March 31, 2017
American visitors, by the time you wake up tomorrow, Nike Oregon Project stars Galen Rupp and Jordan Hasay will have run the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon in the Czech Republic – a race they are running just 16 days before they toe the line for the 121st Boston Marathon. They’re not the only big names in the field as Olympic 10,000-meter bronze medallist Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia and Kenyan studs Gladys Chesir (66:57 PR) and defending champion Violah Jepchumba (65:51) are also entered. Plus rising star Joyciline Jepkosgei (66:08) has announced that she intends to target Peres Jepchirchir‘s 65:06 world record, set at last month’s RAK Half.
That makes for a couple of appealing races. We break it down below.
What: Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon
Where: Prague, Czech Republic
When: Saturday, April 1
How to watch: The race, which begins at 4 a.m. ET (10 am local), will be streamed live online. For those of you with non-North American IP addresses, the race will be on free at online at iVysilani.cz thanks to Czech Television worldwide. People with North American IPs, you have to pay for it as it will be on Flotrack (subscription required).
*Full elite fields (per the IAAF, Jepchirchir is a scratch with typhoid)
*Talk about the race on our fan forum: Prague 1/2 predictions? Rupp ftw? – Official 2017 Prague Half Live Discussion Thread *Jordan Hasay is running 100 miles a week just 2-3 weeks out from Boston
What’s Rupp Up To?
In August, Galen Rupp stood on the podium at the Maracana Stadium in Rio to receive his Olympic marathon bronze medal. The 30-year-old has barely raced since (he was 10th at the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving and scratched from January’s Houston Half Marathon, citing plantar fasciitis), but Rupp rarely enters a race unprepared and with Boston just two weeks away and we expect him to be fit as a recent Competitor article said that Rupp has been averaging 140 miles per week in his buildup.
But other than that, there are a lot of questions. Just how fit is Rupp, exactly? Will he try to break Ryan Hall‘s 59:43 American record? Why fly halfway around the world to run a half marathon two weeks before Boston?
We won’t know the answer to the first two until Saturday. The opportunity to run fast is there. Temperatures should be in the mid- to high-50s Fahrenheit during the race, with just a little wind (7 mph). And over the past six years, the winner in Prague has failed to break 60:00 just once, with an average winning time of 59:30. With Tamirat Tola, a man who beat Rupp in the Olympic 10,000 last summer and set the course record of 2:04:11 at the Dubai Marathon in January, in the field, plus 2016 runner-up Barselius Kipyego (59:15 PR), expect the race to go out quickly.
As for the third question, we can’t tell you exactly what Rupp and Alberto Salazar are thinking, but the 2016 Olympics, where Rupp was fifth in the 10,000 just eight days before earning marathon bronze, proved that Rupp can bounce back quickly from a hard effort and still run a great marathon. In addition, after a long break from competition, Rupp must want to have a race under his belt before tackling Boston. A half marathon is over double the distance of a 10,000, but Rupp also has double the recovery time. And unlike the Olympic 10,000, Rupp doesn’t necessarily have to go all-out in Prague.
With that said, it is uncommon for an athlete to run a half marathon in such close proximity to a marathon, and there was a high-quality half marathon in New York two weeks ago that was both closer to Rupp’s base in Portland and afforded him more cushion before Boston. But by racing now, Rupp avoids having to interrupt a training block and will instead use an extended taper from Prague to Boston.
“In looking at the schedule, it worked out really well. It allowed me to get in a lot of training right before both Boston and this and then kind of be on one gradual taper,” Rupp told David Monti on Thursday.
And while Rupp’s racing just two weeks before Boston seems radical by today’s standards, it’s certainly not radical if one has a sense of history. 35 years ago, just 9 days before Alberto Salazar won the Boston Marathon in 2:08:51, he ran a 27:30.00 pb on the track (losing to Henry Rono). Salazar clearly must think racing a shorter distance before a marathon is a good thing.
Let’s say that Rupp is fit and doesn’t hold back in Prague. How fast could he go? It’s hard to say as he’s been in marathon training, but below, we’ve listed the fastest half marathons by non-African-born runners (record-eligible courses*).
1. 59:33 Marilson Gomes dos Santos, Brazil 2007
2. 59:43 Ryan Hall, USA 2007
3. 59:47 Zane Robertson, New Zealand 2015
4. 59:52 Fabian Roncero, Spain 2001
5. 60:00 Dathan Ritzenhein, USA 2009
5. 60:00 Callum Hawkins, Great Britain 2017
*Portugal’s Antonio Pinto ran 59:43 at the 1998 Lisbon Half Marathon, but All-Athletics.com does not list that course as record-eligible
Given that Rupp smoked Hawkins in Rio and has run significantly faster on the track than every man on that list, we expect he’d be capable of well under 60:00 if he so desires. The fact that his half marathon PR is “only” 60:30* is merely the result of Rupp only having run two half marathons during his career. They don’t give out Olympic medals in the half marathon, so even though it’s an event in which Rupp should excel, he hasn’t focused on it during his career.
