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June 5, 2008

Deena Kastor

Mary Wittenberg

RICHARD FINN: We have Deena Kastor on the phone from New York, and we have Mary Wittenberg here at New York Road Runners headquarters. We're in the midst of Running Week. I'll turn it over to president and CEO of the New York Road Runners. We'll then ask Deena for a quick comment about running here Saturday in the New York Mini with her other two teammates from the U.S. Olympic marathon team, then open it up for questions.
Mary Wittenberg.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you, Richard. Deena, good to talk to you again. Welcome to everybody. Thanks so much for joining us on this call. We just left the press conference with Deena and Magdalena Lewy, Blake Russell and Hilda Kibet. As I shared then, I'll share now, that it is such a fitting close to our first-ever Running Week, celebrating our 50th anniversary, the kickoff to our 50th anniversary, here at New York Road Runners, to finish with the New York Mini.
The New York Mini is one of the events of which we are most proud at New York Road Runners and has to come represent, for us, how we have come so very far in our history. It represents and will continue to play a role in where we want to go with our future.
When this organization began exactly 50 years ago yesterday, it began with about 20 men, hardcore, serious men who got together to start this organization so they could run races in New York and they could challenge some of the AAU laws and regulations of the time to try to build this sport. What would have been considered heresy then was the idea of women running long distances, running in racing hard.
It was 37 years ago when we started the New York Mini. It was the first ever, really the original all-women's road race. Even then they had to work awfully hard to get a field of 78 women to toe the line for the 10K. The way that Fred Lebow was able to get media in the room was by putting Playboy bunnies in the start line and saying they were going to run. At the time people were there as much for almost a freak show. It certainly wasn't considered a serious endeavor for serious women. Today the room was filled with media and you're all on the phone to talk to one of the stars of our sport. We will have over 5,000 women of all ages and abilities out there on Saturday morning.
So we love this race. We are particularly thrilled this year to have a stellar field, a field led by our American marathon team. Of course, the fearless leader of all of our American marathoners and distance runners, Deena Kastor, was our focus. We're so pleased to have her here for this race. As I said earlier, I truly believe any race Deena steps to is an extra special race. She has been our best American distance runner. As I shared with her earlier, I think not only is she incredibly a talented, fast, strong athlete that won the London Marathon, won the Chicago marathon, won an Olympic bronze medal in Athens, holds the American marathon record, until recently has held the 10,000 record, has run an amazing 5K, I think she's all those things, but I think Deena is especially fitting for this race as she's really a leader.
Deena dared to dream she could be as good as she is today as a time when it was crazy to dream like that based on the decades of women runners before her. It had been so long since Joan Benoit -- while we had talent and success (indiscernible) like Jennings, Deena didn't get to grow up like other young girls are growing up with Deena in front of them. It had been a long, long time since we had the success of Joan Benoit. Deena did dare to dream and most importantly Deena dared to dedicate herself to this sport and, you know all the stories.
Deena is a shining example for women athletes and young women everywhere that if one dedicates oneself to the pursuit of excellence in a given area of talent that one can fulfill the dreams that one may have. We have benefited not only as individual events by having Deena having done so but I think a whole generation of women have benefited. I think we've seen that most recently with Shalene Flanagan breaking the American 2,000 meter record, being able to follow so closely in the footsteps of Deena, knowing our women can go out there and continue to break barriers.
It's an honor to host Deena again. She won this race in 2004 going into the Athens games and we're so glad to have Deena back again.
RICHARD FINN: Thank you, Mary.
Deena, a few comments about returning to New York, where you are in your preparation for Beijing.
DEENA KASTOR: It's always a pleasure to be here in New York City, an honor to be here on such a special weekend.
Although I am not peaked or peaked for this race, I'm actually just beginning to launch into my marathon-specific training, it was a weekend I could not pass up as being past competitors of Magdalena Lewy-Boulet and Blake Russell, to now being teammates has a really different feel. I really wanted to come together this weekend to celebrate women's distance running here in New York City, a race that is really truly incredible for 5,000 women to take on the streets of New York and Central Park itself. It's an incredible celebration of distance running. For that to coincide with the Road Runners 50th year anniversary, it's just amazing to see what a strong, strong organization can do for running in the immediate community and throughout the country with their influences and motivation that they've given to so many distance runners.
Really excited to be here and be a part of such a special weekend.
RICHARD FINN: Thank you, Deena. We'll open it up to questions.

