Mo Farah playfully shadowboxed, extending his fist toward Galen Rupp’s face as the marathoners posed for photographs. Farah laughed and covered Rupp’s face with his marathon bib for a moment.
Rupp smiled politely and patted Farah on the back.
The former training partners and track rivals were part of a joint news conference Friday to preview their anticipated showdown Sunday in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, in which Rupp will defend his title.
“We’re very familiar with each other,” said Rupp, an American who won last year in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 20 seconds. “We had a great time training together for so long. I’m looking forward to running against him.”
Rupp and Farah head an elite field of men, with some predicting especially fast times thanks in part to the return this year of pacers for the first half of the race. Mosinet Geremew (2:04:00 personal best), Birhanu Legese (2:04:15), 2016 Chicago champion Abel Kirui (2:05:04) and 2015 champion Dickson Chumba (2:04:32) also highlight the international field.
Farah, from Britain, is running in only his third marathon after placing third in London in April in 2:06:21. He is a four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and holds a 21-1 head-to-head record against Rupp on the track.
“Mo’s never beaten me above a half-marathon,” Rupp said with a chuckle. The one time he beat Farah on the track, it was because Farah tripped.
Despite the deep field, the focus will be on the Farah-Rupp showdown.
“That’s what people want to see,” Farah said. “It brings people into the (race).”
Farah moved his family from England to Oregon in 2011 to join the Oregon Project under coach Alberto Salazar. Farah and Rupp trained together and played soccer and video games in their downtime. They finished first and second in the 10,000 at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Farah said he was looking for something different and left the Oregon Project last year to move back to England.
Rupp said the two remain friendly. He said he contacted Farah after the London Marathon.
In a separate interview, Farah seemed confused to hear that. “Did he? Maybe an email.”
Rupp said the two aren’t rivals.
“Some people want to call it a rivalry, but I don’t think you can really call it that based on all the results from the track,” he said. “I beat him once when he fell down. He’s one of the best who’s done it. He always brings his ‘A’ game.”
Said Farah: “We’re rivals. We’re friends. There’s a respect.”
Rupp ran a personal-best 2:06:07 to win the Prague Marathon in May. Some speculate he could be closing in on Khalid Khannouchi’s 2002 American record of 2:05:38.
Before Rupp and Farah’s news conference, Khannouchi approached each for a hug.
“If it works out I broke the (U.S.) record and got third and fourth, I’d be happy, but my goal is to win,” said Rupp, who said he is completely healed from an Achilles injury that kept him out of the Copenhagen half-marathon. “I definitely think (the record is) a possibility. My training has gone well. … I’ve made a lot of good adjustments. I’m in better shape than I was last year. I should be in the running.”
Farah said he will try to use his familiarity with Rupp to his advantage.
“I’m excited to be racing against Galen,” he said “I know him well. He knows me well. So we’ll see, right?”
Farah looked at Rupp, smiled and raised his eyebrows.