Galen Rupp has been groomed for years by coach Alberto Salazar at the Nike-sponsored Oregon Distance Project in Portland.  Now at age 25 the American 10,000 meter champion is moving into his peak years, and still may have medal hopes for London 2012.  But more and more that possibility is looking less and less likely.  Either you’ve got the wheels or you don’t, and when we are talking distance running at the rarified atmosphere of the World Championship and Olympic medal level, Galen just doesn’t seem to possess the raw speed necessary to contend.

Today, in Daegu, South Korea, Rupp hung with the very best distance men in the world through 23 1/2 laps in the 10,000 meter final of the World Championships.  But when the racing for the medals began in earnest a lap and a half out, Galen was unable to respond, and had to settle for seventh place, 13-seconds behind the champion Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia.  His is now the conundrum for all distance men – hell, all runners. We all start out as sprinters, then move up to find our sweetest distance.

We have seen this for decades, the plight of the strength runner in a speed man’s game.  Remember that Alberto himself was at one time the American record holder at 5000 (13:11) and 10,000 meters (27:25).  But eight days before besting Dick Beardsley in their legendary “Duel in the Sun” at the 1982 Boston Marathon, Al was gunned down at a special 10,000 he’d arranged at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon by the great (but chubby at the time) Henry Rono of Kenya, 27:29 to 27:30.

Steve Jones of Wales was a formidable 10,000 meter runner in the early 1980s, too, but he didn’t have the nitrous tank to go to when pink slips and shiny medals were up for grabs.  So he, too, was lured to the marathon where that kind of speed was less necessary.  Next thing we knew, he, like Alberto before him, became the world’s best over the longer distance.

And most recently, in Oslo last year at the Bislett Games 21-year-old Bekana Daba of Ethiopia ran 12:58.51 for 5000 meters, good for ninth place.  For that he earned all of $500.  Since it cost him $700 to fly from Addis Ababa to Oslo, his 12:58 COST him $200!  But after seeing his friend Gebre Gebremariam win the ING New York City Marathon last November, Daba, then 22, put two and two together, and he ended up coming up with $39,000 payday by winning the Houston Marathon this January in a course record 2:07:04.

But with Galen Rupp taking home a healthy check from Nike every month, he has the luxury to maintain his focus on the track, regardless the results as he attempts to develop the closing speed that now eluded him. And one hopes, for his sake, that path will lead to glory.

Problem may well be that by the time he moves up in distance sometime after London 2012 the current trend of younger talent out of East Africa trickling into the marathon will have become a mass migration as they follow the only real money in the sport. Then what, join my friend Josh Cox at 50K?


8 thoughts on “RUPP’S DILEMMA

  1. Agree, Ted, that our guys cannot contnue to just sit off the tail end of these east African packs and expect a different outcome. Maybe Galen should, as you say, lay it all out from a long way out, and let the results be damned. Big risk just to shake things up a bit. But that’s easy to say, and mighty hard to do. Imagine the criticism then? But what other choice is there?

  2. Maybe I just selfishly want to hold on to the prospect that we might actually have a guy who can medal in one of the distance races, but I don’t think Rupp needs to make a break to the marathon just yet. Yes, he has great upside potential there. And yes, if I were Alberto, I might even have him run the marathon trials for several reasons. But Rupp’s performance (or at least most of it) tells me he CAN stick with the 10,000 through London.

    It is hard to comment from the little I saw on Universal, but this is what I gleaned:

    Sihine made it a relatively honest race and exposed Bekele’s lack or readiness, but he did not make it an all-out blood bath.

    Unfortunately, Rupp (like many other truly quality Americans) can actually handle a tough pace – in fact, he can handle it alot better than a tempo which has drastic swings either way.

    I saw Rupp shoot a snot-rocket with about a mile to go, and he looked relaxed as hell. Then about 1200 out, he literally clipped the guy in front of him.

    Even though it would have hurt tremendously, I simply think Rupp would have been better served helping push from a mile out. He can handle 62’s from a mile out ’til a quarter. But 63high from one lap to Farah’s 60point penultimate lap was killer. And you’re right, this classic killer move exposed Rupp’s lack of top-end speed. But if he helped push from a mile out, he could have combated that exposure. He still might not have won, but I think he was truly capable of 3rd or 4th.



    1. Agree that reality does not favor Americans winning soon. Mathathi and Tadese could not break Ethiopian 1-2 in Olympics. Neither by outsprinting (see Bekele’s killer kicks in Golden leagues), nor pushing from the front ( I think Micah Kogo was leading with 1000 in Beijing) could any runner best Bekele at that time. Speaking of pulling hard from the front to ‘deaden a kick’, remember it was the ‘Emperor’ himself who strung out the field for several laps, including ‘pestering’ Tadese (then Half WR holder?) by clicking his heels twice! No matter the formula looks like Rupp cannot outkick East Africans. Best bet (in my humble pie) is move to 42k. Maybe a strong American team can work together to ‘strategize’ a win like USA’s simple plan to start slow & hydrate during Athens. This did not work in Beijing because the world learned what USA did with hydration to gain advantage. Also, not only was Sammy the best talented that day, but he also learned to use water to hydrate. Now that USA intellectual advantage has evaporated as well.

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