In Case You Forgot, Galen Rupp Isn’t the Only American Man Running Chicago — Meet the Others
October 4, 2017
Two-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp is the star attraction in Sunday’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and with good reason. The 31-year-old has run three career marathons, and all three have gone exceptionally well: a debut win at the 2016 Olympic Trials, a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, and a runner-up finish at the 2017 Boston Marathon. Now he’ll take on Chicago, where he’ll attempt to become the first American-born champion since Greg Meyer in 1982.
We have our first article on Rupp out here: LRC LetsRun Debates: How fast can Galen Rupp run for 26.2 at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon?
We’ll have plenty more on Rupp in the days to come, but he is far from the only American man in the Chicago elite field, which is full of American storylines. Last year’s top American in Chicago Diego Estrada, Olympic Trials fourth placer Luke Puskedra, cult hero Noah Droddy, and debutants Chris Derrick (27:31/61:12) and Sam Chelanga* (11th at World XC in March and a Galen Rupp slayer in college), are among the names that will suit up on Sunday.
2:12 marathoner Aaron Braun is racing as well and we published an article on him yesterday: LRC Aaron Braun And The Question All Runners Eventually Face – “Should I Hang ‘Em Up?”
We give you need-to-know details for Chicago below before running through the top U.S. men not named Rupp one by one.
What: 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
When: Sunday, October 8, 8:30 a.m. ET (7:30 a.m. local time)
Where: Chicago, Illinois
How to watch: For Chicago-area residents, the race will be shown live on NBC 5 starting at 7 a.m. local time. For everyone else, you can stream the race live online at NBCChicago.com starting at 8 a.m. ET or watch it live on NBC Sports Network or NBC Sports Gold at 8 a.m. ET.
Men’s U.S. elite field * Full elite field
|Galen Rupp||USA||2:09:58||Has run well in all 3 career marathons; can he earn first WMM victory?|
|Luke Puskedra||USA||2:10:24||Ran PR to take 5th here in ’15; 9th in Boston in April|
|Jeffrey Eggleston||USA||2:10:52||Has already run 4 marathons in ’17, with a best of 2:14 in Warsaw|
|Aaron Braun||USA||2:12:54||Ran PR at ’15 Houston but hasn’t raced a marathon since|
|Diego Estrada||USA||2:13:56||After Oly Trials DNF, took 8th last year to finish as top American|
|Andrew Bumbalough||USA||2:13:58||25th in his debut in Tokyo in Feb|
|Sam Chelanga||USA||N/A||*Marathon debut, take two, after DNF at Oly Trials|
|Noah Droddy||USA||N/A||Cult hero can run some too; 61:48 at NYC Half in March; DNF at OT marathon|
|Chris Derrick||USA||debut||3-time USA XC champ ran in IL in HS; 61:12 HM in March|
Luke Puskedra — Nike, 27 years old, 2:10:24 pb (2015 Chicago), 61:29 half
Marathons since start of 2016: 4th 2016 Olympic Trials (2:14:12), 19th 2016 Chicago (2:20:18), 9th 2017 Boston (2:14:45)
What you need to know about him: Puskedra ran two very good marathons at 2015 Chicago (5th in 2:10:24) and the 2016 Olympic Trials (4th in 2:14:12). His last two marathons — including a 19th-place finish in Chicago last year — did not go as well, which caused Puskedra to reevaluate his training.
Puskedra is a guy who can sometimes struggle to rein himself in during workouts, and that was the case during his buildup for Boston 2017. Puskedra went up to altitude in Flagstaff for that buildup and tried to do it all, running hard workouts and running his easy days well under 6:00 pace, all while running mega miles, as many as 160 per week. The hope was that doing all that work on tired legs would prepare him for the crucial final miles of the marathon, but as he tapered in the final weeks of his buildup, he kept waiting for his legs to feel good again it never happened.
“I just never felt like I got out of that hole,” Puskedra said.
This time around, Puskedra has tried to give himself more rest, both by backing off his mileage (to the 115-120 range) and by giving himself more recovery time between workouts. In addition, he’s been running his long runs harder, closer to tempo effort, whereas in the past he would try to use them mainly to simulate the 2+ hours he’d have to spend on his feet in a marathon. As a result, Puskedra says he feels fresher, both mentally and physically, compared to his last few marathons.
Athlete quote: “[I want to] be competitive but not be stupid. If [the top] guys want to go out really fast, it might not make sense for me to go out if they’re going to go out 1:02 or 1:03 or something like that. But if it’s the same sort of race it’s been in the past years and you go out in 1:04, 1:05, I think that would be good for me, just to try to be competitive over the last part of the race.”
