TOKYO – Long before COVID caused the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed for a year … long before Tokyo organizers moved endurance running races to another island 500 miles north in search of cooler temperatures … The medal events could be completed… the men’s Olympic marathon was always going to be a test of patience, as it traditionally begins on the last day of the Games.
This year, the three men representing the United States in the 26.2 mile race will be Pac-12 alumni: Galien Rupp (OREGON), Abdi Abdirahman (ARIZONE), and Jake riley (STANFORD). Meet the team and find out how they met their time before the 7am Sunday start in Sapporo.
Jacob Riley ran track and field and cross country at Stanford, placed third in the 10,000m at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships. At Stanford, he graduated in Biomechanical Engineering. This spring, he obtained a master’s degree from COLORADO in mechanical engineering with a specialization in design. At 32, he is the only Olympic rookie among the three. Thursday, he gave us an update.
“I arrived in Tokyo on July 31, arrived at the Olympic Village at 5 pm, had a shake outside, had some food, then I flew to Sapporo the next day after a race. I don’t have a roommate here which is very nice as these rooms are small. The beds are a good size but there are no closets – and they gave us a ton of [Olympic] Things. I came with a bag and two more duffel bags were waiting when I got here.
“Every day I get up, eat and go to our training center, which is the outdoor speed skating facility for the 1972 Winter Olympics. It is an asphalt loop. of 1000 meters, with an asphalted inner loop of 450 meters. It’s the same place for everyone. They won’t let us go anywhere else, just the hotel, the dining hall across the street, and the training center. I do my own thing. I see the British and the Irish a lot. But like I’ve never seen, like, the Germans train. Everyone has their own idea of the optimal training time. So I wrap this up for a while, come back and have lunch. Everyone eats in the same dining room so we see each other at mealtimes. I ate with [U.S. women’s marathoner] Sally Kipyego the other night.
“I brought a Nintendo Switch with me so I play a bit. I am receiving treatment. I still eat it. And then I go to bed. It’s like a week of recovery so I sleep as long as I can. And I often sit in my hotel room.
“I watched the men’s 800m, the women’s steeplechase and some 1500m. I connect, I disconnect. Japanese channels have plenty of table tennis and volleyball. I just put it in the background. I spend a lot of time trying NOT to think about running because I know that once I start I’m going to have adrenaline jerks. Watching other people race is one of the things that starts to get that little tingle. It makes the heart leap. “
Abdi Abdirahman, 44, is competing in his fifth (non-consecutive) Olympics, dating back to 2000 in Sydney, where he placed 10th in 10,000 meters. He again ran on the track in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, switched to the marathon in 2012 in London, missed qualifying for Rio and returned for his second Olympic marathon. In 1998, in Arizona, he was the Pac-10 Male Cross Country Athlete of the Year, but his career began at Pima Community College where he did his first workout in Rockport jeans and shoes and nearly beat the number one. On Thursday, he said that Tokyo, compared to other Olympics:
“Certainly is different because of the pandemic and the restrictions. I wake up, train and go back to the hotel. We cannot leave the hotel. We can stay in our rooms or hang out in the lobby. But maybe we can focus on racing a bit more now. This is how I handle it.
“I have my own room on the 15th floor so I have a clear view of the mountains. Galien is right next door. We do different workouts, but Galen and I run the easier races together.
“I’m still working with my University of Arizona coach Dave Murray. Also Gary Lough – husband of Paula Radcliffe – helped me a lot. He coaches Mo Farah and a lot of marathoners so I’ve been training with him the last few months, although I’m still running for Coach Murray.
“There is a TV in my room. I watch the Olympics, but just the pictures because I don’t understand the language. There is also CNN, but they translate it into Japanese. On my computer, I’m at home, talking to friends, texting. I do not get bored. I’m just here hanging out, relaxing.
Galen Rupp, 35, is competing in his fourth Olympics but, unlike his first three, he has no track events on his Tokyo schedule – only the marathon. In 2012 in London, Rupp won silver behind Mo Farah in the 10,000 meters. Four years later, on a rainy day in Rio, he won bronze in the marathon. He also won the last two trials of the US Olympic Marathon, as well as the Chicago Marathon in 2017 and placed second in Boston the same year. The father of four is based in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, Keara, who also raced for the Ducks. On Tuesday he said:
“The track has always been in the second half of the Olympics so when I was competing there there was always an element of waiting. So this feeling is no different at all.
“The last week before the marathon is all about rest, anyway – resting and recovering as much as possible, because it will be a grueling race on Sunday. I’ll go to bed at 9:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., a bit early for me.
“We are all in one hotel, all marathon runners, from all countries. We perform daily saliva tests and all playbook protocols. I think we are all grateful to Japan for hosting this. It is not easy, of course, during a pandemic. We are just grateful that Japan has opened up their country to us.
“I saw a little [of the Games], for sure. I have so many fond memories when I was very young of staying up late, putting a blanket in our family room and watching everything that was going on. I liked everything. So, definitely, to watch. But it’s more about doing business. When he gets home, I’ll put him on.
“I saw a replay of 400 hurdles. I was rooted for Rai [Benjamin]. Amazing race. I have traveled a lot in the heart of gymnastics so I missed a lot of this [Simone Biles news]. You have to balance it. You are so excited to see your teammates compete but, at the same time, you need to master this and not overheat yourself.
“All of us here in Sapporo are very happy to be able to participate and look forward to Sunday’s race.
“It’s pretty cool that we [Abdi, Jake, and I] are all from the Conference of Champions. Hope we will make everyone proud.