The Big Debate: What Marathon Should Galen Rupp Run Next? Boston or London?
October 11, 2017
In case you were living under a rock, Galen Rupp won the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, becoming the first American man to do so since 2002 (first American-born since 1982). Rupp has now run four career marathons, and they could not have gone much better: a debut win at the Olympic Trials last year, a bronze medal at the Olympics, a runner-up finish in Boston in April, and now a win in Chicago (he’s also managed to run a personal best in every race).
While Rupp and his fans will have several months to bask in the glory of Chicago, we at LetsRun.com are always looking forward, and the obvious question now is: Which marathon should Galen Rupp run next? We convened the LRC braintrust — co-founders Robert (Rojo) and Weldon Johnson (Wejo), Employee 1.1 Steve Soprano, and staff writer Jonathan Gault — to map out Rupp’s next move.
Jonathan: I think Rupp has two clear options when it comes to his next marathon: Boston or London.
The argument for Boston: 1) It’s America’s oldest and (in my opinion) most prestigious marathon; 2) The field in Boston will almost certainly be weaker than the field in London, making the race easier for Rupp to win; 3) Rupp has excelled in championship-style marathons and there are no rabbits in Boston.
The argument for London: 1) There will be better competition in London. If Rupp wants to test himself against the best the world has to offer, London is the place to be; 2) Rupp can run way faster in London than he can in Boston.
As far as appearance fees, London has deeper pockets than Boston, but I think Boston would be willing to pay more to get Rupp. But that’s a moot point. Rupp makes plenty from his Nike contract and prize money. Remember, he passed up an appearance fee for his first two marathons. Money won’t be the determining factor.
I’m firmly of the opinion that he should run London next year, and this is coming from a guy from Boston. It’s the more exciting option.
Rupp’s run on Sunday was incredibly impressive — I think you can count the number of guys who could have hung with Rupp during the final miles on one hand. With his Olympic medal and Chicago victory, Rupp has established himself as one of the world’s premier marathoners. Now it’s time for him to do the one thing he has yet to try as a marathoner: test himself against the world’s best in a rabbitted race.
Steve: Jon, as a fan of the sport, I agree with you and would like to see Rupp in London in a rabbitted race. I want to see how fast he can run and with the success he’s had so far at the marathon and his 26:44 American record at 10,000m, you have to think he would be gunning for Khalid Khannouchi‘s 2:05:38 US record (maybe even Ryan Hall’s wind-aided 2:04:58 … although I don’t see that happening on a legit course).
But I think it’s far more likely that Rupp lines up in Boston next year than London and I really can’t blame him. In London, Rupp would have two choices: 1) Go out around 61:30 with the lead pack and hope he doesn’t completely blow up and can hold on enough to still run something decent or 2) Get his own personal pacer (as Mo Farah did in his debut in 2014). However, neither of these options are ideal for Rupp and I don’t necessarily see Alberto Salazar putting him into that position.
So that’s why Rupp would skip London and that’s not even considering the positives for Boston. While Meb might have “broken the streak” back in 2014, an American running well at Boston is still a big deal and Rupp would be the first “American-born” runner to win since Greg Meyer in 1983. Not to mention the appearance fee you already commented on Jon, as well as just having a victory at Boston on your resume. Add all this up and I think Boston this year suits Rupp’s and Salazar’s style much more than London. In Boston, Rupp can line up in a non-paced race not only as a contender, but probably the favorite (if the fields are similar to the past). I don’t see Salazar telling Rupp to go with the leaders in London and just hold on.
Plus, Rupp can have his cake and eat it too by running Boston this spring and then going for a really fast time in the fall at Berlin with his own individual pacer.
Jonathan: I agree that Rupp probably won’t be able to run 2:03 in London. But with that said, allow me to play devil’s advocate for a minute. Rupp is one of the five best marathoners in the world right now. Why shouldn’t he go out with the big boys and see what he can do?
If I told you before Chicago that Jordan Hasay, whose marathon PR entering the race was 2:23, was going to through 10k in 32:29 (2:17:03 pace) and halfway at 69:13, you’d have probably thought she would be riding the blowup train all the way to the finish — if she finished.
But after the hot early pace, she dropped back and hung on for a massive PR. Why can’t Rupp — who is a better marathoner than Hasay — do the same thing in London? I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest that he could go out in 61:30 and come home in 64:00 and run 2:05:30. Remember how easy he made 61:20 pace look? After all, Rupp is fond of saying that he doesn’t like to put limits on himself, and saying “I can’t win if I go out in 61:30” sounds an awful lot like a limit to me.
And it’s not just about running a PR. It’s about taking on the best in the world, by which I mean Eliud Kipchoge. Rupp should have a few more good years in him (he’s 31), but he’s in the shape of his life right now. If he goes to Berlin and runs 2:05, he can say “I’m a 2:05 guy.” If he goes to London and beats Kipchoge (obviously a big if), he can say “I’m the best marathoner in the world.”
