Galen Rupp enters Sunday’s NYC Half, his first race in four months, coming off what he called “a pretty rough” 2022.
The two-time Olympic medalist competed four times with two DNFs in the Big Apple (NYC Half and New York City Marathon) and, in the road events he did finish, results of seventh and 19th, all surrounded by neck and back pain.
Rupp’s New York City Marathon debut on Nov. 6 was his most recent race. His back began really bothering him after 10 miles. He dropped out around the 22nd mile after it “completely locked up.”
“Obviously, the marathon left a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth,” Rupp said by phone last week. “Even the half last year in New York was a little bit of a disaster. So, definitely wanted to go back, and I thought that a half marathon would be a good distance for where I’m at right now to kind of test myself and see where I’m at.”
Rupp, a 36-year-old from Oregon, has taken it slow over the last few months. He didn’t run for the first two or three weeks after the five-borough marathon. By late December, he was back to a reduced but “decent volume” of miles, training remotely from Arizona-based coach Mike Smith.
He said he has been pain-free for two months — “a huge blessing” — but his training load hasn’t been close to normal going into Sunday’s 13.1-mile race.
“I’m not expecting to be in top shape,” he said. “But I am hoping to be competitive here in the half coming up and keep building from here.”
Rupp had no plans for a spring marathon as of the interview, but he did not rule out a late entry. Recognizing a need for competition, he’s eyeing more shorter distances this spring and summer.
He said it’s possible he races on the track and in the 10,000m at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July. In his last track race, Rupp placed sixth in the Tokyo Olympic Trials 10,000m, having already made the team in the marathon.
He does expect to enter a marathon this fall, leading up to next February’s Olympic marathon trials, where the top three are in line to make the team for Paris. He can become the first man or woman to win three Olympic marathon trials since it became a one-event race in 1968.
Despite last year’s struggles, Rupp was still the fifth-fastest American male marathoner in 2022 from his 19th-place finish at the world championships. He ran 2:09:36, stopping four or five times in the last several miles after missing training time due to a herniated disk and pinched nerve in his back.
He is also the fastest American marathoner in this Olympic cycle by 101 seconds, courtesy of his runner-up in Chicago in October 2021 (2:06:35).
“I still feel like I could certainly PR and certainly run a lot faster than I have in a marathon,” said Rupp, the third-fastest American marathoner in history with a best of 2:06:07 from 2018. “I want to prove to myself, more than anything, that I can get back to the level that I was in and even exceed that level.”
Next year, Rupp will try to become the second U.S. male track and field athlete to compete in five Olympics, according to Olympedia.org. He believes he can continue beyond 2024.
“I know a lot of people talk about being older, but this is really the first time I’ve been hurt significantly for an extended period of time,” he said. “I believe, deep down in the core of my being, my heart of hearts, that I still have a lot left to give in the marathon.”
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