Q. When you look back at everything you've done, it's quite an impressive list. Take us back to your early days of running, what it was like then compared to now. Did you ever dream of being an Olympic medalist?
DEENA KASTOR: I guess I feel that nothing has really changed. I still feel like I have that innocent excitement when I step on the starting line to a race. I guess with so many new goals come to mind as the years tick on, there's always something to get excited for and always something to fire me up.
I always feel like they're uncharted territory, new things coming my way. So it still feels fresh and new after all these years. 24 years of doing this, my passion for the sport is the same. I guess the only thing that's really changed is my connections with people. That's just gotten a lot richer. Whereas in high school I felt like running was impeding my social life, it now has really enriched my social life.

Q. What's the difference when you run a race like you're going to be doing in New York, an all-women's race, compared to one of the big mixed races?
DEENA KASTOR: There's no difference. My preparations have not been 10K specific. I'm just getting into base marathon training, getting more specific pace work and speed work coming up here.
Any time you throw a competitive athlete on the starting line, you bet we'll give it our all. That's what I'm geared up for this Saturday. I love New York City. I support any of the events the New York Road Runners put on because they do a fabulous job with not just hosting the runners but embracing the community, and the community has embraced them back obviously with 50 years running strong here.
Just great to be back and to be competitive. Marathon training can get pretty monotonous when you put months of it back to back. When you can break it up with weekends like this that celebrate running in such an awesome way, it's definitely fun to be a part of.

Q. What is the sense of anticipation, how much it's starting to build at this point? Is it still a little too far off to look at?
DEENA KASTOR: No, not too far off. I'm in a different spot. I won the mini 10 K in 2004 before the Athens Olympics. I was using the race there as a break in my marathon training. This time around I'm using it as an excited launch into the heart of marathon training.
I am really excited about this race. On Saturday afternoon, I'll get excited about getting to the grindstone and putting in the work that's needed to bring home another medal in Beijing.

Q. Last time around for Athens you had some really interesting things you did to sort of prepare specifically for what you expected in the way of heat and humidity. A lot of those same things incorporated into training this time around for Beijing?
DEENA KASTOR: Yeah, any time you get ready for a major marathon, whether it's the ING New York City Marathon, the Olympic Games, some other great city-hosted marathon, you have to train specifically for that marathon. Whether it's a hilly course, a flat course, heat and humidity, you have to prepare specifically for the event.
So we are definitely preparing specifically for the heat and humidity that we will be facing in Beijing, similar to preparing for Athens. We're overdressing in training just to get the heat effect.

Q. How difficult was winning the Olympic trials for you this year?
DEENA KASTOR: I had a pretty ambitious strategy going into the Olympic trials and the marathon in Boston. I knew that all the women on the starting line were going to be excited and fit to be there. It's a testament to everyone's preparation that 13 out of the top 15 women all ran personal bests that day. Just an extraordinary day for marathoning. I knew I had to be ready. I wanted to get as fit as possible for that race so that I could recover well afterwards.
So my strategy going into the race after gaining fitness, what we thought would be a sub 2:20 marathon effort, going into the race I wanted to be as calculated, use as little energy as possible. Magdalena challenged that a little towards the end of the race as I wasn't closing the gap as fast as I thought. Slowly started picking up the miles, but just gradually enough to try to win that race. It was the first goal to make the team, but a greater goal to win the race.
It was definitely a great strategy, coming in fit so I could recover well. I feel like I recovered great from that race. Excited to get to hardcore marathon training coming up here in the next few weeks.

Q. Can you give us an idea from your growing up as a runner, did you have a eureka moment when you realized running was something you were going to be able to do for a long time on a high level?
DEENA KASTOR: I never looked at running as something that was so committed. I guess I didn't think that I would be doing it 24 years down the line. But from the very first day I joined track practice at 11 years old, I loved the sport and loved the people in it.
I did fall in love with it immediately and haven't fallen out of love with it sense then. It's been a great ride. I loved every high and low of the many years I've been at it.