Wejo: Ohh my. I hadn’t even contemplated Rupp being the “best marathoner in the world.” He’s got a pretty good start to his career going right now I must say.
Crazy thing with Galen is that right now his PR is closer to Paula Radcliffe’s world record (6:05 away) than Dennis Kimetto’s (6:23). Yet I still would put him as one of the top five marathoners in the world for sure. And if that’s the case he should be able to run 2:04 or better, though there have been a few guys in the past who could do tremendously well in tactical marathons but not fast ones. The jury is still out.
A few points of order: Galen isn’t going to do Berlin next year Steve. He’ll be the defending Chicago champion and can defend his title there or go for a big win in New York. Chicago could even institute pacemakers next year for him and just say ‘we’re going to keep it moderate at 1:03 halfway.’ Only way I see him going to Berlin is if somehow he did run a fast one in London and thinks the world record is a possibility. Now we’re starting crazy talk as we’re not even sure he’ll run London. But it is kind of cool to throw it out there. But instead of saying he’ll chase the world record in Berlin, it’s way more likely that Alberto Salazar gets sanctioned by USADA before then just to temper this crazy talk. Not saying it’s going to happen (my thinking is they would have already charged Alberto if they were going to charge him for what is publicly out there), but it’s way more likely than Rupp going after the WR in Berlin.
Back to the topic at hand. There is a thread on the forums discussing this topic: If you were Galen Rupp, what would your next marathon be? . It got me thinking maybe we need to plan Galen’s career out to 2021. The focus for any runner is the Olympics so that the 2020 Olympic marathon has to be Galen’s longer-term focus, but only a year after that is the 2021 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
So taking a bigger picture view what do you think Galen does in 2018 and 2019? If all goes well for him, 2020 likely will just be Olympic Trials and Olympics and 2021 maybe just the World Champs.
Rojo: First of all, Steve, needs to learn the rule I’ve adopted for Galen Rupp. “Never doubt what he can do.” If you do doubt it or say it’s illogical, you’ll end up looking like a fool.
I don’t think Rupp would have a problem going out in 61:30. He may blow up but he could definitely go out that fast. Now if it was under 61 flat, then he’d have some deciding to do.
No non-African has ever run under 2:06, but Rupp just ran a 63-low second half in Chicago with almost all of the real pace coming in the last five miles. I think he’ll definitely be the first non-African under 2:06.
Now that Rupp has won a major, I only have three questions that remain for his career.
- Will he break 2:05 or 2:04? I guess generally we could state this as “What will his marathon pb be?”
- Will he win Olympic gold?
- Will anyone in his group or Coach Salazar ever end up with a doping sanction of any kind?
He has plenty of time to go for a time. We are running geeks and thus want to see him racing in London. But do you really think Salazar wants him to race Farah? AWKWARD.
As a result, I think Rupp will go to Boston. But I’ve got the perfect marathon for Rupp – based on the fact that he said before Chicago he’d like to run 2:06-7 before trying to hang in a super fast race.
Are you ready for it? Tokyo in February.
The race is a major and the winning time for the five years it’s been a major is 2:06:50, 2:05:42, 2:06:00, 2:06:56 and 2:03:58. The first four of those times are perfect for Rupp’s self-professed goal and the most recent 2:03:58 is an outlier as Wilson Kipsang won’t be back – it was just announced yesterday that he’s going to New York.
Now I think there is close to zero chance Rupp goes to Tokyo. It would require him to train hard over the Christmas holidays and get going again pretty soon but you can’t argue with my logic.
Weldon’s idea of planning out his next three years is a good one but I don’t have the mental energy to do it. Anyone want to figure it out?
Jonathan: I’ll take a crack at it.
First of all, you’re right, there’s almost zero chance that Rupp goes to Tokyo. (And as an aside, Kipsang’s 2:03 this year may not have been that much of an outlier — remember, they changed the course this year to make it faster).
If I were drawing up Rupp’s schedule for the next two years, here’s what I would do:
2018: London, New York
I already explained why Rupp should run London. And I know it will be tempting for Rupp to return to Chicago next year as the defending champion. But what’s more impressive: winning two Chicago titles or winning Chicago and New York? It’s definitely the latter, especially when you consider NYC typically assembles a stronger field than Chicago. I don’t think Rupp can go wrong by running either race, though. Both are championship-style marathons, which plays into Rupp’s hands, and both are on U.S. soil.
Then, assuming he runs a fast time in London in 2018, I say he goes back to Boston in 2019 and gives himself another shot to win. The fall of 2019 is dealer’s choice, and, depending on the date of the Olympic Trials, I think it’s very possible that Rupp doesn’t run a fall marathon at all. Remember, of last year’s six U.S. Olympic marathoners, only one (Meb) ran a fall marathon in 2015. Maybe he comes back to the track and tries to run the 10,000 at Worlds? He told me in Chicago he wouldn’t rule out trying to make another U.S. team.
After that, I think Weldon’s idea of the Olympic Trials/Olympics in 2020 and Worlds in Eugene in 2021 is a good one.
