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Prior to stepping on the track before a race, Rupp and Salazar pray together, and Salazar encourages Rupp to enjoy himself. After two years of racing without a best-in-the-country or world result—including the 2010 Cardinal Invitational 10,000m, where Rupp ran 27:10, under Meb Keflezighi’s nine-year-old American record, but didn’t get the record then because Chris Solinsky surged past him to finish first in 26:59.60—Rupp felt confident he would medal in the 10,000m at the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea. He focused so intently on medaling that he lost concentration and finished seventh.
“What’s great about Galen is that he’s good at making changes and, in two weeks [after Daegu], he changed his mindset and was recommitted to a process-oriented approach that helped him in the race in Brussels,” Treasure says. Rupp set the new American record in the 10,000m not by focusing on splits, but by concentrating on relaxing, maintaining good form and closing the race as hard as possible. But, the new accolade doesn’t stand out in Rupp’s mind as the most memorable moment of his life so far.
“Getting married is the best thing that’s ever happened to me; I’m lucky she said yes,” Rupp exclaims, laughing. “The lifestyle we live isn’t easy; we travel a lot and there’s a lot of last-minute changes to things. She’s beyond supportive and flexible. I couldn’t be more thankful.”
The couple started dating in 2007 and married on Sept. 25, 2010. A former University of Oregon runner, Keara Rupp is the ultimate support system—she goes nearly everywhere her husband does and appears content with their quiet home life in Beaverton, Ore., that, for Galen, involves restful activities such as watching Oregon football, napping and playing soccer online with Mo Farah and Salazar’s son.
A much anticipated marathon debut floats somewhere in Rupp’s future. It could’ve been the Olympic marathon trials in Houston on Jan. 14, but the experiment proved too risky with the track trials looming five months later. “Galen’s durability—he’s very strong and very injury-free, is efficient, has great biomechanics and good form—says to me that he’ll be a great marathoner someday,” Salazar says.
Rupp could test the marathon waters as early as this fall, depending on how the summer unfolds. If Rupp makes the Olympic team at the track trials in the 5,000m and 10,000m, recovers well from a double in those distances at the London Games, and has a good bout of marathon training in early fall, he could make his debut in Chicago or New York.
Ten years from now, Salazar predicts that Rupp will have a family, retire from professional running and work for Nike. In the future, Salazar hopes to reminisce with Greg and Jamie Rupp. “I hope they don’t thank me for helping with Galen’s running, but for being a positive influence. And that’s what I want with Galen. When he’s retired and has a family, I’ll hope running didn’t screw him up somehow like it did me,” Salazar says, eyes a touch moist. “And that will make me feel successful.”
This piece first appeared in the March issue of Competitor magazine.