On to the marathon
On to the marathon

I think he’s the best marathoner in America right now, though he has never even run one. Olympic 10,000 meter silver medalist and American record holder Galen Rupp announced today on USATF.TV that he will make his marathon debut at the February 13th Olympic Trials in Los Angeles. Talk about throwing a switch on the electricity (and strategy) of that race!

Before Rupp’s announcement the consensus was that Meb and Ritz as the two experienced Olympic marathoners, and only two sub-2:09 Americans in the last three years, were the favorites with everybody else bunched behind them in what promised to be a generational turnover in the ranks of American marathoning. That’s always how it’s been with the U.S. Trials, a pivot point in the sport.

Young talent like Jared Ward, third in LA last year and reigning U.S. Marathon champion (2:12:55), is in good form according to coach (and two-time Olympian) Ed Eyestone. In fact, Jared was in LA yesterday (Wednesday 27 Jan.) taking a tour of the trials course.  The fastest American marathoner of 2015, Luke Puskedra, comes in off a 2:10:24 seventh place in Chicago, while another talented group of newly minted Americans join Rupp in making their debuts at the distance — Joe Vigil-coached Diego Estrada, along with Kenyan-born Sam Chelanga and Aron Rono — have all the talent needed to produce a  top three performance in LA.

But isn’t this Rupp story the beauty of the sport? Just as we lose one great name and personality from the lead pack with news of Ryan Hall‘s retirement, we get another taking his place in Galen Rupp. Then consider that his coach Al Salazar famously made  his own marathon debut with a victory at the 1980 New York City Marathon in a then American debut record 2:09:41 — later tied by Alan Culppepper in Chicago 2002, before being bettered by Ryan Hall in London 2007 at 2:08:24.

Recall, too, that Meb was the 27:13 10,000 meter U.S. record holder before moving to the marathon in 2002.  Galen is a 26:44 10,000 meter man (2014) who ran a controlled 61:20 at the Foot Traffic Holiday Half Marathon in Portland, Ore. December 13th.  He has all the tools to step up in distance smoothly, including, from my viewing, a more efficient stride for the distance compared to friend and teammate Mo Farah — THE FALL, THE FAINT, THE FORM.

And with the Olympic Trials being a place rather than time focused event, it plays into Galen’s track-honed hands much better than when Mo Farah debuted in London two years ago where he got dropped midway in a fast paced, big city affair that did not play to his kicker’s strength.  Still, Mo finished eighth in his maiden voyage in 2:08:21.  So if that’s the measuring stick, Rupp’s ticket on the 2016 Rio Olympic team may include two berths, a feat last achieved by Dan Browne in 2004.

There are some who say Rupp is giving up what would be a certain six-figure appearance fee at one of the Abbott World Marathon Majors by debuting for free at the Trials.  But due to his lucrative Nike contract Galen has always had the luxury of picking his races for purely sporting rather than financial reasons. Besides, make this team, and the big city boys will pay plenty.  Believe that!

We have been complaining about the lack of juice in the marathon. Well, this puts a jolt into it for sure.


26 thoughts on “RUPP IS IN!!!

  1. Hindsight is 20/20 eh? Interesting to read everyone’s take on Rupp’s debut, long after the fact. Crazy that the NOP investigation is still unfinished after all these years!

  2. I’m with Craig. I don’t see Rupp winning in his debut.

    And, since I live in the greater in the greater LA area, I’m definitely going to go watch!

  3. In Alberto Salazar ‘s defense Kara Goucher had some success at several big city marathons. I wish Galen Rupp all the success in the marathon world. I think he will perform above the naysayers expectations.

  4. Let me first state that I as well have the highest respect for Craig Virgin. He had a fantastic career and has PR’s faster then 95+ % of the guys running the trials so I definitely think he knows a thing or two and believes his comments to be true. I’ll also say I’m a hobby jogger in comparison 14/30 minute 5/10k guy from Canada, but I do follow the sport very closely and pay attention to everything happening from the training in Canovas camps to all the USADA or IAAF stuff going on.

    Craig is taking a similar stance to what Keith Hanson said about Rupp debuting at the trials so obviously some people feel this way and it has to be for a reason. That said, I respectfully disagree.

