A then 24-year-old Galen Rupp made his half marathon debut at the NYC Half in 2011. Now, 11 years and two Olympic medals later, he’s making his return to the prestigious race.
Rupp is among a stacked field of 24 Olympians set to compete in the 2022 NYC Half on March 20. The race — which was canceled the last two years over COVID-19 concerns — will take Rupp and Co. through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Manhattan, Midtown and Times Square before concluding in Central Park.
The 35-year-old Rupp has accomplished plenty since his last NYC Half appearance. He’s now a four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist, claiming silver in the 10,000 in London 2012 and bronze in the marathon in Rio 2016. Rupp’s podium finish in the 10,000-meter event was Team USA’s first since Billy Mills’ win in Tokyo 1964.
Most recently, Rupp placed eighth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon, second in October’s Chicago Marathon and ninth in the 15K Gate River Run in Jacksonville on March 5.
Rupp spoke with CBS Sports about his Tokyo Olympics experience, and much more ahead of the 2022 NYC Half. Here are lightly-edited excerpts from the conversation.
You were a much different racer 11 years ago than you are now. How does your approach and perspective change going into the 2022 race compared to your last NYC Half?
It is different for sure. When I did my first one, I was just a track runner. All I did was 5Ks, 10Ks. Stepping up to a half marathon, it was a big jump in distance. I was super nervous before that. I had so much speed back then because all I was doing was shorter races, so I was more concerned about the distance part of it and how I was going to feel at the end of it. Now, it’s like you flip the script completely. But there’s different ways to get to the top of the mountain. I just come from a different path now. I think that experience and more knowing what to expect and still having a lot of confidence in my strength at the end of the race is going to be huge.
This NYC Half field is stacked with 24 Olympians. When you look at the field and see who you’re up against, how does that motivate you while training or even mid race?
This field is just loaded, and that certainly gives you a little bit of extra juice. You’re going against the best in the world, and I think that it’s just a tremendous opportunity. It’s great for the fans, and it’s great for the athletes as well because I think that it definitely brings out the best in everybody when you have this loaded up a field because it’s certainly not hard to get up for a race like this. You get a little bit of fear, which is good. You’ve got to be on top of your game given the quality of all the opponents that you’ve got.
This race not only marks your return to the NYC Half, but it’s also the race’s return from a two-year COVID hiatus. What does it mean for you to be a part of the group that’s really going to bring this big race back into the fold?
It’s huge. I know the pandemic, it was so tough on everyone. I have a hard time saying that personally because we play a game for a living and there are people going through a heck of a lot more than having a race canceled, but at the same time it’s so great to be back and having a little bit of a sense of normalcy again. I’m so much more appreciative and grateful to have these opportunities. Sometimes you almost need it taken away from you to really appreciate what you had, and how good it is. And now, going forward, knowing that the NYC Half Marathon is coming back, I’m just so grateful that we have this race and it just makes it that much more special and meaningful, to have the opportunity to compete.
These past Olympics were unlike any other. What was the Tokyo experience like for you?
It was definitely crazy. There’s no way to fully prepare for it. And I think just trying to be as fluid as possible and really leaning into that uncertainty is the only way that you can deal with it because as athletes, so much of what we want is always about being in control of everything and knowing that you have these routines, which are certainly important. But it was so hard to do during COVID because you didn’t know whether these races were going to get postponed or canceled. It’s hard to really target training when you don’t know or don’t have any idea of what you’re targeting for. We decided to just use that time to try to get better, lifting more, just different things with flexibility or workouts that were a little bit shorter that I might not be able to do in normal buildup. It was like, ‘How can we use this time to get better,’ and that was always our mantra throughout the whole thing.
You’re a four-time Olympian, two-time Olympic medalist that’s succeeded at the very highest level of your sport for over a decade now. How do you continue to grab that extra 1% while training or racing considering the career you’ve already put together?
For me it really comes down to excellence and really just your human potential. Especially as I’ve gotten older, I still believe that I can run a lot faster in a marathon than I have. And I think that idea of constantly seeing how far I can take my body and my mind and putting it together in one performance is the biggest driving thing for me right now. I still feel like I have a ton to give in the marathon, and I’m going to keep exploring until the point where I feel that it’s time to be done. I think apart from that, it’s become like an obsession to see and analyze how I can get better. Even if I’m not training, what are the little things I can do throughout the day to get better, whether it’s meditation or working on my mind, any of that. There’s almost not enough hours to do all this stuff. It drives me crazy when I hear people say they need to do something else to take their mind off of it. Balance is important, but you keep wanting to see how far you can take your body and how far you can take racing. I still love to train like that. I live for it. And I think that ultimately plays a big role in not only longevity but also success. I love when somebody finds a big weakness of mine or an area that we can say, ‘Alright, I can get this better.’ You’re just constantly analyzing where you are and every aspect and trying to maximize that, and I love that pursuit, that quest and that journey.