The downtown streets of Philadelphia and scenic park setting along the Schuykill River proved no match for Galen Rupp. Nor did the thousands of runners who laced up their kicks for the 40th American Association for Cancer Research Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.
A two-time Olympic medalist, Rupp performed a disappearing act Sunday morning. Rupp ran away from the field, winning the historic race in 1 hour, 2 minutes and 18 seconds. Hometown favorite Marty Herir took second in 1:04:00. Gebrekiden Abadi finished third in 1:04:05.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Meseret Defar was nearly as dominant as Rupp. Defar pulled away along the Schuykill near Mile 9, winning in 1:08:45. Caroline Rotich, winner of the 2016 Boston Marathon, placed second in 1:09:40. Jordan Hasay earned American female honors, finishing third in 1:10:41.
While the runners were treated to cloud cover, it was accompanied by 90 percent humidity.
“The last three, four, five miles, I cannot lie, it was hot,” said Rupp.
He dealt with the humidity better than his rivals. For six miles, Rupp hung with the pack.
“I tried to help the guys, biding my time,” Rupp said.
But along Boat House Row, where the Penn, Temple and other college rowers store their boats, Rupp took off. From mile 6, he ripped off mile splits of 4:34, 4:38, 4:44, 4:36 and 4:34. He would have showed his rivals his back except they weren’t close enough to even see his singlet.
“This is crazy,” said Chris Heuisler, who was providing commentary for the Periscope broadcast from the press truck. “We’ve got serious talent here, and there’s not another runner in sight. He’s like, ‘Where are they?’ He blew them out of the water. This is the Galen Rupp Show.”
Running by himself proved no challenge for Rupp.
“You have to get used to it,” Rupp said. “You can’t always expect to sit behind everyone.”
Defar has been slowed more than a year by a calf injury that prevented her from running in the 2016 Olympics. She showed no ill effects Sunday, crossing the finish line with her hands held high, then lifting her 3-year-old daughter, Gabriella.
“For me, now that I’m healthy, I am so happy,” said Defar. “It is a very good feeling.”
Nearly 18,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes took to the streets of Philadelphia for the weekend. They started and finished near the footsteps of the iconic Philadelphia Art Museum.
Among those runners, 23 legacy men and women celebrated running in the race for the 40th time, dating back to its 1978 debut. The Academy Award for film of the year back then: “Deer Hunter.” Disco was in vogue, with “Greece” and “Saturday Night Fever” hot on the radio airwaves.
“Running is just a part of my life,” said 70-year-old Vince Cloud of Palm Beach, Fla., one of the legacy runners. “I can’t miss this race.”