This morning the Galen Rupp we saw at the Prague International Marathon (1st, 2:06:07 PB) was the Galen Rupp we expected to see in Boston 20 days ago before the conditions blew everyone into Dante’s second circle of Hell. Leading into Boston Rupp fashioned a perfect build-up after his win in Chicago last fall, tuned up with an excellent half-marathon in Rome, and spoke not a whisper of the plantar fascia niggle that compromised him a smidge in Boston 2017 in his duel with eventual champ Geoffrey Kirui – another casualty of the 2018 Boston nor’easter (casualty in the sense that he finished second after building a 90-second lead).
This morning in the Czech Republic, though, a retooled Rupp rode along on a solid, but not over-cooked 1:03:00 first half pace, then kept the momentum rolling when the rabbit dropped away and had gas enough left in the tank to put away 2:04-man Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia in the final two miles (9:26) on an ok, but not ideal marathon day.
The beauty of racing is that it is a given-day situation, this field on this day on that course in these conditions, have at it, see ya at the finish. And though great respect goes to 2018 Boston champion Yuki Kawauchi – because on that day, in those conditions, he made all the right decisions – is there any doubt that we would have likely witnessed another Geoffrey Kirui vs. Galen Rupp duel if the conditions had been anywhere near normal, before the frigid, wind-driven rain knocked Rupp out at 19 and then locked Kirui up tighter than a mute with lockjaw over the final 5k?
The rotation at the top of the marathon game is speedier than ever these days, what with the energy expenditure needed to train for, race, and recover from 2:03s to 2:05s versus 2:08s to 2:10s. Recent champions like Geoffrey Mutai, Patrick Makau, Emmanuel Mutai, Moses Mosop, Dennis Kimetto and Tsegay Kebede are long gone. Current world number one Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya remains unchallenged at the top, but at age 33 one wonders if he’ll have the drive to last to Tokyo 2020. But I have a hopeful expectation that we might see a few more Rupp vs. G. Kirui battles in the next several years. And after his hard-fought third-place performance in London last month, let’s throw in Rupp’s former Nike Oregon Project training mate Mo Farah as well.
The Abbott World Marathon Majors have expansion on their minds, as the running game continues to develop a worldwide following. But let’s hope they also have the desire to build racing rivalries, too, as great runners, like great boxers, or great teams need rivals to bring out their best and to draw in more fans.
The world records attempts in London last month where conditions be damned, the pacers blew up both the men’s and women’s fields from the get-go rather than letting the athletes fight it out among themselves, gave vivid testimony to how chasing fast times may be fun in the abstract, but lacks the human quality that pure racing elicits. No, Prague 2018 was not a great race nor a great time-trial, for that matter. But it did once again showcase Galen Rupp as one of the world’s top distance racers. Now let’s see him matched up with rivals Geoffrey Kirui and Mo Farah as Eliud Kipchoge goes chasing his Sub-2:00:00 somewhere.