*This came at the 2011 NYC Half on a course which was not record-eligible at the time
As if you needed more evidence for why Rupp projects as an outstanding half marathoner, check out the table below, which shows the half marathon PRs of the five men in front of and behind Rupp on the all-time 10,000 list.
|Name||Country||10,000 pb||HM pb||Note|
|Ahmad Hassan Abdullah||Qatar||26:38.76||61:46||2 bronzes at World Half Champs|
|Galen Rupp||USA||26:44.36||60:30||pb is from ’11 NYC Half; pb on record-eligible course is 61:21|
|Mo Farah||Great Britain||26:46.57||59:22*||pb is from ’15 Great North Run; pb on record-eligible course is 59:32|
|Imane Merga||Ethiopia||26:48.35||59:56*||pb is from ’12 Great North Run; pb on record-eligible course is 62:40|
Looking at the list, it appears to be a 50-50 shot as to whether Rupp will ever break 60:00 for the half marathon. But the guys who went on to run a good marathon (Abdullah, Wanjiru, Rotich, Farah and Kipchoge) all either ran a very fast half marathon or, in Abdullah’s case, medalled at the World Half Champs. Since we already know Rupp is a very strong championship marathoner, it stands to reason that he would follow in their footsteps and run a fast half as well. In our minds, if Rupp was training only for a half-marathon, we’d expect him to certainly break 60:00.
As for Ryan Hall’s 59:43 American record, Monti asked Rupp about that in the interview below.
“We’ll see,” Rupp said. “I’m definitely not going to rule anything out but I’ve come off a pretty heavy training period and my training’s definitely been geared towards the marathon. But I never rule anything out and things have gone really well the last couple weeks. I’ve finally started to rest, so I’m starting to feel really good. You know, we’ll see. The main goal is just to compete, get a good effort in.”
— Oregon Project (@OregonPJT) March 30, 2017
Even at his best, Rupp is not assured of victory (Tola is a total stud and Kipyego has finished either first or second in six career half marathons, breaking 60:00 twice), but we expect him to challenge for the win on Saturday. As detailed as coach Alberto Salazar is, and based on Rupp’s comments, there is zero chance that Rupp is flying all the way to Europe to run a marathon paced effort.
However, aside from an injury, it’s going to be interesting to analyze what Rupp’s race means. In the past, we’ve repeatedly told people that a strong half-marathon during the buildup isn’t a pre-requisite for a good marathon (and a super fast one may not actually be a great sign) but that’s normally because people are racing them in the midst of their heavy mileage phase. This is a little different due to when it’s being run so analyzing what it all means is going to require some thought. But if Rupp does break Hall’s AR, then we know one thing – the excitement for his Boston debut is going to be through the roof even if that doesn’t guarantee he’ll run well in Boston as a marathon is all about excelling over the final 10k. But if he comes up short and looks super strong, then there still also is plenty of reason to be excited about his Boston debut.
LRC prediction: Running a big half-marathon before just two weeks before a marathon is not something that is normally done so it’s hard to say what we’ll happen, but considering the fact that Salazar was PRing on the track just 9 days before his Boston win, we certainly esxpect Rupp to PR here. We’ve learned over the years that doubting Galen Rupp isn’t a smart proposition so we’ll predict he breaks the American record as well.
A World Record Chase and Half Marathon #2 for Jordan Hasay
Unlike Rupp, Hasay has no shot to win in Prague. As well as she’s been running recently — she ran an impressive 68:40 in her half marathon debut in steamy Houston in January, followed by a U.S. title at 15 kilometers on March 11 — she’s not on the same level as the studs in this field. That’s fine. Hasay likely won’t be contending for the win in Boston either, so locking into a pace on her own in Prague will be good practice.
“The goal is to run controlled for the first 10 miles then if I feel good, to pick it up the last three,” Hasay told Flotrack. “We don’t want to dig a hole going into Boston so if I don’t feel great, I’ll just maintain pace but if I feel good, then I’ll go for it a bit. I’m really using it as a tune-up for Boston so that I can feel comfortable coming through the half in two weeks a lot slower at marathon pace there.”
The race for the win should be exciting, and there’s an outside shot at a world record with the fourth (Violah Jepchumba) and seventh (Joyciline Jepkosgei) fastest half marathoners of all time in the field. Jepchumba broke out last year, crushing a 65:51 course record to win this race before going on to claim half marathon victories in Istanbul, Gothenburg and Cardiff. In addition, she ran 30:24 for 10k on the roads in September, missing the world record by three seconds. She has won her only race of 2017, clocking 71:43 at the Doha Half Marathon in January. Jepkosgei also had a successful 2016 but her coming-out party was the 2017 RAK Half, where she finished third in 66:08. Announcing a WR attempt, as Jepkosgei has done prior to this race, is a bold move considering Jepkosgei was over a minute behind when Jepchirchir set the record last month. But Jepkosgei has PR’d in every one of her four lifetime half marathons, and a big jump in PR to set a world record is not unprecedented. Consider: Jepchirchir’s PR was 66:39 before she ran the WR of 65:06 (granted, Jepchirchir was also the reigning half marathon world champ).
Gladys Chesir, who ran 66:57 at RAK last year and was sixth at the World Half Champs, should also be a factor but we expect either Jepchumba or Jepkosgei to emerge victorious.
LRC prediction: Jepkosgei continues her rise and her PR streak, but she comes up short of the WR.
Talk about the race on our world famous fan forum / messageboard:
- Jordan Hasay is running 100 miles a week just 2-3 weeks out from Boston
- Prague 1/2 predictions? Rupp ftw? – Official 2017 Prague Half Live Discussion Thread