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Galen Rupp on His Return to Racing with an American Record, Training Solo and Wearing Masks

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It’s been eight months since Galen Rupp won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Feb. 29. In that span of time, he says he has not run a single step with another person. He’s still been training but he’s been grinding solo. That all changed on Friday when Eugene Marathon organizers put together the Row River Half Marathon. It was Rupp, Suguru Osako (his former Oregon Project teammate) and Patrick Tiernan. Many thought that Rupp could take a crack at Ryan Hall’s American record of 59:43 could be in jeopardy but Rupp finished the race in 60:22. His PR is still 59:47 from Prague in 2018. 

However, he walked away from Friday with the new American record in the 10-mile since he split 45:53 and Greg Meyer had run 46:13 in 1983. Osako finished behind him in 61:15. In order for the record to count, I believe you need three finishers so Pat Tiernan, who paced for a bit, took third in 66:42.

I got to ask him a couple of questions during the virtual press conference that followed the race. Here’s what he had to say…

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Chris Chavez: You said you haven’t run with a single person throughout quarantine. That’s not a single person even once during like an easy run? How hard has that been?

Galen Rupp: Nope. I haven’t run with anybody. All my training runs have been by myself. All of my workouts have been by myself. I’ve been taking this very seriously with social distancing and wearing a mask when I run. Obviously, with all of the harder intervals I won’t wear them and just make sure that I’m not near anybody else so that makes it easy. It’s certainly been challenging. It’s hard just getting out the door, being on schedule and getting yourself worked up for every workout. You don’t really have that opportunity in training to relax and not think about everything. Everything falls on you to hit the pace. It’s certainly been hard at times. I’ve done a decent amount of training on my own in the past. I’m used to it. It’s just one of those things where the situation is what it is. You have to make the best of it. I was really looking forward to having people to draft behind. I had to go back and really spend a lot of time thinking about what it was like running in a group again because it really has been so long. I clipped Pat [Tiernan] a few times and apologized to him. He said, ‘It’s all good, mate.’ It was just good to have that feeling of being around other people. It helps so much having other people to run with, be around and just draft off. Mentally too, it puts your mind at ease to not have to think about anything. 

CC:  Was that eyeblack that you had on today? We weren’t able to see the race but were able to see a couple of photos.

GR: I guess it looks like eye black. It’s similar to a breathe right strip. It helps open the nasal passages up. That’s the reason I wore them. I know it looks a little goofy. It does help get a little more air in through your nose and into your lungs. I’ve always been someone who is going to embrace technology whether it’s aerotape or the strips that were there on my face. Every little bit helps. Even if it’s just a few seconds, sometimes, especially if you’re trying to run really fast, that could make the difference. It’s just something that I’ve embraced throughout my career. Today was no different with that. 

CC: What were the shoes of choice today?

GR: I wore the AlphaFlys today.

CC: You said that you’re “mechanically better” in this training block. It’s been about a year almost since you’ve started working with coach Mike Smith. What do you mean by that? Better than ever before?

GR: I wouldn’t say better than ever before. I was really fortunate that I’ve always had good mechanics and it was a big point of emphasis that I put in my training. You always want to be as efficient as possible. That doesn’t mean that everybody has to look the same but generally, our bodies were all designed to move a certain way. Different tendons and muscles are meant to and designed to handle a certain load. It was something that I had tested regularly. Before I had surgery, I was very balanced. That’s a big reason why I’ve always been very healthy and didn’t have a lot of big injuries because there were no real differences between my right side and left side. Everything that I saw was what they could measure. I was within a thousandth of a second or percent – I can’t remember what it is – but it was within the margin of error. Everything was really similar with how I hit on the right side and left side. This time, after the trials and everything that happened with COVID, that was one of the things that we wanted to push, especially after things started to get canceled. We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to get better. I don’t have the pressure to get into a marathon build-up or if the Olympics were happening. I wanted to come out of this better. A big part of that for me was maybe taking it a little easier with the mileage and intensity and focusing back to strengthening up my leg. I lost a lot of muscle – not just in my ankle and those tendons but throughout that left leg. It’s been a long process and I think I certainly underestimated how difficult it would be. It’s been two years since  I was operated on but I feel like I’m finally getting back to my old self and getting some good push-off in my left leg. There was certainly a big hitch in my stride at the trials. I really wasn’t getting a lot of push there. It was just setting down and pivoting. My right leg was doing a lot of the work. I can certainly say that I’ve made some big improvements mechanically with that. They’ve seen that. It’s been a little challenging with COVID and a lot of it has been through video and slow-motion stuff. We’ve made it work and I’ve certainly made some big strides with it.

CC: No temptations for a marathon this fall? London happened. It had a small pro field. What went into the decision to just focus on this half?

GR: The biggest thing was just taking advantage of this time to get healthy and most importantly when the Olympics got canceled my mindset was like ‘How can I get in the best shape possible so that I can handle the training that I need to do for next year? I wanted to take advantage of this. Certainly, London was something that I thought about but at the same time, it’s something that you have to commit pretty early to. It was a family decision in talking to my wife and stuff. I really…I won’t say I’m scared of this. You still live your life but you have to be cautious and take all the precautions. Flying and traveling over several months ago when I would’ve had to have made that decision, I was very leery about doing that. This ended up being a tremendous option because it was somewhere I could drive to. Obviously, you have to stay in a hotel. I packed a lot of Clorox wipes and wiped down everything to be safe. It’s just the times we’re in right now so you just have to make the best of it. A half was a great opportunity and I’m just really grateful to have a chance to race. I’m definitely itching to get back to running a marathon. We’ll see if there’s anything that comes up in the spring or later on. Again, you just kind of have to be fluid with the situation of the world right now, roll with the punches and do what you can. That was kind of our mindset and the way we looked at this. I’m super thankful that this opportunity presented itself because there hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot that’s been going on.

CC: You snagged the 10-mile American record today. A lot of people maybe had their eyes on the American record by Ryan Hall. What happened between Mile 10 and 13 where that half marathon slipped away a little bit?

GR: I don’t wear a watch when I race so I didn’t even know and had no idea how fast I was going. My mindset coming in was mostly just on competing. I know Suguru (Osako) is a tough athlete. He never has bad races. I really was just trying to relax and use this opportunity to get used to running again people. Pat did an awesome job pacing it. It was just about relaxing and keep trying to push and work that second half. I just got a little tired at the end. I don’t think there’s much more to it than that.

CC: I think it was in 2011, you wore a mask for your allergies at USAs. I think it was in the 10K. Was that mask any different than what you’re running in now and how does that compare?

GR: I guess I’m used to running in a mask. It’s a little bit different for sure. The one that I wore there I don’t know how well it filters small particles like a virus. It was more for pollen. I usually just wear a surgical mask or something that’s been proven to be more effective with COVID. It’s a little different but I had worn those going back to high school and college when the allergies got bad and before I had that one that I wore in 2011. You go to Home Depot and get the KN95 ones or the typical surgical masks that you see people wear now that are disposable ones. That’s what I usually wear now. If I’m by myself I’ll flip it down under my chin. If I see somebody coming or I’m coming up behind somebody, I try to put it on at least 100 to 200 meters beforehand and leave it on for the same distance after I pass them so that I’m not going through the same air. If it’s clear and no one else is around, then I’ll flip it back down.

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