In the classic Three Stooges episode, Slowly I Turned, first Mo – then Larry - smashes, hits, punches, and tears poor Curly’s clothing before knocking him to the ground, all for reminding him of his confrontation with Larry (then vice versa) in Niagra Falls over a woman. After Curly innocently utters the offending city’s name, triggering the attacks, Mo and Larry’s refrain goes, “Niagra Falls! Slowly I turned, and step by step, inch by Inch…” (Of course, all men can recite Stooges episodes by heart. Women think they are dumb. Men agree, but then remind them, “stupidity is the point. It’s purposeful stupidity, a whole different animal than the unintentional kind most often voiced by candidates running for President).
Well, Galen Rupp might not wear his hair in a bowler like Mo or a frizzed out ‘fro like Larry, but step by step, inch by inch the 25 year-old from Portland, Oregon is proving the American distance running equivalent the Stooges’ classic set piece.
Yes, I questioned the London 2012 Olympic medal chances of Mr. Rupp upon his seventh place finish in Daegu at the World Championships 5000 meters (RUPP‘S DILEMMA), but today at the final Samsung Diamond League meeting of the year in Brussels Rupp took another stride in his step-by-step, inch-by-inch approach to the London Olympic podium in the 10,000 meters.
Because it isn’t one of the 16 designated Diamond League events, the mighty 10,000 has all but disappeared from the world stage. And even though it was contested in Brussels at this 35th Ivo Van Damme Memorial Meet, it was staged prior to the world-wide television coverage began. Notwithstanding, the Brussels audience was rewarded in high measure for their attendance. Passing 8000 meters in 21:30.65, Rupp found himself gathered among a seven-man pack – six of whom were east African. From there the Alberto Salazar coached Rupp smashed, hit, punched, and tore his way to a new American record (26:48.00), finishing a strong third behind the returned-to-form Keninise Bekele of Ethiopia (26:43.18) and Lucas Rotich of Kenya (26:43.98). Rupp’s time broke Chris Solinsky’s surprising 26:59.60 American record from May 2010 at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, California, a race that had been arranged for Rupp to wrest the record from Meb Keflezighi’s 1998 mark of 27:13.
Yes, Bekele and Rotich ran free from Galen with a 61.08 penultimate lap today, which came on the heels of a 63.91, 65.61, and 65.31 in the previous three circuits. But Rupp left a host of east African pastoralists in his wake, including the likes of former World Champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer numbers coming out of Kenya, and again in Brussels all finishers in the 10,000 but Bekele in first and Rupp in third hailed from the land of the crossed spears. But as Meb Keflizighi’s coach Bob Larsen said a while back, “We will never out-talent the east Africans. We have to use every advantage in coaching and technology that we have to compete.”
With the bottomless coffers of Nike funding the operation, and the passionate attention and drive of Coach Salazar driving the program, Rupp is showing, step by step, inch by inch, how far a non-altitude born and bred distance man can take his quest to be the best.