Q. Can you give me any kind of specifics? Was there a race you had as a 15-year-old or as a 20-year-old where you said that this is the perfect thing for me, if you had been testing out some other sports as a teenager, where you realized this has a potential for a long-term commitment?
DEENA KASTOR: Yeah, I mean, I played softball and ice skated and played soccer, as a lot of kids do. But from the very first day of track practice, I put those other sports aside. I chose myself to put those other sports aside and fulfill running from that first day.
I guess that eureka moment was the first day of practice when we were running in the Santa Monica mountains and they told us it was time to turn and around I wasn't ready to turn around yet. It was an incredible experience from the very beginning. I grew up around movie theaters and shopping malls. And to have the Santa Monica mountains right there and be 11 years old for the first time I got to explore them, it took me by surprise and kept me hungry to explore more trails since then.
To this day I haven't covered all of them. But I hope by the time I retire 10, 20 years down the line that I will have explored every inch of those mountains. No specific races, but just that first day of practice that really hooked me.

Q. You ran the Boulder Boulder 10K a couple weeks ago. You led at the front. Can you tell me a little bit about that race and what you might expect for Saturday.
DEENA KASTOR: I guess with a year that's so Olympic Games focused and specific, it's great to put in these other races. I chose to run the Boulder Boulder 10K because we were already in Colorado for our marathon summit that was preparing us for Beijing, giving us physiological information on heat training and racing for all six marathon runners, men and women. So I was already there and decided that for a year to represent your country and have such lofty goals, a 10K on Memorial Day that is just notoriously a patriotic event, I wanted to be part of it again.
It was a reward for hard work already done. This is my reward for hard work yet to come, to come here to New York City and celebrate. That was celebrating American running, and today is celebrating women -- this weekend here in New York is celebrating women in running. When you can honor those two things, they come together to hopefully a good circle of commitment in Beijing to do something great there.

Q. Running with Blake and Magdalena here, do you feel very close, are you communicating between the trials and Beijing?
DEENA KASTOR: Yeah, we're three girls from California that flew to New York last night and are taken by the city. I guess as we competed against each other in Boston, it seemed like right when we crossed the finish line we were teammates draped in the American flag and ready to get this summer underway. It's fun to meet up in Colorado a few weeks ago for our summit meeting, really get a sense of 'teamanship' with the men who raced here in New York, Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell, to get together with them and really just commit to getting the best performances out of ourselves this summer. Wonderful that the three of us women can meet up here in New York City and compete with each other one last time before Beijing.
Magdalena and Blake will be running the 10K on the track, the Olympic trials 10K, but I'll be there supporting them on the sidelines.

Q. So you won't be running the 10K in Eugene?
DEENA KASTOR: I will not be running the 10K, no.

Q. Is that because you want to get started with marathon training?
DEENA KASTOR: Yeah. In 2004 I ran the 10K in marathon training, mostly because my marathon training, I was already really immersed in the heart of it, and it was a good -- I guess always a fun race to be a part of with the Olympic trials spirit that goes with it. This time around I just really need to put in the work. I'm excited and fired up to finally do that. I've been antsy the last few weeks craving more mileage, craving more intensity. I'm excited to get to that and excited to go to Eugene and see who makes the rest of this Olympic team. So many teammates from Mammoth Lakes, California, that will be participate there, I'm excited to see how it will unfold. We already know six of the team members from the marathons that unfolded in New York and Boston, but the rest of the team is still to be decided.

Q. Mary, when did you start running? What's the difference between then and now?
MARY WITTENBERG: Yes, I started running as a senior in college on a bet. I had been a rower at the time. I instantly loved running, just like Deena, on that day. I found it easy. It was a little four miler. I happened to win the race. I thought it was a lot of fun. I instantly felt as a long time athlete who tried a lot of sports that I found my sport. I loved being a competitive runner for all of a few days between sort of college and law school and being a lawyer. I enjoyed the Olympic trials, the marathon, doing some of that.
But I've got to say running has become more important to me than ever. Now my knees are shot and I can't do as much as I'd like to do. The satisfaction I get and the lift in my day, more the emotional balance, strength, energy that I get out of running, it truly has become even more important to me than ever before.
It's part of why we're such evangelists here at New York Road Runners for running because we think it can be such a positive force in people's lives, both helping them live fitter lives and healthier lives, but beyond physical to the emotional and mental. Now we're finding -- we always believed, now science is proving that it's even good for the executive functioning in the brain. It's just all around good for people.
I'm privileged, all of us here at New York Road Runners are privileged, to have it as our mission to get people out there moving, living healthier and fitter lives. As you all know, we love promoting the professional side of the sport and think that our stars, especially Deena who works so hard, is so talented, committed to her sport, that we should be doing all we can to celebrate the Deenas of the world. That's why we love to bring them in for an event like the New York Mini and help inspire women of all ages and ability and generations of women to come.