And I forgot that Farah is running London next year! Now I definitely want Rupp to run London. Do you know what Rupp’s career record is against Farah?
In case you’re curious, the one win came in the mile at the 2012 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. Rupp was third in 3:57.10 and Farah was 4th in 3:57.92. But even that comes with an asterisk as Farah fell during the race.
If they raced the marathon in London, I feel fairly confident that Rupp would beat Farah. But since they have the same coach and agent (Ricky Simms), I don’t think Rupp will race Farah unless Farah is okay with it, and my guess is that Farah would prefer to see Rupp run Boston.
Steve: I think you guys are a little too high on Rupp right now because you’ve just seen him win a World Marathon Major and he’s run so well in his four career marathons so far. But Weldon and Robert you both mentioned sub-2:04 and Jon you talked about the possibility of Rupp beating Kipchoge. This is all just silly talk and getting way into extreme hypothetical land. Rojo I am going to answer your first question from above while simultaneously breaking your “don’t doubt Rupp” rule again and say no, Galen Rupp is not going to break 2:04 in the marathon. Are you kidding me? Until Rupp does something at a totally different level than what we’ve seen, this isn’t the question we should be asking. Your question should have been, “Will he break 2:06 or 2:05?”
Maybe I will “end up looking like a fool,” but someone has to be the pessimist/realist. Haile Gebrselassie is one of the all-time greats and his marathon PB is “only” 2:03:59 (which was the world record for a few years). Gebrselassie’s 10,000 PB is also 26:22; about 22 seconds faster than Rupp’s. And let’s remember Rupp has still only run 2:09 and as Weldon alluded to above, being good at tactical non-rabbitted marathons doesn’t mean you’ll be great at rabbitted time trials. So I think I’m being fair when I say I think Rupp can get the 2:05:38 American record and even has the potential to break 2:05 although I think that’s going to be more of a reach, especially if he doesn’t go run in Berlin. (FYI, Rupp’s 10,000 PB is worth about 2:05 mid to high.)
Moving on to Rojo’s second question about Olympic gold and Jon’s comment on the possibility of beating Kipchoge, in a world where Usain Bolt can lose a championship 100m race, then of course Galen Rupp can beat Eliud Kipchoge at a marathon and therefore, yes, he could win 2020 Olympic gold. A lot can happen between now and Tokyo 2020, but if the Olympic marathon was on April 22, 2018, in London, then I think the chances of Rupp beating Kipchoge in any kind of race (tactical or not) are slim to none. But Kipchoge is human (I think) so him having an off day is theoretically possible.
As far as your doping question goes, it seems less and less likely to me that Rupp and/or Salazar face any kind of sanctions. But if anyone was going to face one, I think Salazar is the more likely candidate. That said, Weldon, I think it’s actually much more likely that Salazar and/or Rupp get doping bans than that they go for the 2:02:57 marathon world record in Berlin next year. Neither are likely, but there is at least some evidence that the first could happen.
Basically, nothing Rupp has done so far at the marathon has shocked me. There were no guarantees he was going to be a great marathoner, but it certainly wasn’t unexpected. He ran 26:44 and won an Olympic silver medal on the track and has great speed. Why shouldn’t he be able to win a tactical 2:09 marathon? Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not downplaying Rupp’s performances at the marathon. He’s been extremely impressive and more than exceeded expectations. He deserves a ton of praise. But he hasn’t done anything so out of line from what he’s done in the past whereas running sub-2:04 or going out on world record pace would be something completely different.
Wejo: I don’t see why running 2:04 or sub-2:04 should be considered out of the norm for Galen. He’s a top 5 marathoner in the world and has run 26:44 on the track for 10,000m. That is exactly the type of guy I think would be able to run a fast marathon. Sure there are guys like Stephen Kiprotich, who has won a Worlds and an Olympic marathon yet only has a marathon PR of 2:06:33, but Stephen’s 10,000m best is 27:58. Rupp has superior speed and is suited for the marathon, so given the chance, I think he’s the exact type of guy who should run a fast marathon. Unless 2:03 guys are totally unpredictable.
The question is, when does Galen get in a fast marathon? He could have a tremendous career and actually never be in a 2:05 race. Being an American and following in the footsteps of Coach Salazar, I think New York and Boston are more likely in the next two years.
To Robert’s question, I think Galen’s marathon PR will be sub-2:05, he will not win the Olympic gold, and Dr. Brown will get sanctioned by USADA (USADA has already notified him they are going to pursue a sanction) and I think Alberto Salazar will be sanctioned as well. But now that I had to put a prediction on paper I can see the logic of someone like Steve saying Galen never goes sub-2:05, but wins the Worlds or Olympics. But if I really think Alberto gets sanctioned and can’t coach Galen I don’t think any of the possible predictions above happen, so maybe just Dr. Brown gets sanctioned.
What does everyone in LetsRun nation think?: If you were Galen Rupp, what would your next marathon be?
Update: This article initially said Galen Rupp’s career record against Mo Farah was 1-20. It is actually 1-21.