    We aren’t talking about Mo Farah here….he, at least in my mind, wasn’t ready for 26.2 when he raced London and with Haile being a “Pacemaker” that year and taking them out way two fast and uneven it really changed the dynamic of that race. Also, Mo’s pacemaker was running about 30m up the road and not helping at all so I see that as a 26.2 mile tempo. Even still, look who he was around at the finish, seconds behind E and G Mutai, and ahead of Feyisa. Add to that he was coming off a 3:28 1500 and a few months later set the WR for the indoor 2 mile. That right there suggests he wasn’t ready for the marathon and is obviously a heavy carb burner and was in far better track shape then road/marathon shape. But enough about Farah. Let’s look at Galen.

    We aren’t talking about just another american 27:30 10000m performer, we are talking about a guy who’s run 26:44 and in my mind has 26:30-35 ability if in the right race. (That 27:08 in Beijing’s heat and in a championship final was a better performance then his PR) His stride as Toni mentions is very economical and sets him up well for the roads. Why would he not be able to at least run a time around what Ryan Hall ran in his Debut? You say half marathon ability doesn’t really indicate marathon ability and I agree with that to a point, but Hall was in his best half shape when he ran his two best marathons in his 2:08 and 2:06 and in the right race Galen can certainly run the half american record.

    Let’s also look at ritz for a minute, his debut wasn’t bad, 4 minutes off the winner in NYC on a hard day back in 2006 when he certainly wasn’t the runner he was in 09 with 12:56 and 60:00 ability. If Ritz can run 2:07 what’s to say Rupp can’t run 2:04 eventually? Obviously the trials are different and in his debut he wouldn’t come close to something like that but I feel like he will be in 2:06-2:08 shape or he wouldn’t even bother with the marathon. Why risk it? He’s one of the best 10000m runners on the planet. And even in the 5km he’s just coming off his highest ever placing at the worlds final. He will never medal in that event but still, why gamble when you are that good. Because they think he will be able to finish higher in the marathon then the 5km.

    And lastly, look at the field he is facing at the trials…..Meb is a legend and will run well, same goes for Dathan but the field beyond that (with the exception of Puskedra who is improving very quickly) is super weak, Even if they come through in 64-64:30 Rupp wont exactly be straining very hard running 4:56 pace while most will be on pace to run 2-4 minutes faster then their lifetime best.

    He’s just too good to not win that race. And I agree with Tony, he’s by far the best Marathoner the US has without even running one.

    But again, just my opinion and I can’t believe I’m commenting on a discussion with Vraig Virgin! (I’m a big fan!)


    1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Dave. This is why we have these discussions in the first place, to generate interest and dialogue. Racing is a chimeric thing, and there are no guarantees, or we’d all go to Vegas and get rich. But your analysis basically reflects my thinking, as well. All the metrics of the U.S. Trials indicate that Galen should be a threat to either win or make the team.

      But I also look for one of the other newbies like Sam Chelanga and Diego Estrada to perform well, while Meb and Ritz should run to their fitness, having been on this stage so many times they know how to apportion their energies efficiently. Just wonder if anyone will be willing to throw a wrench into the race by taking it out hard, or injecting a mid-race surge.

      Recall that Ryan Hall has done both those things in the last two Trials. In NYC 2007 he saw a picture of Khalid Khannouchi on the DiamondVision screen as he came through the finish area to begin the second half, and fearing KK’s well-known finishing ability, bolted to his remarkalble 1:01:45 second half. Then in Houston 2012 he pressed an honest pace from the gun to make sure that only the very top people would be a factor.

      It will be exciting no matter what. Thanks again for adding to the discussion.


      1. I agree with all of the above Toni!!! And Sam Chelanga is my pick for sneaking into a spot on the team as well. (Under James Li with training mates like Sambu, Lalang, Lagat, Abdi, etc, he will be ready!) I was a little concerned with Diego’s half in Huston but knowing full well how his coach Joe Vigil likes to train his athletes very hard he could have been at the end of a massive training week or perhaps that was in fact a marathon paced effort. Regardless, like you mentioned we are in for a treat.

