© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated

Galen Rupp, 2012 London Olympic silver medallist in the 10,000-metre event and bronze medal winner during the Rio Olympic marathon, is currently training for the 2016 B.A.A. Boston Marathon. The inclusion of Rupp is attractive for Boston as there is a real possibility that he, an American, may win the race.

The last time that an American won was in 2014 when Meb Keflezighi crossed the line first in the time of 2:08:37. Before Keflezighi, it was Greg Meyer, who 31 years earlier in 1983, conquered the race in the time of 2:09:00. Meyer’s win came one year after Rupp’s coach Alberto Salazar had won in the time of 2:08:52. Forty-five American men have won the race since its inaugural year back in 1897. It is considered the oldest and longest-running marathon in the world.

Not being privy to what team Rupp have in mind for race day and putting aside things that are out of his control like adverse weather conditions and injury, Rupp appears to have the ability to run approximately 2:04:30 – 2:05:00 on the Boston course, without a tailwind.

To date, Rupp has run just two marathons. He qualified to compete in the Rio Olympics during the 2016 Los Angeles Marathon by winning the trials in the time of 2:11:13. His personal best, which took place in Rio, is 2:10:05. Neither marathon represents his true potential. Looking at his prowess over the shorter distances will tell the tale of the tape.

His Los Angeles performance was a debut. It is rare for a debut marathon to be an athlete’s best. Also, he likely ran just well enough to qualify for the Olympics without draining himself.

The Olympic marathon is often run in heat as the Olympic games take place during the summer. Even a few degrees can make a difference. Rio was very warm.

The best distance to use as a barometer for Rupp’s 42.195-kilometre potential is in the 10,000-metre event, a distance that he specialised in for over a dozen years, therefore it is more likely that he ran the best that he could in this distance during that time. His personal best over 10,000m is an American record 26:44.36, while his best over the half-marathon distance is 1:01:20. His half-marathon and marathon performances are equal. His 10,000-metre performance suggests a much faster finish at the longer distance.

Based on the 26:44.36, he should be able to run a half-marathon in the time of 58:30, give or take.

With Boston’s downhill start that runs through to the first 26 kilometres (16 miles), he should be able to run under 2:05:00 even in less than ideal conditions. With a tailwind, Rupp may be able to run 2:04 or even better. He could become the first American to run the marathon distance in the 2:03s.

In comparison, fellow American Ryan Hall’s best half-marathon is the American record time of 59:43. His non-Boston marathon best is 2:06:17, however, he ran a 2:04:58 on the Boston Marathon course during the 2011 edition – the fastest ever by an American. This is the same event where the all-time record was set, suggesting that 2011’s tailwind was of assistance. Hall did not specialise over the shorter 10,000-metre distance for long therefore his 28:07.93 personal record should not be compared to Rupp’s for the exercise of determining Rupp’s capability in the 2016 Boston race.

The Boston course record is 2:03:02 set by Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai during the 2011 running of the event.

Mutai’s best over the 10,000m is just 27:27.29, while his half-marathon record is 58:58; his best non-Boston time is 2:04:15, which took place on the Berlin Marathon course. Twelve of the top 21 performances all-time took place on the Berlin course, while two of those were run in Boston. Six of the top seven performances that are recognised by the IAAF all-time were run in Berlin; it’s a blazing course.

Kenyan Moses Mosop ran four seconds slower than Mutai in Boston in 2011, finishing in the time of 2:03:06. Mosop’s best non-Boston time is 2:05:03 on the Rotterdam course in 2012. Rotterdam may be as fast as Berlin or is very close to it.

Mosop has only dipped below one hour in the half-marathon once when he ran 59:20 in the ultra-fast Milano race in 2010.

Comparing various performances of other athletes, Rupp may have the ability during his third marathon in Boston to eclipse Mosop and Mutai’s best time, however, it will also take a tailwind for that to happen, just as it did for them.

Until 2014, when Dennis Kimetto won the Berlin Marathon in the time of 2:02:57, Mutai’s Boston time was the fastest marathon in history, however, it was not recognised by the governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) as the Boston Marathon course fails to qualify for two reasons: It is a point-to-point course and the elevation drop is greater than one metre per kilometre from start to finish.

The point-to-point course can be an advantage as prevailing winds in some years can provide an advantage as a tailwind. Apparently during the 2011 running of Boston, participants benefitted from a tailwind. Conversely a steady headwind will have at least the opposite effect.

Although Boston has the infamous heartbreak hill near 32K or 20 miles, the downhill nature provides an advantage beyond the standard allowed by the IAAF.

Anecdotal assumption suggests that if there is a strong headwind, not only will the runners be negatively affected physically, but they will also not put the same effort into a time-based performance, knowing that a headwind will last throughout, therefore the negative effect of a headwind is greater than the positive effect of a tailwind.

Athletics Illustrated predicts the following for Galen Rupp:

With strong headwind: 2:09:00
With little or no wind: 2:04:30–2:05:00
With strong tailwind: 2:03:00–2:03:15


Best times
  Country Athlete Boston Year 10,000m 21.1K 42.195K Course
US Galen Rupp      – 2016 26:44.36 61:20 2:10:05 Rio
Kenya Geoffrey Mutai 2:03:02 2011 27:27.79 58:58 2:04:15 Berlin
Kenya Moses Mosop 2:03:06 2011 26:49.55 59:20 2:05:03 Rotterdam
US Meb Keflezighi 2:08:37 2014 27:13.98 61:01 2:09:08 Houston
Kenya Robert Cheryuiot 2:07:14 2010 27:48* 61:05 2:07:35 Chicago
Kenya Moses Tanui 2:07:34 1998 27:18:32 59:47 2:06:16 Chicago

World record

2014 Kenya Dennis Kimetto N/A 28:30:00 59:14:00 2:02:57 Berllin

American record

2002 US Khalid Khannouchi 27:45* 60:27:00 2:05:38 London
10K road*