All eyes are on Galen Rupp in the lead up to Sunday’s Chicago Marathon. The American wunderkind has had a remarkable successful early marathon career – a win at the 2016 Olympic Trials, a bronze at the Rio Olympics, and a runner-up finish earlier this year in Boston.
With that track record, there are a lot of reasons to think Rupp could pull of his first major marathon victory in Chicago.
Here are a few of those reasons:
1. Unlike Boston, no hiccups in preparation
Rupp’s lead-up to Boston was nowhere near perfect. While dealing with plantar fasciitis, Rupp withdrew from the Houston Half Marathon and complained of foot pain in an 11th place finish at the Prague Half Marathon just weeks before Boston. Things ended up going just fine for the big race in Boston, but no one knows what Rupp could have done had the injury never been an issue.
This time around, Rupp’s had two solid tune-up races – a win at the U.S. 20k championships on Labor Day and a 1:02:18 half marathon effort in Philadelphia three weeks ago. Neither was spectacular, but they indicate he’s heading into Chicago well-prepared and, perhaps more importantly, injury-free.
2. Fast, flat course should fit his track background
It’s no secret cross country was never a natural fit for Rupp, hence the mocking “Rupp-certified course” phrase that sprouted from the LetsRun boards. Snarkiness aside, Rupp has always favored the controlled confines of the track, which should make the Chicago course a better fit for him than the hilly Boston course was. One of his biggest challengers will be Dennis Kimetto, the world record holder, but he hasn’t fared very well in races without a pacer and especially in the heat. It’s expected to be a little warm on Sunday and Kimetto hasn’t been good since early 2015. Rupp gets a little bit of a nod over Kimetto even if their personal bests are far apart…for now.
3. Fourth time’s a charm?
Marathoning can be a tough thing to figure out. Even some of the all-time greats (i.e. Gebrselassie and Bekele) didn’t knock it out of the park right away. To Alberto Salazar’s credit, Rupp was exposed to the marathon in a controlled manner – his first two were in non-rabbited championship races that allowed him to fire up his competitive instincts rather than having to chase East Africans going after ridiculously fast times.
This will be Rupp’s fourth marathon against world class competition. He was third in Rio. He was second in Boston. Chicago? First makes a lot of sense.