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Thursday, 01 September 2016 16:26

Galen Rupp Takes Bronze in Rio Marathon; US Team Performs Well Featured

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Eliud Kipchoge, Feyisa Lelisa, Galen Rupp Eliud Kipchoge, Feyisa Lelisa, Galen Rupp www.PhotoRun.net
BY LARRY EDER—In 2012, at the London Olympics, Galen Rupp took the silver medal in the 10,000 meters behind his team mate Mo Farah, who won his first Olympic gold in the 10,000 meters in London's Olympic stadium, in front of 80,000 screaming and boisterous fans.
 
I was surprised a bit by Galen Rupp's silver medal then. I thought Galen would win Olympic medals, but not until 2016. I was pleasantly surprised.
 
In 2016, Galen Rupp took fifth in the 10,000 meters, and then, bronze in the marathon, only his second race over the distance. I wanted to make the point about Galen nearly stopping to make sure Mo Farah was fine in the 10,000 meters, when Mo fell in the race early on. That was what someone does who really cares about a training partner. Those 'miles of trials and trials of miles' (as John Parker said in Once a Runner) are lifelong ties.
Galen Rupp had a few rough miles in the Rio marathon, but he gutted it out, and is a real live marathoner, with a nice PB, and years of marathoning in front of him. But now, Galen Rupp won the bronze medal in the Olympic marathon.
 
Here is how I saw the race play out.
 
I have known Alberto Salazar since college days. In our senior year, I was three minutes back in the Pac Eight/NCAA qualifier on Stanford's gold course. I watched as Alberto Salazar and Henry Rono battled over the last mile. Thirty-five years later, I can recall their faces, focused, and fatigued at the same time. The last mile was under 4:20, closer to 4:12. It was "Raging Bull" meets cross country.
 
I have always thought that Alberto Salazar's great talent in coaching is to prepare his athletes for racing. Alberto seems to go to great pains to make sure his athletes do not make the same mistakes he did in his career: overtraining. It is that fine line that all distance runners have to deal with, and Alberto Salazar goes to great pains with his athletes to insure that does not happen.
 
Galen Rupp has been a special athlete for Alberto Salazar. Their relationship goes back to when Galen Rupp was fifteen or sixteen. I believe, the year Galen won the Nike Border Clash, they finished up with a long set of 300 meter repeats on the track. As the Steve Forbert song, Cellophane City says, " you can not win, if you do not play."
 
Galen Rupp prepared for his marathon debut with long runs, longer intervals and an increase in miles up to 145 miles a week. At the Olympic Trials, on February 13, Galen and Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist were together around 18 miles, where it stay until 22 miles, and then, Rupp took off. His first marathon was hot and humid, and he won, in very trying conditions.
 
Salazar and Rupp learnt from that. Galen prepared well, and in the track trials, it showed. He won the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Trials going away. In the heat that witherered much of his competition, Galen not only thrived, but outkicked his only real competition. It wore Galen out, and while he made the final in the 5000 meters, he could not match the last lap finishes of Bernard Lagat and others.
 
Frank Shorter, the 1972 gold and 1976 silver medalist once reminded me that he raced like a two miler, and trained like a marathoner. For Shorter, running the 10,000 meters in Munich, where he set American records in the heat and the final, just prepared him for the marathon in Munich.
 
I was not worried about Galen Rupp doubling in Rio, he has fine 10,000 meter speed, and his fifth place finish attests to that. He came within a few seconds of a medal, that is the most one can ask for.
 
The marathon played out like many thought it would. A slow first half in rainy weather, with the players up front and the race heating up over the second half. Eliud Kipchoge, the winner of Chicago, London (twice) and Berlin marathons was the presumptive favorite But, this, alas is the marathon, and anything can happen. Kipchoge won his first major title at the age of 18, using a last 800 meters of 1:50 and a last lap around 53 to take gold from the hands of Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj as TV announcers ignored him until the final 200 meters. No one would discount Kipchoge here.
 
The pace was surreal: 15:31 for 5k, 31:08 for 10k, 46:53 for 15k and 1:02:77. By that time the pack still 48 runners, within ten seconds of the lead! But, with the largest field in Olympic history, 140, the lead pack was indicative of the global nature of marathoning.
 
The halfway was hit in 1:05:55. The 25k was hit in 1:18:12. Still, 37 men close to the leaders!
 
There would be changes soon, as Ethiopia's Tesfaye Abera stopped running, then, walked up onto the grassy knoll, and sat down, head between legs. Abera, the 2016 Dubai marathon champ was out. Much earlier, right around 40 minutes, Daniele Meucci, 2014 European Champ in the marathon, stopped to the side, untied his shoes, and his quest for Olympic medals was over.
 
America's Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 silver medalist from Athens, and 4th in London, had a rough patch, where he stopped, but then, started up again. Keflezighi would finish 33rd, in 2:16:46.
 
