Galen Rupp sounds like a guy trying to convince himself he’s ready to go

By Jonathan Gault
November 3, 2022

NEW YORK — Ahead of this summer’s World Championships, Galen Rupp’s training had not been going well. Back issues and a case of COVID in June had caused him to scale back his sessions, and the resulting buildup did not feature as much high-quality training as those that carried him to an Olympic medal and Chicago Marathon title in the 2010s.

Still, he had to convince himself that it was possible to earn a medal at the race he had been gearing his season around, the World Championship marathon in his home state of Oregon. By Rupp’s high standards, the race went poorly: he finished 19th in 2:09:36 (that time was slowed due to Rupp having to stop and walk multiple times late in the race) and afterwards he was forced to admit he had simply missed too much training in his buildup.

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That was July 17. Rupp took several weeks off after that race to help his body heal from a herniated disc and the resulting nerve issues in his leg. Now, 16 weeks later – and just three days out from his first appearance at the TCS New York City Marathon – Rupp says he is definitely healthier than he was at Worlds. But he still doesn’t appear to be 100%.

“I wouldn’t say that [my buildup] was ideal just in the sense that it was a quick turnaround and I had to really focus on my health,” said Rupp, speaking in Central Park ahead of Sunday’s race. “That limited me a little bit as far as what I would have liked to have done before a big marathon normally. But things are going well. You’ve gotta deal with the hand you’re dealt and things have come along a lot in the last couple months. So I’m optimistic.”

It’s rare at a marathon press conference for any athlete to be anything other than optimistic about their chances. Athletes who have a less-than-stellar build often have to convince themselves they have a shot to succeed. That’s certainly what it felt like Rupp was doing today, and he admitted that there are still days when his leg “just doesn’t work right.”

“It feels like, no matter how hard I try, that nerve’s not getting through,” Rupp says. “And those are the days where you’ve just gotta back off, do some more exercises, stretch things out, get it treated, and get back to hard training. It sounds bad, I guess, when I’m hearing myself talk about it right now, but the last couple weeks have been going all right.”

After staying remarkably injury-free in his 20s, Rupp has had to adjust his mindset as he has aged.

“I think everybody can relate to this: you recover a lot better from things when you’re 25 as opposed to when you’re 35,” Rupp said. “…I was always the type of athlete that wanted to do as much as I can in training. And that’s still my mindset, but you have to be aware of maybe I can’t do the same amount of high, intense workouts as frequently as I did 10-15 years ago. It’s just reality.”

While that approach has limited Rupp in some areas, he said some parts of getting older could actually help his running.

“People just look at [getting older] as a negative, but, your cardiovascular system, there’s years and years and years of work that you’ve done and put in. That system gets more developed as you age,” Rupp said. “And [that’s] why I think you see a lot of people really running well in the marathon at 30, 35 even, you know, Kipchoge’s almost 40, he just broke the world record. That stuff doesn’t leave you. Your engine continues to build.”

As for his goal on Sunday, Rupp doesn’t care about his finishing time. He just wants to win. 

“I would rather win in 2:20 than run 2:07 and get, you know, 10th place,” Rupp said. “That’s always been my mindset coming into any race and that’s the way I’m going to be approaching Sunday as well.”

American men haven’t had a ton of success in New York recently. Meb Keflezighi was the last US man to win NYC, in 2009. Before then, you’d have to go back to 1982, when Alberto Salazar won the last of his three straight titles. Salazar, of course, coached Rupp for almost two decades until he was banned by USADA in 2019, but Rupp says the two never really discussed Salazar’s NYC victories.

“I mean, I’ve seen, I guess maybe video of him crossing the finish line, those pictures, but we never really talked about his experiences here,” Rupp said.

Rupp will get a chance to write his own chapter in New York on Sunday. 

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Full pre-race interview with Rupp

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