Fun fact: Puskedra and wife Trudie welcomed their second daughter, Payton, on August 4. But if you thought a newborn baby (to go along with their two-year-old, Penelope) would interfere with Puskedra’s training, you’d be wrong. Amazingly, Puskedra says he’s sleeping more now than ever before as Trudie — who is clearly a saint — will wake up to take care of Payton during the night. He told LetsRun that he sleeps 12-13 hours a night and will sometimes supplement that with a nap of up to three hours in the afternoon. Normally, that means going to bed at 7 p.m. and waking up at 7 or 8 a.m., but when we spoke with Puskedra on Monday, he told us he had gone to bed at 5:15 p.m. the night before as he was trying to adjust ahead of time to the two hour time change from his home in Eugene to the race in Chicago.
Chris Derrick — Nike Bowerman Track Club, 26 years old, debut, 61:12 half
What you need to know about him: While this is Derrick’s first full marathon buildup, it’s been something he’s building towards for a while. He first experimented with marathon-style training during the winter of 2015 and the results were impressive, with a dominant win at USA XC and a 24th-place finish at World XC (top non-African-born finisher). He tried it again last winter while preparing for the Olympic Marathon Trials, but hip and shin injuries put a halt to that and he had to withdraw. Since then, however, Derrick has been healthy, and his results have been mostly good. He ran 13:19 for 5,000 indoors, his fastest time in three years, and followed that up with a 61:12 half marathon pb at the NYC Half in March. Since January 2015, only one American has run faster over that distance — Dathan Ritzenhein, and that came on a non-record-eligible course at the Great North Run.
Now it’s time for Derrick to make his debut, and he’ll do it in familiar territory in Chicago (he went to high school in nearby Naperville). Derrick has had a quality training partner in Andrew Bumbalough and has also leaned on World Championship medalist Amy Cragg, another of coach Jerry Schumacher‘s disciples, for advice. Several of Derrick’s harder, faster workouts were scheduled for the final four weeks of his buildup and talking to Cragg and her husband Alistair helped him remain confident that his fitness would come around late.
“Four weeks ago, I felt ready to run for a long time but not ready to run very fast,” Derrick said. “But then it came together at the end. Knowing to expect that was good advice.”
Athlete quote: “Mainly, I just want to not totally blow to pieces the last 10k. One thing everyone’s told me is that you can’t really know what that’s like until you’ve done it. You can’t really get to that place in training otherwise you’d be toast for a while.
“I think anything below 64:00 [for the first half] would be a bit of an ask. I think anything even really close to 64:00 would be pretty tough on the back end, but we’ll just have to see how it feels on the day. Obviously when someone takes the lead, they don’t say, Hey guys, I’m gonna come through 64:10 10 miles from now. You kind of have to extrapolate from what’s going on around you and how you feel. I think people have it in their minds that it’ll be obvious what the pack’s gonna come through in and what you should do but I don’t think that’s the case.”
Diego Estrada — Asics, 27 years old, 2:13:56 pb (2016 Chicago), 60:51 half
Last two marathons: DNF 2016 Olympic Trials, 8th 2016 Chicago (2:13:56)
What you need to know about him: Estrada has always been a long distance grinder, but he really flashed his potential just one month after his 25th birthday in 2015, when he ran 60:51 at the Houston Half to become the fourth-fastest American ever on a record-eligible course (third if you remove doper Mo Trafeh). Since then, Estrada has seemed destined for the marathon, but his coach Joe Vigil has tried to employ a patient approach. Estrada’s debut at the Olympic Trials last year did not go well (he wound up dropping out) but he was an impressive eighth in Chicago last year, the top American in the field even though he fell at an early water station and ended up on crutches after the race. (LRC The Top American At The 2016 Chicago Marathon Ended His Day on Crutches, But Dropping Out Wasn’t An Option For Diego Estrada).
With that race experience under his belt, Estrada returns in 2017 more with more confidence and says that he now feels like a “true marathoner” as opposed to a 10k/half marathon guy who happened to be running the marathon. In the past, Estrada was obsessed with hitting every split and following every workout exactly as planned, but now he knows it’s okay to back off or adjust his training if that’s what his body requires.
“The marathon, the training itself is the one training that requires listening to your body, at least in my case, taking priority over how I feel rather than what a training log says,” Estrada said. “I’ve been more realistic with this buildup and seeing it as a whole rather than I have to hit home runs every other day.”
