In his first ever Philadelphia race, starting and finishing near the iconic Philadelphia Art Museum concrete steps made famous by Rocky, Rupp delivered a knockout, winning in 1 hour, 2 minutes, 18 seconds.
Given that the world record is 58 minutes, 23 seconds, Rupp’s time is not blazing fast by elite standards. But while the nearly 9,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes were treated to overcast skies, they were saddled with stifling 90 percent humidity.
Or as Rupp said of the heat, which eventually reached 80 degrees, “It was definitely pretty warm out there.”
Muggy or not, Rupp obliterated the field. Philadelphia’s Marty Hehir finished second in 1:04:00. Ethiopia’s Gebrekidan Abadi took third in 1:04:05.
Two-time Olympic 5,000-meter gold medalist Meseret Defar won the women’s race in 1:08:45. Kenya’s Caroline Rotich, the 2016 Boston Marathon winner, took second in 1:09:40. Oregon’s Jordan Hasay finished third in 1:10:41.
Rupp made his move at Boat House Row along the Schuykill River, where Penn, Temple and other Philly collegians crew teams store their shells.
Beginning at Mile 6, he ripped off consecutive miles clocked in 4:34, 4:38, 4:44, 4:36 and 4:34. The 31-year-old, two-time Olympic medalist was so far in front that for stretches press truck observers lost sight of the rest of the elite field.
“This is crazy,” said Chris Heuisler, who was providing commentary for the Periscope broadcast from the press truck. “We’ve got serious talent here, and there’s not another runner in sight. He’s like, ‘Where are they?’ (Twice Rupp peeked over his shoulder.) He blew them out of the water. This is the Galen Rupp Show.”
Rupp, who’s gearing for the Chicago Marathon where he’s expected to shave minutes off his 2:09:59 personal record, planned on picking up the pace near Mile 6.
“You only get so many opportunities to race a (half) marathon,” he said. “I wanted to make this one count. You’ve got to get used to surging.
“A marathon is different. You’ll have more miles on your legs when the surges start. I really wanted to make a good effort at six or seven miles.”
Running by himself did not pose a problem for the man who won a silver medal in the 10,000 at the 2012 Olympics and bronze in the marathon at Rio de Janeiro.
“Obviously, it’s easier to have someone in front of you to draft off of or break the wind,” Rupp said. “But I do a lot of training and the majority of it’s alone. You have to be able to run by yourself. That’s the only way you learn to relax.
“You have to stay within yourself. It’s an art.”
Like the murals and statues that line the Philadelphia landscape, Rupp’s work was a thing of beauty Sunday.