FOR RUPP, MAKING A FIFTH OLYMPIC TEAM IS A POWERFUL INCENTIVEBy David Monti, @d9monti (c) 2024 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
Galen Rupp winning the 2020 USA Olympic Team Trials in Atlanta (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly).
HOUSTON (12-Jan) — When Galen Rupp qualified for his first Olympic Games in 2008 George W. Bush was president, “The Dark Knight” was America’s top-grossing movie, and “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry was the #1 song on the Billboard charts. Now, nearly 16 years later, the 37 year-old marathoner has a chance to make his fifth Olympic team, and he expects that running Sunday’s Aramco Houston Half-Marathon will help him to achieve that goal at the USA Olympic Team Trials Marathon in Orlando on February 3.
“I think it would be awesome to make a fifth team,” Rupp said at a press conference here this morning. “I think that this race will prepare me really well to get that done in three weeks’ time.”
Galen Rupp in advance of the 2024 Aramco Houston Half-Marathon (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Working with coach Mike Smith of Northern Arizona University, Rupp had put Houston on his schedule long ago and made the race an integral part of his Trials preparations. For months he’s been piling up the miles and he sees his race here as a critical fitness test, a great chance to test his form in a real racing situation.
“This has been on the schedule for a while, so I’m really looking forward to being here,” said Rupp, who has been sponsored by Nike for his entire career. “It’s my first time racing the Houston Half-Marathon and I’m thrilled to be here.” He continued: “This fits in great. The Olympic Trials are coming up in about three weeks. This is a time to get in a real hard race effort. I think all the marathoners here dropping down to run the half are deep into training, kind of at the end of a real heavy block of training. I think this is going to prepare me really well for when it’s time to run the marathon.”
Rupp is the two-time Trials defending champion. He won the 2016 Trials on a hot and sunny day in Los Angeles in his marathon debut, clocking 2:11:13. That performance set him up for winning the Olympic bronze medal in Rio that summer where he clocked 2:10:05 (he also finished fifth in the 10,000m). Four years later he came back and won the Trials again, this time in Atlanta on a hilly course and in cold and windy weather. His time of 2:09:20 was the third-fastest ever at a USA Olympic Trials.
To get ready for the Atlanta Trials, Rupp ran –and won– a half-marathon in Mesa, Arizona, three weeks before the race, clocking 1:01:19 in a solo effort. Here, he’ll have plenty of company on the course with the deep elite field recruited by Elite Athlete Coordinator Jim Estes, and that should allow him to shelter from the wind. Rupp emphasized, however, that running fast is not his priority here.
“The big goal for me is obviously the Olympic Trials,” Rupp explained. “I’d be lying if I said I was in the greatest half-marathon shape coming to this. I’ve been training for a marathon. It’s been a real big build-up; it’s been going really well. To run a super-fast half it’s probably better to come in from 10-K and have more of that track background.”
Still, a quick time could help Rupp at the Trials in a completely different way. If he runs a fast time and enjoys a high enough finish place he could move up in the World Athletics points standings to be inside of the top-65 athletes in the filtered list for the men’s marathon for the Paris 2024 Olympics (the top 65 athletes on January 30 are considered “qualified” by World Athletics). Since the USA has only claimed two of its three potential quota positions for men based on the entry standard of 2:08:10, the third spot will likely be opened up only through the point system. (There is a general consensus that running 2:08:10 or better at the Trials is unlikely because conditions are likely to be warm and humid). Currently, Rupp does not appear in the list despite his strong 2:08:48 at last October’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, but a good race in Houston will return him to the list.
“He is currently not listed in the Road to Paris as his score is lower (1115 points) than the last one in the next-best list (1118 points),” explained Andras Szabo who oversees the results compilation process for World Athletics. “Should he run a decent time and finishes in point scoring position (to receive Placing Scores), then he will certainly improve his points and will be ranked higher in the Road to Paris.”
There are too many possible time and place scenarios to pin down what Rupp would have to run to improve his points standing, but a top-five finish here is likely to get it done. The fifth place men’s time here for the last three editions was 59:35, 1:00:53, and 1:01:08, an average of 1:00:32. That’s definitely possible, and Rupp allowed that he could pop a good one if everything fell into place despite of his recent high-mileage weeks.
“It doesn’t mean that I can’t run fast here,” he said.
However, taking a shot at Ryan Hall’s 2007 USA record of 59:43 does not appear to be in the cards. That’s not part of Rupp’s race plan.
“The most important thing is getting in a great effort,” he said.
With two Olympic medals, eight national 10,000m titles, and ten senior national team appearances, Rupp has little left to prove. But the possibility of making a fifth Olympic team provides him with a powerful incentive to push himself even as he prioritizes his role as a husband and father of four children which, he said, “is the single greatest thing I’ve done in my life.”
“That would be tremendous,” he gushed about the potential for making a fifth Olympic team. “Obviously, I’ve got to get it done on the day. That’s one of the brutal, but fun, things about the system we have here, that it all comes down to getting it right and being in the top three on race day. I think that pressure is great and really prepares Team USA for when we go to the Olympics to get it done there.”