Running upfront was Kenya's trio of Stanley Biwott, Eliud Kipchoge and Wesley Korir, the 2012 Boston marathon winner, took control about 27 kilometers and broke the pack up, with the leaders down from 37 to nine in just over two kilometers.
 
The 30 kilometers was hit in 1:33:15. For Eliud Kipchoge, nine was still too big a pack, so he worked hard for two kilometers, and then, there were, four. Biwott and Korir were gone as well. The pack dropped to four just after 32 kilometers.
 
The final four were Eliud Kipchoge, looking invinsible. Ethiopia's duo of Feyisa Lelisa, Lemi Berhanu were there, as well as Galen Rupp, in only his second marathon.
 
Kipchoge again upped the game, and started a long run for home, and, after two more kilometers, around 34 kilometers, Lemi Berhanu began to fall back.
 
Eliud Kipchoge flies over the last kilometers of the marathon course. His moves in Rio were, well, decisive. Kipchoge, Lelisa and Rupp hit the 35k in 1:47:40.
 
After that, the final pack broke up.
 
Right after 35 kilometers, Galen Rupp started to fall back. He just slowed down a bit, as Kipchoge put it to Lelisa and upped the pace, dominating the last seven kilometers like few others, and building up a lead not seen since Frank Shorter in 1972!
 
For Kipchoge, just past 36 kilometers, he sensed his time. Kipchoge had motioned to Lelisa to lead, but Leslisa could not, or would not. Kipchoge sensed, quite rightly, that Lelisa was hanging on for dear life. Between 37 kilometers and 40 kilometers, Eliud Kipchoge built up a 36 second lead, as Kipchoge hit 40k in 2:02:24. Lelisa was looking back, as Rupp was 12-16 seconds back.
 
Eliud Kipchoge ran within himself, but his final half was tremendous. Having run the first half in 1:05:55, KIpchoge ran 1:02.49 for the second half, building a lead from 36 seconds at 40k to 1:10 at the finish. Again, the largest margin of victory since Frank Shorter in Munich 1972 over the likes of Akio Usami, Derek Clayton and Ron Hill.
 
Kipchoge did look around a bit, but he had nothing to worry about. His last 200 meters showed an increase in pace, but was really a time for Eliud Kipchoge to celebrate his victory, which he took, in 2:08:44. It should be noted that Eliud Kipchoge has won seven of his eight marathons, and that Rio was his slowest. This race, again, was not about time, but about who took gold, silver and bronze.
 
In silver, Feyisa Lelisa kept his 11 lead over a tiring Galne Rupp, finishing in 2:09:54. As Lelisa crossed the line, he made a sign of his arms crossed, a sign of solidarity with the Oromo people, who are protesting against the current government in Ethiopia. My first notes from Ethiopia was the huge reponse on social media and worry for Lelisa. NY Times followed up with piece that Feyisa Lelisa is concerned about his safetly. A contact then texted me that Lelisa has been offered asylum in several countries. In light of his run, Feyisa Lelisa took silver for Ethiopia, with is moment of silent protest, repeated at the finish several times.
 
Galen Rupp held on well. Anyone who has run a marathon knows that point when the heart says one thing, and the body begs to differ. Rupp had one of the those moments of tribulation, but he got his way. Galen built a lead on fourth place, as Rupp took the bronze in his PB of 2:10:05. A fine run by Galen, and it, in my mind, portends for much more success over the distance.
 
And then, there was Jared Ward, who ran his race, and over the last 5k moved up to sixth place, in his PB of 2:11:30. Jared is coached by Ed Eyestone, and I truly enjoyed his success in the Olympic Trials. Jared Ward is a championship marathon, as his run was savvy, focused and his smiles over the last 200 meters told the whole story. This was the first time U.S. had two in the top ten since 1976, when Frank Shorter was silver and Don Kardong was fourth. (If you remember, in 1972, Frank Shorter was gold, Kenny Moore was fourth, and Jack Bacheler was ninth). Meb Keflezighi, after silver in Athens 2004, and fourth in London 2012, took 33rd here, in his final Olympic team, in 2:16:46. Meb had stopped for about a half minute, after 22 kilometers, but got it back together and finished like the champion he is.
 
Kipchoge told the media, "It was a bit slow, so I decided to take over. Everyone wants a medal, maybe it was the rain, maybe it was not. It is the best moment of my life." Eliud is one of my favorite interviews. Go onto Runblogrun.com and search Eliud Kipchoge. His treatise on running marathons, after London 2015 is a classic!
 
Galen Rupp gave the U.S. its 32nd medal in Rio. This was the finest performance by the U.S. in 84 years. What is fascinating to me is how we took six medals in the distance races. And there is room to improve and excel even more!
 
I for one, am looking forward to seeing where Galen Rupp runs his next marathon. But for now, Galen Rupp can go home, adding a second medal to his young family's medal chest. There should be more to come.
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