For all Galen Rupp has accomplished running at a very brisk pace from Point A to Point B – three-time Olympian, two-time Olympic medalist, too many U.S. records to count – there are a couple things Rupp has not pulled off on two feet.
He has never raced in Philadelphia.
He has never run a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series event.
And by world-class standards, he has not run a fast marathon.
Rupp will cross those first two items off his life to-do list Sunday when he laces up his Nikes and runs the American Association for Cancer Research Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. It’s the 40th anniversary of the event that begins and ends near the footsteps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, the Rocky statue in the near distance.
“It’s my first time ever in Philly,” Rupp said Saturday morning inside the expo at the convention center. “I’d always wanted to do one of the track meets. Now that I’m here, I’m excited.”
Those tales about tough Philadelphia fans, Santa Claus bombarded with boos by Eagles fans? Rupp knows nothing about them.
“Everyone has been so nice,” he said after being interviewed for a Facebook broadcast.
Likewise, he’s excited about experiencing the brand that brought entertainment to road racing.
“I’ve just heard they’re a blast,” Rupp said of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. “My friends say they’re a lot of fun. You run a half marathon, that’s a long way. It helps to have some distractions. The fans, the bands every mile, the cheerleaders, that’s got to be a pick-me-up.”
Rupp, 31, is gearing up for the Oct. 8 Chicago Marathon. He has run only three marathons, winning his debut at the 2016 Olympic Trials, finishing third at the Rio Olympics, then placing third at this year’s Boston Marathon in a personal-best 2:09:58.
While there no doubt will be pressure at pancake-flat Chicago for Rupp to drop his PR, he insists that won’t be his primary objective.
“Winning,” he said, “is the most important thing.”
Rupp’s half marathon personal best is 1 hour, 30 seconds, set more than six years ago in New York. Might that PR fall Sunday on the streets of Philadelphia? Might Ryan Hall’s U.S. record of 59:43 tumble?
Said Rupp, “I’d like to give it a shot.”
He’s expected to be pushed by Jared Ward, his marathon teammate at the Rio Games.
The women’s half marathon field is loaded. Ethiopia’s two-time Olympic 5,000-meter champion Meseret Defar is expected to run stride for stride with American Jordan Hasay, who finished third in her marathon debut last April in Boston.
Hasay’s 2:23:00 time at Boston was the fastest debut marathon by an American woman by nearly three minutes. Two Boston Marathon champions will also be in the field, Kenyan Caroline Rotich and Ethiopia’s Buzunesh Deba.