        I would love to see somebody do what Ryan did at either the 07 trials or the 2012 trials. I’m fearful however that the only two with the talent to do that other then Rupp/Ritz and Meb are the above mentioned Chelanga and Estrada. I just wonder if it’s smart either making it a hard 2:07-2:08 type race from the gun in a debut on a course where it seems like there will be a lot of rhythm breaking turns and that 180 degree hairpin.

        It’s just a hunch but I feel like there could be a pack containing all of the above as well as Ward and Puskedra, maybe Rono going into the last loop and someone really ratchets the pace down and breaks it open over the last 10km.

        Either way it’s going to be a fantastic race and I can’t wait to watch.

        Thanks for the reply Toni, I love your work both here on the blog and when you are calling races.


    2. Dave:

      Thanks for the kind words. I follow Toni’s blogs more than most. They are always thoughtful and often are very provocative. This blog thread certainly is representative of that category! I appreciate any balanced and fair discussion about our great sport and its athletes or coaches.

      I am not a “Rupp hater or naysayer”… Galen is a tremendous and rare talent in that he has been at the top of this sport ever since high school. I have had the utmost respect for him for a long time now. Our career paths have been somewhat similar. I believe that all his PR’s are now better than mine with the exception of the marathon but that will probably be remedied in two weeks. But, I will feel much better when USADA gets done with their investigation of NOP and issues a final ruling that should either clear Alberto/Galen once and for all against all the jealous gossips and anonymous message board haters……or will reveal what, if anything, that they have done that either is in the “gray” or clearly in the “black” areas that will explain some of Galen’s amazing performances (in both racing or training) since his superlative and singular senior year at Oregon. I just want this high level investigation to remove the “elephant in the room” once and for all time so that Galen and all members of the NOP can perform in the future without suspicion by jealous or jaded competitors… or that justice is done if there are proven illegal transgressions.

      That said, I feel that Galen has the potential to be the best marathoner in American history EVENTUALLY… I just think it is asking too much to expect him to be that in his VERY FIRST MARATHON. As was mentioned above by several others….and also in my own anecdotal description of my limited ventures into racing marathons…. 26.2 miles is a long way to go and so much can happen to both the human body and mind when one is running for over 2 hours.

      I respectfully disagree with your point that Galen is more “prepared” than Mo Farah’s debut at London last spring. As far as I know… Mo was preparing to race the London Marathon for at least 4-5 months and even did a stint of training at African altitude to prepare himself. I am not sure that Galen has truly trained for the full marathon for more than a couple months, if that. He certainly did well in his “time trial” half marathon in December but on Feb. 13th he will have to race twice that far. It is my impression that Alberto has had Galen laying in a training “base of strength” this fall so that he could go either 10K/5K or marathon which is wise either way. Galen’s best chance of success is to just be passive and try to cover every move or pace by his competitors and just keep himself within reach of the Top 3 for the first 18-20 miles and then see what he has in the tank for the final 6-8 miles… the point in every marathon that always separates the “pretenders from the contenders”. Again, his tremendous talent at the shorter distances is what allows us to have this discussion in the first place… but history and experience has taught us that it usually takes 2-4 marathons to really get it right. Galen certainly has the physical potential to break the U.S. marathon record EVENTUALLY but I just think you all are putting too much pressure on him to be nearly that good in his very first one.

      In 2 weeks we’ll soon see whether Toni’s wife, Toya, and I are “correct” or if Toni is recognized for “father knows best!” I agree with Toni in that this has created some additional excitement and buzz for the Marathon Trials that raises the “fun factor” which is a good thing for our sport.

  5. Toni, I respect your opinion, but to ranked Galen Rupp as the best marathon in America without having run one is mind-blowing. I guess we will have to wait and see. It is also crazy that you think that Rupp will still have the opportunity to kick just because he has the most speed out of the rest of the field… its also mind-blowing. Have you ever run a marathon yourself???

    1. Morales,

      Thanks for joining the discussion. Yes, I have run two marathons, though not at a high level (PR 2:52 off 30-40 mpw). Anyway, I knew my statement might cause a bit of a stir, and that’s part of why I put it out there. But having broadcast Alberto’s debut in NYC `80, and knowing Galen’s talents, the nature and times of the Trial’s race, and the quality of the competition, I didn’t think it was too far a leap to assume he might do quite well. “The best American marathoner” quote was more of a prognostication than a prediction pinned directly to Feb. 13th in LA. Anyway, let’s see what happens. Sure makes for a more exciting race, huh?

