Contrary to what you may have read or heard, Galen Rupp is not running in Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix to set a world record in the mile.
Well, that’s not the main goal. But if it happens, so be it. The way Rupp has been running in 2014 — especially in Boston — don’t be shocked if he lowers the world indoor mark against a stacked mile field.
Saturday’s New Balance meet at the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center will be the third race Rupp will have run in Boston in barely three weeks. If he lived on the East Coast, perhaps that wouldn’t be so newsworthy. But Rupp lives and trains in Portland, Ore., so he’s made the cross-country flight for each race.
After the first two races in Boston, he returned to the Pacific Northwest with US indoor records, first in the 5,000 meters, then the 2 mile. Rupp’s coach was aiming even higher this weekend at the Reggie.
A silver medalist at the 2012 Olympics in the 10,000 meters, Rupp said his focus during Saturday’s marquee event is on racing, not records.
“The priority here really is to just work on racing. If I wanted to really give the [world record] a shot, chances are I probably would have stayed running at BU and tried to get great rabbits and a perfectly-paced race,” Rupp said at the Lenox Hotel on Friday morning, appearing in a news conference with three others who will be running the mile with him. “Those record attempts are fun, but to get ready to run the US Championships, and to run hopefully at the World Championships, they’re more tactical races, and strategy and how you kick is a lot better. That’s why I wanted to come here, to really get a chance to practice that before I enter those championship races.”
Rupp and many of the others who will be competing Saturday have an eye toward the US Indoor Track & Field Championships this month (Feb. 21-23) in Albuquerque, N.M., and also the IAAF World Indoor Championship next month (March 7-9) in Poland.
Those two events are why the 27-year-old Rupp chose to tweak his schedule at the last minute and run this weekend on the Reggie Lewis track, instead of next weekend at Boston University. It couldn’t have been an easy decision, based on the recent success Rupp has had at BU.
He set the 5,000 US indoor record there on Jan. 16, when he ran a 13:01.26, breaking the record held by Lopez Lomong. Nine days later, on the same BU track, Rupp ran 8:07.41 in the 2 mile, taking the record from Bernard Lagat.
Thinking that another record attempt would be made on Feb. 15 at BU in the mile, Rupp’s coach, Alberto Salazar, told an Oregon newspaper last month that his runner’s goal would be the 3:49.89 indoor mile record of Hicham El Guerrouj.
“I can’t predict Galen will break the world record, but we’re not going to put all that work out there for 3:49,” Salazar told The Oregonian. “He might as well go for [the world record]. He might die a little going for 3:48, but we would rather go for it and fail than not go for it and just try to break the American record.”
Those comments from Salazar, a former Wayland High star and winner of the 1982 Boston Marathon, were made before the plan changed. With the US Championships two weeks away, Rupp wanted to run against a strong field and race, not simply worry about the clock.
Rupp figures to get a strong test on Saturday in the mile, which is scheduled to start at 4:55 p.m., within the live coverage window on NBC Sports Network (4:30-6 p.m.). Lomong is also in the 10-man field, as are a pair of former Olympic medalists. Leo Manzano won silver in the 1,500 meters at the 2012 Games in London, and New Zealand’s Nick Willis took the silver in the 1,500 four years earlier in Beijing.
“The [field] quality is a big factor, some of these guys I’m probably going to be running against in two weeks’ time for a spot on that world championship team, so this will definitely be good practice,” Rupp said. “The timing of it, too, is nice, to get a good race in. Then I’ll have two weeks to really make sure I’m fully rested and recovered, so everything will hopefully be perfect when I get to Albuquerque.”
With so much talent among the milers, who’s considered the favorite?
“I think that the four of us here, we all have very fast times,” said Lomong, motioning toward Rupp, Willis, and Manzano. “But there’s 10 of us here. I think everybody lining up in that race has a chance of winning. I never single people out. I think we all have a shot to win the race.”
Said Rupp: “I think we all bet on ourselves, honestly. I think anybody up here would be lying if they said they weren’t confident going into this race. None of us, I don’t think anybody in the field, is going to go ahead and think that somebody else is the favorite to win. We all think that we have a great shot, and we’re going to do our best to try to break the tape.”