Q. You were a senior in college. That was about 10 years ago?
MARY WITTENBERG: That was about 10 years ago, somewhere between '84 and '94. Oh, my God, I guess we're coming up on 25 years next year (laughter).

Q. Deena, you mentioned a couple things different now than when you prepared for 2004. Anything specific in your training that you learned even since 2004 to prepare for an Olympic marathon or a marathon in this event compared to others? Compare the two time frames, if you could.
DEENA KASTOR: I guess the only difference that I'm working with this time around is Athens was a hilly course where you get to switch up the muscles that you're using throughout the race, and Beijing is going to be a very flat course, so you'll be monotonously using the muscles the 26.2 miles. We've gone over the course numerous times, seen video of it, studied it meticulously. In doing so, I've realized that there's not a single flat stretch in Mammoth, so we are actually going down to the high desert to get in some more flat, monotonous training every week. So actually going down in altitude twice a month to get in that type of training so that my muscles know what to do when they're fatigued.

Q. Any other events have you planned between the mini 10K and Beijing?
DEENA KASTOR: No. New York is acting as my launch into the heart of marathon training. So I'll be locked up and weary for the next month as I prepare solely for Beijing.
MARY WITTENBERG: Deena, is it harder now that you know what it takes leading into the games or do you still look forward to it?
DEENA KASTOR: I guess I look forward to it because I'm treating it as a completely different event. I mean, 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles to prepare for. Each time I prepare for a marathon, I need to focus on something that gets me excited. This is just a loftier goal of bringing home not just a medal, but a silver or a gold. Really preparing myself for a gold medal, I definitely feel like that challenge is getting me really excited to put in the work to the point that Terrence is putting the reins on me a little bit, my coach Terrence Mahon, whereas in the last couple years he needs to kick me in the rear-end every now and again. This time around he's been trying to harness my energy and keep my excitement harnessed for the right moments in practice.
So I just feel -- I feel very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable coach. He just knows everything I need as far as a pep talk or a push and when to settle down. He knows what words to use, what workouts to promote in order to get the best out of me.
So I really feel like I'm working with the most knowledgeable team of people in my coach and the physiologists that are helping, the entire marathon team, helping me prepare for Beijing. It's a group effort. It takes so much in the preparation, and so many people giving advice and being a part of the whole process.
My greatest wishes are to be healthy on race day, to be able to give back to each one of them as I make choices along the marathon course and try to bring a gold medal home for the people that had so much to do with it.

Q. You were talking about how this is maybe one of the last times the public will get to see you run before the Beijing. You make it sound like you'll be in a monk-like existence in the mountains. What are some of the things you will be doing to take some of the pressure off as far as whether it's just going out for a pizza or loosening up with some kind of cross-training that we might not expect?
DEENA KASTOR: Yeah, I mean, I guess it sounds intense. But my greatest joy is being at home and putting in the work on a daily basis. I love getting up in the morning and meeting my teammates, who are just a joy to be around, meeting them every morning for a hardcore training run, then coming home and getting in the ice baths and massage, taking a nap, and getting up and doing it all over again, meeting my team at the gym in the evening. I love the process of getting fit. To me there's nothing more exciting.
I guess it sounds like -- I guess it made it sound like I'm alone. But I'm with people I love to be around on a daily basis. I can't think of a better way to spend my days than to get in shape with people that are doing the same and making the same choices as me. Really the races seem like rewards in the end. But the process of getting there is extremely gratifying.
MARY WITTENBERG: Are you savoring it more this time around? It's four years later. You've managed to stay at the top of your game, come around again healthy. You may or may not look for the next four years. Do you find yourself savoring it to a different degree than when you were four years younger?
DEENA KASTOR: Yeah, I guess I've always thrived on it and loved it. But it's just now that I'm actually -- I've always appreciated it. But it's now that I'm honoring it a little bit more, honoring the people that are around me, the choices that we've all made together. I think my greatest strength is knowing that I don't know everything. So I surround myself with people that do know it all. I feel really grateful that I have all these people on my side.
So, yeah, I guess I'm more grateful for the people that are sharing it with me and helping me get there.

