Jeff Benjamin drove down to Philly to interview some of the top athletes at RNR Philadelphia Half marathon, a historically fast course. This is one of two stories on Nike Oregon project athletes. This piece is on two time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp (Olympic silver over 10,000m in 2012, Olympic bronze over marathon in 2016).
Cross Country season is upon us!! Throughout the nation runners from the elementary, middle, high school, college and beyond level will be standing on their respective starting lines awaiting the starter’s pistol or whistle!
“I was scared to death!,” reminisced Galen Rupp, recalling his first race back in middle school. “It never goes away.”
Tomorrow Rupp (America’s Olympic Bronze Medalist from the Rio Marathon) will be once again be toeing the line in Philadelphia at the Rock ‘n Roll half-marathon, once again wrestling with that nervous, hyper-energy feelings all runners experience on race day.
In middle school, Rupp was on a very low-key track team consisting of fun. “We usually ran a relay once or twice a week in practice and that was it.” On race day, Rupp had his fears. “There was this one guy I’d focus on and he had a good kick, so I tried to run from the front because I got paranoid of kicking with him.”
So how did one of America’s all-time best runners learn to conquer his fears? “It never does go away no matter how big or small the race,” said Rupp. But one key to Rupp’s mental success has been in his unshaken faith in his Oregon Project coaches and supporters, among them Alberto Salazar and Peter Julian. “Once I warm up it turns to excitement.” How did that change? “I have trust in my training,” said Rupp. “When you look back at the training you can get it done.”
It seems that the major physical and mental factor for Rupp are the infamous post workouts followed by the surprise post run workouts, a staple of the NOP which is also conducted sometimes after 100% race efforts. Coaches Salazar and Julian usually do not let their athletes know what they are going to continue to do after feeling their energies are spent. A few years ago this writer observed this firsthand at the Millrose Games, as postrace Rupp ran a series of 600 meter splits, not knowing when the workout would end. “These are very tough, said Rupp. “But no matter how hard Alberto pushes us you must respond and you find out you do have more left and can find a little bit extra from your body and mind…You must do it!”
It is from those workouts that the mental toughness is built in. “I find it important to reflect on the workout,” said Rupp. “You should take 10-15 minutes afterwards even during the cooldown and reflect how it correlates…It’s kind of like a mental bank account that your putting in your mind to withdraw from on race day…If you’re not reflecting on the workout it’s a wasted opportunity, but if you are you’ll have such confidence!!!”
It is from this confidence that Rupp has excelled both in the track and the roads. “When you get to the line, you either have done the work or you haven’t,” said Rupp.
“If the young runners can take anything from me it’s that you should keep looking back at your training…If you do that then you can get it done!!”