Q and A: Galen Rupp, the New Magnificent Miler
Galen Rupp on Saturday became the fifth-fastest indoor miler in history—behind only Hicham el Guerrouj, Eamonn Coghlan, Bernard Lagat and Noureddine Morceli—when he ran 3:50.92 at the Boston University Terrier Invitational. Just 1.4 seconds faster and Rupp would be the new American Record-holder. Not bad for a distance dude.
After a few days back home in Oregon, Rupp will return to Boston to compete at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. Last year, Rupp finished third in the mile here in 3:57.10 after barely avoiding an early-race collision that took down his training partner, Mo Farah.
This year, Rupp will run the 3000 meters, and his coach, Alberto Salazar, sounds as if he’s expecting something special. “I think he’s ready to run a great 3K,” he said. “His workouts have been incredible. I’ve seen him do workouts I’ve never seen or heard of before, so I knew he was ready to run a real fast mile.”
Rupp will face Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel, and the two share some history: Not only did they both win 2012 Olympic silver medals—Rupp at 10,000 meters and Gebremeskel at 5000—but both were runners-up to the same guy, Farah.
Gebremeskel does, however, know what it feels like to beat the double Olympic Champion: He did just that in Boston two years ago, pulling away from Farah to win at 3000 meters despite running almost the entire race in only one shoe.
We caught up with Rupp as he finished a post-mile tempo run on Saturday. Fortunately for us, he was on a treadmill at the time.
New Balance Indoor Grand Prix: How do you feel about that mile?
Galen Rupp: Obviously I would have liked to get the record, but for me that was a great race. I’m thrilled with the way it went. They did a perfect job pacing it. The guy from BU did a great job taking me through 800 and then Dorian [Ulrey] was right on, so it was great to be able to just relax. I didn’t have to think about the time. I just had to run one lap by myself. That track is unbelievably fast. That’s one of the fastest tracks I’ve ever run on, and the crowd was unbelievable. I mean, it was SO loud. It was close to an Olympics.
NBIGP: You pretty much knew you were going to have to take it from the last quarter?
GR: Yeah. Dorian, my [Oregon Track Club] teammate, did an unbelievable job. I’m thankful that he’s willing to take his time out to fly all the way here just to help me out. I owe him big time. [Editor’s Note: Ulrey, the 2010 NCAA Indoor Champion at 3000 meters, will run the Mile on Saturday.]
NBIGP: You just shot to #2 all-time US for the indoor mile. What kind of confidence does that give you for the distances?
GR: It gives me a ton of confidence. I mean, last summer was a huge confidence boost for me. Winning silver, it just reaffirmed that I’m good enough and that I can compete with those guys at the end. And now I’ve just put in a great block of training, and it’s really inspired me to take the next step to work that much harder. Obviously running a great mile time helps my 10K; being able to run that fast is going to make my 10,000 and 5000 that much easier. I like switching the emphasis to shorter races indoors. It’s a lot of fun.
NBIGP: Does winning an Olympic silver medal change the way you view yourself as an athlete?
GR: It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s not like I really needed validation or anything about what we were doing, but it never hurts to have great results. We had that goal, to win a medal, from the time that I started running. I was thrilled to cross the line in second, and more importantly just to beat a lot of those guys. I remember back in high school looking at some of the times that the Bekele brothers have run and I don’t even know if I believed it myself that I could run that fast at the end of a race. Closing in on 13 minutes and running 52-second last laps? But Alberto always told me to keep my eye on the small incremental steps; make sure you get a little closer every race until that gap gets smaller and smaller.
NBIGP: What are you looking for next week? You’re coming back to Boston in a few days.
GR: I’m going to try to run fast again there, too. I’ll be running 3K, so I’ll be getting more and more close to where I feel more comfortable racing at. I think I’ll gain a lot of confidence running 3:50 here, so coming through a little slower is hopefully going to feel a little easier and then I’ll be able to keep it going for another mile.
NBIGP: Speaking of miles, you were involved in a rather dramatic one at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix last year.
GR: Hopefully no one falls down this year.
NBIGP: In the 3K, you’ll be going up against Gebremeskel.
GR: I’m excited. Aside from working on our speed, one of our goals this indoor season is to get used to racing top competition … where the race is not only fast, but the goal is to try to win at the end, really focus on kick, not just running a fast time all by myself. You can never compete against too many good guys, and Gebremeskel is one of the best kickers at 5K and he’s obviously run really fast, too, so I’m really looking forward to getting in a race against him.
NBIGP: You know what happened a few years ago.
GR: (Laughing). Yeah, last year I knew him as “one-shoe man,” because I think he’s one of the last guys to beat Mo in a while and he did it with one shoe. We still give Mo a hard time about that. But it just goes to show how unbelievably talented Gebremeskel is, and he’s only gotten better. So it’s going to be tough.
NBIGP: Maybe that’s the secret to beating Mo, losing a shoe early in the race.
GR: I don’t know. I’ll take my chances with both shoes.