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Canadian Marco Arup has met his middle-distance champion, and now he wants to one-up him

Canadian Marco Arup has met his middle-distance champion, and now he wants to one-up him

There's that old adage, never meet your heroes.

Except for what Canadian middle-distance runner Marco Arup actually did, it was all he could have imagined. And maybe more.

Last August in Budapest, after Arup's stunning performance to become the first Canadian to win gold at the 800m world championships, the Edmonton runner was preparing for the medal ceremony.

He could never have prepared himself for what happened next. There was David Rudisha presenting Arup with his gold medal.

“I'm not usually impressed, but when I saw him there and realized how much he had an impact on my journey, I had a lot of thoughts and a lot of questions,” Arup told CBC Sports.

Now, Arup has his eyes on breaking Rudisha's 800m world record, a quest that continues in earnest at the first Diamond League event in China on Saturday.

watched Arup wins world championship gold in the men's 800 meters:

Canadian Marco Arup wins gold in the 800 meters at the World Championships

The Edmonton runner captured Canada's first-ever gold medal in the 800 meters after a dominant second lap.

To understand the significance and weight of that experience for Arup, who met Rudisha for the first time, you have to go back 11 years.

Arup started to get serious about his running career – a somewhat late start, as he was already in 12th grade and playing basketball, but he wanted to see where running could take him.

Arup says he turned to YouTube to research how to run the perfect 800m race, and it made sense to him that if he was going to try to become the best, he would probably start by watching footage of the greatest 800m race in world history. Sports.

This happens to be the 2012 Olympic final in London. Rudisha, a Kenyan middle-distance runner, had set the world record in the distance two years before those Games.

But on a quiet August night at London's Olympic Stadium, in front of a raucous crowd, Rudisha delivered one of the most iconic performances in the history of the sport.

His 6-foot-2-inch frame worked off the blocks and, as he has done so many times throughout his career, Rudisha surged to the front. He led from start to finish in what remains the fastest Olympic final ever in the event.

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Rudisha He broke his own world record That night with a time of 1 minute and 40.91 seconds to become the Olympic champion. Seven of the eight runners in this race achieved personal best times. Three national records were broken – each final time was the fastest ever recorded for each position and it was the first time all eight athletes had run under 1:44 in the same race.

Arup has watched this race countless times and is still amazed by Rudisha and all the other racers when he thinks about it today. It became the blueprint for how Arup ran racing.

watched Arup chases greatness:

Marco Arup chases greatness

From his training base in the American Deep South, the Canadian is working to become the best 800-meter runner in the world.

So imagine that moment for Arup — having modeled everything about how he ran the 800 meters after Rudisha — not only to meet Rudisha for the first time at the world championships, but also when Arup won his first gold medal.

“I was just amazed. I told him how happy I was to see him and told him how important he was to me. It was very special,” Arup said.

“Meeting the world record holder and having him present me with my gold medal – it's moments like this where you wonder if it's all real. The sequence of events in those two days seems made up. It's unbelievable.”

Rudisha sees stardom in Arup

What Arup may not have been able to fully understand at that moment was that although this was the first meeting, Rudisha had known the Canadian well for years. He still loves the sport, still watches all the events, and of course always keeps an eye on the next 800 greatest runners who are still coming after all these years to set his world record.

“The first time I saw him participate in the Diamond League, he is a great athlete. I think he has a lot of potential,” Rudisha said.

“He's got the posture. The build. He's tall. He's got a very nice stride. I know he's a very talented runner. I saw him early in his career running from the front. Very aggressive.”

As Rudisha continues to describe Arup's style, he pauses only for a moment to realize that he is describing exactly how he ran the race, and how people described him.

They are about the same height and identical weight. They both have that poise and unmistakable power on the track. Both Rudisha and Arup like to run from the front and put pressure on their opponents.

“He is one of the athletes who I think will take the 800m to a different level,” Rudisha said.

watched Arup and running gift:

Marco Arup and his running talent

Set against the unlikely backdrop of Starkville, Mississippi, Canadian runner Marco Arup finds peace and solace in the place he calls home.

He had a relatively successful indoor season – dropping his personal record in the 800 metres, then eight days later nearly breaking the world record in the 1000 metres.

Arop is the Canadian outdoor 800 record holder with a time of 1:42.85.

The key to Arup's success over the past eight months since winning his first world championship in August is that he has remained healthy while prioritizing key training elements.

“I'm healthy. If I can compete the way I did last season, I can do better things,” Arup said.

“I feel really good and staying healthy is the most important thing. Sometimes these major tournaments depend on who is the healthiest.”

Aim to reach the peak in the Olympics

The 25-year-old has structured his competition schedule to ensure he gets quality races, but also has breaks before the biggest stage of them all – the 2024 Paris Olympics, which are now less than 100 days away.

“The opportunities may not come again. This may be my best chance to win an Olympic championship and I must take every step possible to make sure I am in the right position to do that,” Arup said.

Rudisha gives Arup a vote of confidence heading into this season. He believes that if the Canadian continues on this path, Arup may just flirt with — or if the stars align — surpass Rudisha's world record.

Interestingly, just as Arup is doing this year in being smart about his schedule, Rudisha did the same ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

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“That year I was focused on being the best I could be at the Olympics,” he said.

“When you're fit enough, you can run fast and your chances of winning races increase. That's what he does. He needs to focus on the Olympics. Seeing guys like Marco taking off like this, reminds me of when I was coming up in athletics.”

watched Arup's Canadian record in the 800 meters at the 2023 Diamond League Final:

Edmonton's Marco Arup breaks Canadian record in 800 meters to finish second in Diamond League final

World champion Marco Arup broke Brandon McBride's Canadian record, running the men's 800 meters with a time of 1:42.85, finishing second behind Kenya's Emmanuel Wanyonyi in the Diamond League final in Eugene, Oregon.

In some ways, Arup still believes this is just a dream. The athlete who shaped everything about how he approaches the sport now believes in it.

“He set the standards. One of the best performances on the biggest stages. I'm speechless,” Arup said.

“Hearing something like that means a lot to me and reaffirms that I'm on the right path. If I can keep working, I might reach his level. Just hearing that, I think it motivates me to keep working harder.”

Rudisha smiled when asked what's possible for Arup this year and in the future, knowing he's played an interesting role in the Canadian's success.

“It's a really special feeling to know that I inspired Marco and other athletes. Sometimes we do things in our career when we're young that will inspire others and we don't really realize the impact we have,” Rudisha said.

“Canada has produced some great 800m runners. To see Marco come in and continue that tradition, it's really cool.”

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