Q. Do you think of the time between the trials and Beijing as phases in your training? How do you look at that four-month period?
DEENA KASTOR: Yeah, I guess that's why my coach Terrence is trying to pull the reins on me a little bit because there is some time. When I'm excited about things, I get fit very fast. He's trying to mellow me out a little, let the track trials get underway, then get really serious about that narrow vision of Beijing.
But it's in my mind on a daily basis. I guess I've just been really excited every day that I'm out there, that this is just one more run towards the dream of earning another medal.

Q. What do you think of Shalane Flanagan's American record in the 10?
DEENA KASTOR: It was an extraordinary night. I wish I would have been there to see it in person. But Andrew and I were at home watching it online thanks to Flotrack. We were watching it online there. The second she crossed the finish line, I sent her a text because I was so excited for her.
I think it's great for our sport. I think between a medal in the 10K on the track last year by Kara Goucher in Osaka, Shalene's breaking of the American record, her second American record now that she owns them in the 5 and 10, just extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. It's wonderful to be a part of that movement of American distance running. It's just amazing to me to be able to witness on the men's and women's side the past few years, to see what people have done, the depth that the U.S. has in distance running is so exciting.
Beijing will be a great Olympic Games for the United States, distance running specifically. Really excited to see how that momentum carries on for the next four years.

Q. She hasn't announced her plans yet. She may not have made a decision. She is contemplating a possible double 5 and 10. In your mind, is that doable? Did you ever do that double at nationals or trials?
DEENA KASTOR: I think it's doable at the trials. When it comes down to the worlds, I would hope she would pick one and really just throw herself into that specific training that it's going to take to bring home a medal. You hate to divide up your energy into two separate races.
I definitely think her strength in the 10K has proved her well fit enough to take on both of those races on a national level, but when it comes down to the Olympics, I really, really think strongly that she has a chance at medalling and think she should choose one of those races.

Q. Do you have a feel which would be her better shot?
DEENA KASTOR: I'm not sure. I guess you definitely have to wait and see how other people are competing over in Europe throughout the track season, at least the first few weeks of track season, to see what people are coming out in which races. I think her 10K strength and her natural speed -- I shouldn't say 'natural,' I'm sure she works hard for it. Her strength she showed in the 10K, the speed she's shown in previous years, the 10K would be a great shot for her.

Q. You were mentioning the summit you had for the marathoners. I know the USOC supports with you high-tech and scientific training. What is the value you find in some of the work they're doing?
DEENA KASTOR: I guess just going off of my philosophy of training for specific events, it definitely fits in there. When it comes down to it, we know how to get ready for races and to prepare well for races. We just need to get in the training and prepare well and just add little things that would help us for the race specifically, whether it's adding clothing on and trying to get into Beijing at the last minute possible so we're avoiding pollution when we can.
I'm sure all six of us marathoners went away with a few bits of information that seemed to work best for each of us. For me not living in a hot, humid place, for me to add on, I really enjoy staying home and get fit in the comfort of my home and preparing well in the mountains. Because the air is cool and dry there, I need to make some adjustments so I can adjust better once I get to China.
RICHARD FINN: Again, in closing, we'd like to thank everybody. We thank our special guest Deena Kastor. I'd like to give it back to Mary for closing comments.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you, Deena. Thank you to all our friends in the media. This is truly a treat to close our 50th anniversary kickoff celebration and Running Week with the New York Mini. We felt strongly as an organization about opening doors for women. It's a pleasure to watch them go running through the doors. We're going to have a big run on Saturday. It's going to prove to be a good training opportunity for our U.S. team, not only because we have stellar international competition in Hilda Kibet and Madai Perez and others, but because it's going to be hot and humid, 75 degrees and high humidity at race time. We hope that serves them well as a testing ground as they prepare for the big race and big games in Beijing.

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