Galen Rupp celebrates by mimicking “knocking it out of the park” after winning the 10,000 meters at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene. (Ken Niezgoda/Catholic Sentinel)
Galen Rupp celebrates by mimicking “knocking it out of the park” after winning the 10,000 meters at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene. (Ken Niezgoda/Catholic Sentinel)

Galen Rupp could walk away from running right now and be remembered as one of the greatest U.S. male distance runners of all time.

The question for the 35-year-old Rupp is “What’s next?” Even Rupp himself may not know the answer.

Following his first Olympic appearance in Beijing in 2008, Rupp said, “I don’t tend to get too far ahead of myself or think about what I’m going to do four years from now. I take it one race at a time. It’s just one step. Focus on that step, when you get that done, move onto the next.”

That was 13 years ago. Since then, Rupp has become a four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist, earning a silver in the 10,000 meters in London and bronze in the marathon in Rio. He was the first U.S. male to medal in either event in decades.

Rupp started his running career with CYO in Portland.

“It really was the start of running for me,” said Rupp, who credits CYO for building the foundation for his later success.

“A lot of it is really just learning about setting a goal and then having the discipline and making sacrifices and putting in all the work to accomplish that.”

Rupp starred at Central Catholic High School in Portland. He still holds the national high school record in the 5,000 meters.

From high school Rupp went on to compete at the University of Oregon, where he earned a school-record 14 All-American honors as well as comparisons to former U of O distance-running legend, Steve Prefontaine. While their talent was comparable, Rupp’s humble nature stood in stark contrast to the outspoken and sometimes controversial Prefontaine.

Rupp’s former U of O coach described Rupp’s presence as a Duck: “He’s a very charismatic guy. Win, lose or draw, he carries himself well.”

While Rupp both lives and runs with a patient grace, his career has not been without hurdles. The most significant hurdle occurred when his former longtime coach, Alberto Salazar, was suspended for allegedly promoting performance enhancing drugs with his athletes. Rupp was never implicated in any PED use. 

Throughout the highs and lows, Rupp has consistently credited his faith, family and friends with keeping him on track.

“I’ve got a really close circle. I tend to stay in that, rather than venture out,” said Rupp in 2008.

Rupp’s next event will be the Chicago Marathon in October.

— Ken Niezgoda, who has been covering Rupp’s career for two decades