Estrada had a limited track season last spring (three races), but did manage to finish sixth at USAs in the 10,000. He didn’t run any tuneup races. He considered running the US 20k champs on September 4, but his mother was having knee surgery on September 5 and decided to skip the race to be there for her instead.
Athlete quote: “Coach always reminds me that there are probably less than 10 Americans that have broken 2:10 in the marathon (actually 12 on record-eligible courses) so he likes to take baby steps but he says that breaking 2:10 would be a great goal. So all my training has been around with that in mind, of running a 2:08 to a 2:10. But there are certain days where I feel like I could run a 2:07 and then of course then I remind myself that there are no rabbits in Chicago.
“There’s a lot of workouts I’d like to brag about, but Coach would be mad, so we’ll leave it at that.”
Sam Chelanga — Nike/American Distance Project, 32 years old, 61:04 half
Last marathon: DNF 2016 Olympic Trials
What you need to know about him: Chelanga has bounced around a bit since graduating from Liberty University in 2011, training under Mark Rowland in Eugene, Mark Coogan in Hanover, N.H., James Li in Tucson, and now Scott Simmons in Colorado Springs. And while he’s never been able to surpass his 27:08 10,000 pb from college, he’s logged some solid results in the past year, including an 11th-place finish at the World Cross Country Championships in March — the top finish by a non-African runner.
This will be Chelanga’s second attempt at the marathon, but his first buildup under Simmons (he dropped out of the Olympic Trials last year when he was with Li). His results at the intermediate distances this year have been good. He was the runner-up at the U.S. Half Marathon champs in April, credited with the same time as winner Leonard Korir (63:04), and he was third at the U.S. 20K champs on September 4, just 12 seconds behind winner Galen Rupp. In all, Chelanga has run seven road races this year and has finished in the top three in all of them. He’s as prepared to run the marathon as a novice can be.
Chelanga and his coach Scott Simmons did not respond to our calls prior to publication, so we don’t know exactly how this buildup has gone, but based on his run at the 20K champs, Chelanga is fit right now. The big question: How aggressive will he be? Chelanga has the talent to break 2:10 one day, but if the leaders go out at 64:00, will Chelanga be bold enough to go with them?
Andrew Bumbalough — Nike Bowerman Track Club, 30 years old, 2:13:58 pb (2017 Tokyo), 62:04 half
Last marathons: 25th 2017 Tokyo (2:13:58)
What you need to know about him: After injury-plagued years in 2015 and 2016, Bumbalough has finally been healthy again in 2017. He began the year by making his marathon debut in Tokyo, and though his 2:13:58 there won’t turn many heads, Bumbalough told LRC that felt like it was a “well-executed debut” as he was able to handle the distance well. That said, Bumbalough, like many of Jerry Schumacher‘s athletes, approached his debut marathon with caution. This time around, he’s looking to take a few more risks. He believes he is in shape to improve on his Tokyo performance by “a fair margin” but exactly how much is dependent on the conditions and how the race plays out up front.
Bumbalough will have a teammate on the start line in Derrick, and the pair have been running every workout together during this buildup, including a month-long altitude stint in Mammoth Lakes, California, from mid-August to mid-September. That will give them some flexibility in what pace they decide to go out on; should the leaders chase a fast time (certainly a possibility with Rupp in the field), Bumbalough and Derrick could work together as part of a chase pack (something some of the other Americans in this article would likely join).
Athlete quote: “One of the important things I learned is that to do really well in the marathon, yes, you have to be composed and you have to be cautious, but you have to be willing to take a little bit of risk…Because I think no matter what, in the last six miles of the race, it’s gonna be the same. Whether you’ve taken a little bit risk or not, it still gets really hard. That’s a little piece that I feel like I learned, that about halfway to mile 20 or so, you have to take a little bit of risk and see if you can do it on that day — within reason, of course.
“Marathon training has just really suited where I’m at in my career at this point and has just been a really fun and unique transition of my career. The way the buildup’s gone, it’s made me not just think I’m doing this because this is the only thing I have left. I’m really excited to try to really truly become a marathoner, not just a track guy that is running marathons.”