      Just so you know, my wife is in your corner on this (she coaches at Univ. San Diego). “Not that Galen’ s not capable, it’s that so many things can happen in a marathon that don’t come into play at shorter distances. Nutrition, especially, can go wrong if you have never experienced the marathon before. Plus, Alberto has yet to produce a top marathoner.”

      This why we race. So let’s keep the conversation going.


      1. Yes, Rupp is very talented indeed, I can see what you are trying to bring across. Winning the Olympic Trials is one thing and becoming the greatest marathoner American has seen, remains to be proven. Exciting year for sure!! I also ran three marathons myself (2:28, 2:22, and 2:29).

  6. Craig Virgin has nothing to apologize for. He made a well-reasoned argument based on first-hand experience that mirrored Galen’s entry into the marathon world from a track background.

    My only reply would be to suggest the difference in knowledge, goals, and type of marathon being run when comparing Craig’s initiation with Galen’s. The shoe thing was especially brutal to read. God, that must have been awful. Well, Galen won’t have that problem. And Fukuoka was a classic paced affair, while the Trials will be a race with the likely outcome being decided on the final six-mile loop.

    I recall what Khalid Khannouchi, one of the great closers in marathon history, told me once about such things, and it applies to Galen. “Some guys want to make it a long run, but a short race. Other guys need it to be a long race after a short run.” Seems to me Galen may have a long run on his hands with the competition coming late. I think that will be to his liking, notwithstanding all the mysteries that apply to marathoning that don’t apply to shorter events.

    1. Great article and great to have comments from the legend Craig Virgin. Thanks for sharing!
      Still, I think the three things you list is why he has to be the favorite and supports Toni’s opinion. As you indicated though, anybody can blow up for any reason in the marathon, so will be fun to watch.
      Also, not sure it’s fair to state “aided or not” when referring to Rupp’s talent. Innocent until proven guilty (or at the very least proven suspicious). Perhaps that may have been construed as bitter from the earlier poster. But thanks for your post, I enjoyed it!

      1. Thanks, GKing, for your feedback and point well taken. However, Toni failed to mention the ongoing USADA investigation into the NOP, it’s coach, athletes, and even main sponsor. I think it is very relevant but I also understand why you might think it inappropriate for me to say “aided or not.” I have told people ever since last summer that I hoped that USADA would complete their investigation and issue a ruling on the issue before the end of the year (2015). Or, at least before any Olympic Trials event that a NOPer might participate in. Unfortunately, that has not happened…unless it does in the next two weeks in which I would criticize USADA for their timing… unless it is to issue a statement clearing NOP of all guilt. As we saw in the Lance Armstrong investigation and eventual punitive ruling… good, honest, and thorough investigations into matters like these are not done quickly or taken lightly by either USADA or WADA. Nor should they be. What we want is the “truth” as well as “confidence” in the accuracy of whatever ruling is handed down. It is just unfortunate that this couldn’t be accomplished before now but it is inaccurate to not note that this investigation is still hanging in suspense out there… before the Trials, during the Trials, and even after the Trials… or until the USADA findings are made public.. now that Galen is running. That may not be considered “fair” to you and others… but I do believe it to be accurate. Thank you for allowing me to make this clarification and also my apologies to Toni for hijacking his excellent blog.

  7. Sorry, Toni, but I can’t agree with you on this one. I was once in Rupp’s position (holding the American AR in the 10,000 m. event) and chose a regional marathon (Mission Bay Marathon in San Diego) to debut in and ran so conservatively that I negative splitted to a (then national debut record of) 2:14:40. (so much for getting a big payday at my marathon debut!?!) I won but it was all a learning experience for me.

    My next race was a big one, Fukuoka, and I was the leader at halfway but got tripped from behind in the pack and fell hard on both knees plus got terrible blisters on both feet because I wore a pair of racing flats that were 1/2 size too small to compensate for the shoes being a bit too wide (my custom Marathon 80’s didn’t make it to me from Germany in time before I left for Japan!). No one told me how much your feet swell over the course of 26.2 mi. That was in Dec of 1979 and I staggered to a 2:17. Just another nuance of marathoning that nobody told me about….

