NewsGalen Rupp

Galen Rupp Places Eighth In Olympic Marathon Amid Tough Conditions

by Karen Rosen

Galen Rupp looks up while competing in the men's marathon final at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 8, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan.


TOKYO – Galen Rupp tried to keep a cool head as he competed in his second straight Olympic marathon.

The bronze medalist from the Olympic Games Rio 2016 wore a white baseball cap, which he would fling to the ground before each water stop and grab a new one that came with a cooling rag and some ice.

Rupp, 35, stayed with the leaders, even moving to the front briefly, through two-thirds of the 26.2-mile (42.195 kilometer) race. But when defending champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya made a move just past the 30K mark, six runners formed a chase group and Rupp was not part of it.

The four-time Olympian never caught up with the leaders and finished eighth with a time of 2 hours, 11 minutes, 41 seconds. Jacob Riley was 29th, clocking 2:16:26 while five-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman was 41st in 2:18.27. 

Kenya’s Kipchoge raced the last stretch alone, crossing the finish line Sunday morning in Sapporo, about 500 miles north of Tokyo, with a time of 2:08:38, which was well off his world record of 2:01:39 set in Berlin in 2018. Abdi Nageeye of The Netherlands was second (2:09:58) followed by Bashir Abdi of Belgium (2:10:00) as they outkicked Lawrence Cherono of Kenya (2:10:02) in a battle for the silver and bronze medals.
Kipchoge became the third man to win two Olympic marathon golds, joining Abebe Bikila of Ehtiopia (1960 and 1964) and Waldemmar Cierpinski of East Germany (1976 and 1980).
A day after Molly Seidel unexpectedly won the bronze medal to become the third American woman to reach the podium in the marathon, expectations were high for Rupp. He hoped to join Frank Shorter (gold in 1972, silver in 1976) as the only Americans to win two marathon medals.
The race was held in Sapporo because it was supposed to be cooler than Tokyo, but the temperature at race time in Sapporo was 79 degrees with 81 percent humidity and some wind. In Tokyo, it was 75 degrees and rainy. Rupp had won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon in February 2020 on a course set up to emulate the proposed Tokyo course before the decision was made to switch to Sapporo.

A total of 106 runners started and only 76 finished the Tokyo course.

As the race began, Rupp shadowed Kipchoge, the only athlete to run a marathon under two hours, which he achieved in an exhibition race with pacesetters, making it ineligible for a record.
“He knows Kipchoge knows how to run the best marathon,” said NBC announcer Kara Goucher, who used to be in the same training group as Rupp.
Rupp stayed so close that at one point Kipchoge turned around and said something to him, apparently annoyed at the American’s strategy.

The father of four appeared comfortable in the early stages of the race as the lead pack passed 5K in 15:17 and 10K in 30:53.

“You can never count Galen Rupp out,” Goucher said. 
She remarked later in the race that Rupp looked effortless and relaxed.  

“He looks like the Galen Rupp we all know, totally in control,” Goucher said.
But in the 19th mile, Rupp was struggling. 
“He doesn’t have the same bounce,” Goucher said. “He’s suffering. It’s tough out there.”

And by the time Rupp crossed the finish line, he was bare-headed.

Rupp was only 22 when he competed in his first Olympic Games in 2008, finishing 13th in the 10,000 meters on the track. He won the silver medal in the 10,000 in London four years later, becoming the first American to medal in the event since Billy Mills in 1964 in Tokyo. He also placed seventh in the 5,000. 

In Rio, Rupp had double duty again, but with an even more ambitious schedule. He placed fifth in the 10,000, and then eight days later won the bronze in the marathon. Rupp is the only American to win Olympic medals in both events.

Riley, who was second in the marathon trials, was 42nd at the halfway point in Sapporo and pulled up to 20th at 35K.

Abddirahman, 44, was the oldest runner to make an Olympic team. This was his second Olympic marathon. In th Olympic Games London 2012, he did not finish the race.

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.

Karen Rosen has covered every Summer and Winter Olympic Games since 1992 for newspapers, magazines and websites. Based in Atlanta, she has contributed to since 2009.