At first glance, Galen Rupp’s eighth place finish in the men’s marathon in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games may seem like a disappointment. Rupp took the marathon bronze medal in the 2016 Rio games. He entered Tokyo as a medal contender.

Any disappointment however, for Rupp or other Americans, is merely a tribute to how great a runner he is.

Rupp, a 2004 graduate of Portland’s Central Catholic High School, has arguably been the most successful male U.S. distance runner in the past 50 years.

When Rupp won silver in the 10,000 meters in the 2012 London Olympics, he became the first American male to earn an Olympic medal in that event since Billy Mills won gold in 1964.

Four years after London, when Rupp took marathon bronze in Rio, he became the first male U.S. Olympic medalist in that event since Frank Shorter took silver in 1976. His medal came less than eight months after running his first competitive marathon at the 2016 U.S Olympic Trials.

Expectations were high for Rupp to medal in his third consecutive Olympics, something no American male long-distance runner has ever done in the history of the games.

The bar was set high, by Rupp himself.

Reality is, while Rupp has brought the United States back into the long-distance running conversation, American male runners are not even close to dominating on the world stage.

Rupp, 35, entered the 2021 Tokyo Olympic marathon with a personal best marathon time that was slower than 16 other runners in the competition. Rupp’s best time of 2:06:07 leads current U.S. runners but is 4 minutes, 28 seconds slower than Eliud Kipchoge, the eventual gold medal winner. By most standards, Rupp was a dark horse to medal.

None of that fazed Rupp, though, who is known for his grit, faith and focus as a runner facing daunting odds.

“You can never count Galen Rupp out,” said Kara Goucher, a commentator for NBC and former U.S. women’s Olympic marathon competitor.

Rupp stayed with the lead pack for the majority of the race, occasionally exchanging the lead with Kipchoge. Around mile 19 Kipchoge appeared annoyed as Rupp ran just off his shoulder, seemingly inviting Rupp to take the lead. Rupp declined.

Moments later Kipchoge made his move and, within minutes, created an 80 second gap between himself and the rest of the pack.

Rupp dropped to eighth as the pack pushed ahead, chasing Kipchoge.

“You’ve got to learn when to push, when to back off, and ultimately when to make that final long drive to the finish line,” said Rupp in an interview with NBC news in Chicago prior to Tokyo.

Rupp won the Chicago Marathon in 2017 running in heat and humidity similar to what he encountered in Tokyo. Prior to Tokyo he said his health and conditioning were both good. He has often thrived in adverse conditions.

Tactics and tenacity weren’t enough this time, however.

At 35, Rupp may have another Olympic opportunity in his future, possibly more. He has competed in the Olympic Games in the 5000 meters, 10000 meters and the marathon. He is the current American record holder in the 10000 meters.

His U.S. marathon teammate, Abdi Abdirahman, just competed in his fifth Summer Olympics in Tokyo at age 44.

In the immediate future, Rupp had announced plans prior to the Olympics to run in the Chicago Marathon this October.

Rupp, who prays as he runs, got his start in running with Catholic Youth Organization in Portland.