of easy training to get back where he was), he'll still have eight or nine weeks until the US Outdoor Championships, and that's plenty enough time to be ready for that. So I just felt that really the six of one, half dozen of the other. He's going to take a two week break. Whether he takes a two-week break 14 weeks before the outdoor championships or 12 weeks before, it really doesn't matter," explained Salazar.
Old School Advice: "Running Is Running"
Salazar also didn't seem concerned too much that while Rupp had been training to run 6.2 miles on the track, his big race early in 2011 will be 13.1 miles on the road.
"Running is running. Whether you're running a cross-country race, a 5 mile cross-country race which Galen ran in Edinburgh, or a 10K track race which he was going to run outdoors in Christchurch or a couple of indoor meets, and now a road race, the training, other than perhaps being a little different for the different distances is pretty similar," said Salazar.
"His mileage will stay pretty much the same for the next few weeks, and he'll do a few longer workouts more geared on getting the rhythm of the half marathon pace as opposed to sort of the much more intense type that you do for the shorter distances right from the beginning."
LetsRun.com asked Rupp if psychologically he was disappointed that he didn't get a chance to go after his big early goal in 2011 - the US 10,000 meter record - last week in New Zealand. Rupp responded in wise fashion, "I couldn't be too disappointed not running, especially considering what happened down there. Those people and what they're going through have much bigger problems than worrying about some silly track race."
As for the race itself in New York, Rupp said he didn't want to focus on time but rather just competing with the world's best.
20 Races A Year For Galen
Towards the end of the teleconference, Salazar explained that a key tenet of his coaching philosophy is that he believes it's important for his athletes to practice racing. In a day and age when many top distance focused pros often only race a few times a year, Salazar, who is known to be a big believer in the benefits of modern technology like anti-gravity treadmills and altitude tents, revealed himself to be decidedly very old-schooled. Salazar talked at length about the importance he places on racing often, with the goal being 20 races per year:
"I really believe that running has to be fun, first of all. So as an athlete, you would ask what constitutes fun for a particular runner? Training can be fun for some people, at times can be fun.
But for most of my athletes, they really like racing. I believe racing is what it's about. There are some people that are very successful that don't race a lot, they race infrequently and that seems to be how they run their best.
My philosophy is that you shouldn't over-race, but you should race a lot. Any other sport, people compete at any other sport a lot more. I believe that the psychological part of becoming a great runner means that you need to practice. Not only training, but you need to practice racing, and that means running a significant amount of races.
So I believe it's in Galen's long-term best interest in terms of development, to run somewhere in the vicinity of 20 races a year. He might not run any faster, whether he runs 20 races or ten races a year in terms of actual times, but I think his development as a racer, ultimately will be that much better.
You look at someone like Bernard Lagat, who is perceived by many as perhaps being the best tactician who is out there in distance running right now, and he runs a fair amount of races throughout the year. The other thing is he's been around for a long time, so he's run so many races. So I have to believe it's those experiences that he's gained over time that are one of the reasons that he's such a great tactician."
Each Nike Training Group To Have It's Own Name And Uniforms
One of the last things that Salazar talked about on the teleconference was how recently Nike has decided to re-brand the various groups of professional runners training in Oregon as distinct entities. Up until last month, the three groups of professional runners running for Nike in Oregon all competed under the Oregon Track Club name even though the three groups all trained under different coaches and had different philosophies. To Salazar, it made no sense that the three groups of runners - whether it is the Eugene-based runners training under Mark Rowland and Vin Lananna (Andrew Whearing, Lauren Fleshman, etc.) or the Portland based runners training under either Salazar (Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenhein, etc.) or Jerry Schumacher (Matt Tegenkamp, Chris Solinsky, etc.) - would compete under the same name.
"The decision was made by Nike in this last few months to half year that Nike really wants to tell the story of different training groups, and authentic training groups and their stories. Jerry's and my group are definitely different. We both train out of the Nike campus, but he could just as well or I could just as well be in another state. They are a totally separate group," said Salazar.
"So truly what it comes down to is Nike wants to promote these different running tribes sort of that are out there. And rather than having everybody have the same name, I think it's much more effective (to have different names). To me it's always been boring. I've argued with Nike for 30 years over having a race (like) the Pre Classic and having 9 of the 12 guys all running the exact same jersey and they're from nine different countries. I get the idea that they want to sell the Nike brand, but I think if we could do it in a more diverse way would be more interesting. So that is the challenge."
"Nike did it in World Cup soccer this year, where all the shoes that the Nike teams wore were different in terms of color waves, but they all had a heel pattern that unified them. And people recognized it was a Nike shoe and a special new model. So that is what Nike's going to do in running now."
Editor's Note: One other thing that Salazar mentioned on the teleconference was that there is likely to be a very fast 10,000 in Eugene on Friday night, June 3rd - the night before the 2011 Pre Classic. Salazar said that given the fact that this race was just three weeks before US nationals, that Rupp would almost certainly not race in the 10k in Eugene (LetsRun.com is assuming the race is being set up so that Jerry Schumacher's runners can compete in it). Instead, Rupp might run a 2-mile that would be held as part of the actual Pre Classic.