    But, I did hit the jackpot on my third marathon when I beat “Boston Billy” but lost to Seko over the final 3 miles at Boston ’81 where I set my PR of 2:10.29. I was training more as a 8K-15K runner due to winning the World X-C Champs a month earlier than Boston. I would do an 18 mile run once every 10 days as part of my training… alternating hard vs. easy efforts in a rather naïve marathon training program. It took me 2-3 marathons to really start to “figure it out” and watching Mo Farah run well but never threaten the leaders at London last April reinforced to me that just being a great 5K/10K runner doesn’t always guarantee that the transition to the marathon distance will be easy or not fraught with pitfalls.

    The last 30 years of American distance running is full of pretty good 5K/10K guys who tried their hand at the marathon and did not live up to expectations in their first foray. Don’t think any of them ran under 2:12 in their rookie race. Mark Nenow, Arturo Barrios, Mark Curp, Paul Cummings, and Ed Eyestone are a few that come to mind. There are more I’m sure. Some of these gents learned valuable lessons and went on to bigger and better marathon performances in later efforts while others did not.

    I would be shocked if Galen won the Olympic Trials Marathon next month. But, I would not be shocked if he got 2nd or 3rd… only because of the fact that two of our top favorites are a guy who is 40 years old (Meb) and another is in his mid-30’s (Ritz) and also dealing with some various physical ailments as well as training in Michigan this winter. Neither of which are ideal “ramp up” conditions for a top performance at 26.2 miles where it is too long just to “gut it out” to the finish line even if you are one mentally tough dude. I also won’t be shocked if Galen does not run under 2:12 or even drops out at some point. Marathoning is a tricky business and much can happen over a distance that long. It is not “automatic” for even the greatest runners.

    Another fact is that Galen qualified over the half marathon distance…something that wasn’t available back in my day…and I wonder what the statistics are regarding the highest finish at an Olympic Trials done by such a half marathon qualifier… man or woman? I’m sure somebody in this blog audience will know that answer… but I do know that the odds are not good for that particular sub-group. The only three things that Galen has going for him to make him an “exception to the rule” is 1) immense natural ability/talent (aided or not), 2) the fact that no other American men ran under 2:10 for the marathon last year and 3) he has an experienced marathoner as a coach in the form of Alberto Salazar who has probably tried every approach imaginable to winning a marathon.

    Finally, this certainly puts some “sizzle” into our Men’s Marathon Trials and will probably attract more media attention than if Galen didn’t run… and this leads back to your earlier blog. However, I will remind everyone that the USADA is still investigating the NOP (to include Alberto and Galen) and I had hoped that they could have announced an official ruling by now to prevent any “cloud” hanging over any of the NOP members participating in the 2016 Olympic Trials at any distance, road or track. But, that is not the case… but if a verdict is rendered and announced over the next 2 weeks then it will surely ignite a firestorm either way. Otherwise, Galen could still have an ax hanging over his head for some time even if he does win the Marathon Trials or finishes in the Top 3. You never mentioned that aspect of the story and it surprised me. It is something to consider.

    1. Craig who? Sounds a bit bitter about the way his own running career went.

      Fans of the sport are very excited about Galen Rupp running the Trails!

      1. I know that this post was Anonymous….. so either you are a LRC message board “anonymous hater/assassin” or you really are Donald Trump! 😉 Either way, I am not bitter about Galen Rupp at all and celebrate his success as well as the extra excitement/attention he will bring to the Olympic Trials marathon in 2 weeks. All I was trying to say is that it is not “automatic” that Galen will do well in his inaugural marathon just because he is the American record holder or even the silver medalist in the 10,000 m. event. You are talking about distances that are 20 miles apart. I also disagree with Toni that Galen should be ranked our top American marathon at this point in time but I did so professionally and courteously w/ my stated rationale and examples above. Something that no one will ever accuse you of.

  8. Would have loved to have seen hall vs rupp, with both being fit! I think rupp will convert to the marathon better than his training partner Farah. I think Farah has now left it too late and may have been better taking the bekele route i.e. ran in a lesser marathon such as maybe Paris rather than London. He made a huge tactical error bu not running with the pack, something rupp will not be able to afford to in what is more like a championship race in the trials. Gonna be huge though!

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