Noah Droddy — Saucony/Roots Running Project, 27 years old, 61:48 half
Last marathon: DNF 2016 Olympic Trials
What you need to know about him: To some, Droddy is still “That Guy” who ran the Olympic Trials 10,000 with a mustache, long hair, sunglasses, and a backwards hat. But increasingly, the 2013 graduate of Division II DePauw University is becoming known for his running prowess. Last year, he was the runner-up at the U.S. 10-mile champs, and in March he took a hammer to his half marathon PR by running 61:48 in New York, incredible for a guy who had never broken 66:00 at the start of 2016.
Officially, this is not Droddy’s debut, but it might as well be. He ran last year’s Olympic Trials Marathon, but because he only qualified four weeks before the race (with a half-marathon), he had essentially no buildup. He raced the first 16 miles, and once he began to struggle, jogged another four to get back to the start/finish area, stepping off at 20 miles — at the time, the longest run of his life.
An Achilles injury this summer caused Droddy to get a slightly late start on his Chicago buildup, but he is hoping the tradeoff is that he feels fresh on the start line. Droddy has generally been a low-mileage guy, and though his weekly mileage during this buildup of 90-95 isn’t big by marathon standards, it’s 15-20 miles more than he’d ever done in the past. Droddy is pleased with how he has handled the higher mileage — a good sign, as he expects there will be more marathons in his future.
Athlete quote: “Goal #1 is to finish the distance, finish my first marathon and feel good about what happens, feel excited to do another one and really use this as a jumping off point for my career as a marathoner…In terms of pace goal, I think it’s always a crapshoot in the marathon. People always throw out what they think they can run, but we all know in running, what happens in the day can be totally variable depending on weather or whatever. I think I’ve prepared to run, on a good day, anywhere from 2:12 to 2:15 depending on how things shake out. Those would be numbers that if I saw them, I would be very content.“
Fun fact: Droddy’s contracts with Saucony and Polar watches mean he can focus on running full-time, but he still puts in 15-20 hours a week in Fleet Feet Sports, his local shoe store in Boulder. “My boss Lee Troop, who’s the coach of Laura Thweatt, Boulder Track Club, multiple-time Olympian himself, you probably know him. He gave me a job when I first moved out to Boulder. I like working there, it’s a great environment and it’s right down the street so it didn’t really make sense to me to totally stop working and just sit around the house all day.”
Aaron Braun — Hoka One One NAZ Elite, 30 years old, 2:12:54 pb (2015 Houston), 61:38 half
Last two marathons: 7th 2014 Los Angeles (2:19:51), 7th 2015 Houston (2:12:54)
What you need to know about him: We covered Braun’s backstory in great depth already but here’s the CliffsNotes version: after running a pb of 2:12:54 in Houston in January 2015, Braun dealt with a nagging hip injury for over a year that led him to consider quitting the sport last summer. But, determined to test his potential in the marathon, he moved to Flagstaff last fall and began training with Ben Rosario‘s NAZ Elite squad. Now (mostly) healthy again, Braun will be running his first marathon in 33 months on Sunday.
Braun hasn’t done anything remarkable yet in 2017 (he was 6th at the US Half Marathon champs and 5th at the US 25k champs) but both he and Rosario are pleased with how his training has gone.
Coach quote: “[When Braun was coming back from his injury], it was tough to watch him have to run not at 100% racing wise. But anyway, he did all that work and he did all the rehab and then we basically got the green light from [chiropractor] John [Ball] to start training at full capacity this summer and ever since then, he’s been killing it and he’s been doing 120-mile weeks like he likes to do.
“We’ve trained to be in that 5:01/5:02 per mile kind of shape, so 2:11/2:12 kind of shape. And he can definitely run that. I mean obviously we’re keeping an eye on the weather and things. But it’s sort of nice with a guy like that because of course we know he can run 2:12 — he’s done it before.” — Ben Rosario
Jeffrey Eggleston — adidas, 33 years old, 2:10:52 pb (2014 Gold Coast), 62:41 half
Marathons this year: 27th 2017 Beppu-Oita Mainichi (2:18:42), 4th 2017 Warsaw (2:14:00), 1st 2017 Lima (2:15:25), 1st Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego (2:21:17)
What you need to know about him: Eggleston, quite clearly, races a lot as Chicago will be his fifth marathon of 2017. However, considering the first four all took place in a four-month span, he will be fairly well-rested for this one — his only race since Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego in June was his 65:55 tuneup win at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half on September 3.
Eggleston’s PR of 2:10:52 is third among Americans in this field, behind only Rupp and Puskedra, but he hasn’t run within three minutes of that time since he ran it in July 2014. In his last go-round in Chicago, in 2012, he finished 16th in 2:12:03.
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