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July 24, 2008

Dathan Ritzenhein

Mary Wittenberg

THE MODERATOR: I'd like to start and introduce Mary Wittenberg, our president and CEO from the New York Road Runners, to make a few opening remarks, and then we'll get right to the questions and answers with our special guest, Dathan Ritzenhein.
MARY WITTENBERG: I'm pleased to be sitting here with Dathan. It's always a privilege, and I'm very pleased, especially after his long journey to get here, presenting with Nike with our New York Road Runners 2008 Pro Racing Series and the last stop on our road to Beijing.
And I'm especially pleased to be talking about this race July 24th, today, while we're considering a date change for the future. This half-marathon is ideally the time with this year to be the biggest upcoming 2008 Olympic games.
In terms of the half, we're really looking forward to Sunday. This event is getting bigger and bigger every year. And our third year, we're already looking forward to it.
We very much believe in the appeal in the distance. We know how big a draw this event is in New York, with the New York Road Runners, and we're working closely on improving or expanding or changing the course in a way that will allow us to have the Road Runners on it and work even better to foster the growth of this event.
So for 2008, three short years, we've managed to save money on the event and run it as always. We have a lot going on with four days of festival and fun, as we like to say, with the opening today of the Nike Experience.
We've got enhanced digital and broadcast coverage. Lots of entertainment on the course. But with the signature element of our best races at the New York Road Runners and what drives us a whole lot is putting our very best athletes on our big stage in New York, and we're thrilled that we're going to be able to do that in grand style on Sunday.
As you know, the fields are quite strong. The men's field, I think, is going to lead to a race that's going to have incredibly fast marathoners, when you look at the Big City winner of the marathon in London, Felix Limo, and we'll have our Hendrick Ramaala, a perennial favorite here in New York.
And then we've got a lot of really interesting half-marathon specialists like Patrick Makau on a roll in 2008 in the Healthy Kidney 10-K. We think Tadesse Tola will be interesting.
And I'm so pleased that in today's world, after several years of building that, it's last but not least, when we talk about our American field, in addition to Fasil Bizuneh and Luke Humphrey and Fernando Cabada, who decided to welcome Adam Goucher into New York, and we're happy to see some of his pain of not making the Olympic team which hit him hard; and, of course, we are so very, very pleased to welcome back a personal favorite of all of ours at New York Road Runners, someone to us exemplifies the very best of our sport, a young man who has a home field advantage here in New York in many ways.
He's had some career milestones here and our fans just more and more just love to cheer him on having run his marathon debut here, having recently helped the course record in the Healthy Kidney 10-K and having run, I think, a phenomenal race on, to me, what is the most memorable day in U.S. distance running in a long time, which is our men's trials last November when he made the Olympic team.
It is with great pride that we welcome to our strong field our most formidable, our most formidable American forces on the American stream, Dathan Ritzenhein, going to Beijing. I'll hand it over to Dathan. We appreciate you being here. Not only excited for Sunday but have a really good sense that you're in for your due, for a big day in Beijing a month from now.
THE MODERATOR: Dathan, if you'd like to say a couple of words, then we'll open it up to questions.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: I'm so excited to be here. We have an epic journey getting here. But that's how great stories start, I guess, and I feel really great about this weekend, the New York City Half-Marathon presented by Nike. I think it's going to be an incredible event, and the Road Runners club here has put together an awesome field that I think is going to really test me and I think that this timing for me coming into Beijing is perfect.
And everything that I've done lately has made me feel more confident by the day for this event and for Beijing. I was unfortunately not able to come here a couple of times when I planned to in the spring. I'm so excited to be back here and ready to give it another shot in New York City again.

Q. Dathan, could you just walk us through, and maybe you already did this before I got on, but walk us through your schedule between now and the race in Beijing and when you're headed over, what you plan to do between now and then after this race? And then also just how are you handling preparing for the heat and humidity? Everybody has to. But what specifically are you going to do to get ready?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Yeah, sure. So we just got here today, and we are planning to do the race here on Sunday. And I'll go back to Eugene for one more week and that will probably be one of the most important weeks of the training for me.
I'll put in -- there will be some hard training to still do in Beijing, but when I leave Eugene on the 5th of August, the bulk of the big work will have been done. So I will leave on August 5th, get there, do the opening ceremonies, because I believe that's something that really brings the games to life. And then I'll head over to the training camp and Dali for about 10 days before coming back to the village for the race.
There's about a month to go after this race, and I think that everything's lining up right now. I'm sorry, what was the second part of the question?

Q. Just the heat and humidity and I know Brian is headed down to Florida to get a little acclimated and just sort of test himself in some heat and humidity. There's some of that in Eugene as well?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Well, we don't have any humidity, surprisingly, in the summer in Eugene. And there's no heat, actually, either. We've had to get a little creative. But the Marathon Summit in Colorado Springs in May really helped us kind of be able to get used to everything and take advantage of all the science that there is before we actually get there.
And so there's a few different things we've been doing. Some simple acclimatization, such as adding layers and things like that. But for me, part of it, I'll be here actually for five days which works out great. It's a very similar climate. And then when I go back to Eugene, I'm going to spend -- there's a climate room at the University of Oregon and so they can simulate the exact same conditions that will be in Beijing down to the sunlight direction, everything.
So I'll spend some time in there every day probably for a week before I leave so that I can kind of be prepared when I get there. And then I'll be there for almost three weeks by the time the race comes. So at that point I think I'll be fully acclimatized, hopefully.

Q. Have you worn the cooling vest at all? Is that something you're considering doing for the race?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: I have one here, actually. This race for me, the Half-Marathon, it's a race and I'm going to take it as seriously as I would any other race. But I also want to get some good information out of it as well. And so this is a test run for me, like a trial. I'm going to practice everything I would do the morning of the race here.
So I brought the ice vest with me here, and I've used it once in the past and over the past last summer and so I'm trying to figure out what the best way to use it and so hopefully we'll have that lined out by the time the race comes in Beijing.

Q. I just recall that one of the real breakthroughs for you in terms of your international stature and your international confidence was actually a half-marathon, the Great North Run. And I'm not sure how that fit into your schedule in terms of your becoming a marathoner. Maybe you can fill us in on that. I'm not sure if that was right before your New York City debut or not. But clearly you've had limited experience at this distance but it seems to be one that's a strong one for you and that's actually like helped build your stature in the sport, hasn't it?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Yeah, the Great North Run was five weeks before I did my marathon debut here in New York City. And it was a huge learning experience for me because I had a lot of success at it. It's something that came really easy to me. And then I got a big punch in the stomach about five weeks later when I got to mile 23 of the marathon here.
And so I learned a lot from that experience and that race. It did suit me really well. And I think that distance really suits me well because at this point I'm not like a full -- I guess I'm not like a full-on, full-time marathoner that's doing two marathons a year and that's the real focus.
And for me that's why we train at this particular intensity a lot. And so it's something that came really easy to me. And it might not necessarily come as easy this next time, but I feel like I'm really prepared and hopefully all the information that I can take away from this race will help me in Beijing.

Q. You've been an Olympian once before but kind of under strained circumstances. I'm wondering if that's maybe like only a semi-satisfying experience and obviously you're thinking to yourself: Well, we want to do a lot better this time?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Well, yeah, what happened to me in Athens is not my ideal image of how I thought my Olympic experience would go. So if my career was to end now, I would feel that I didn't fulfill everything I could have at the Olympics.
And even after this next time in Beijing I don't think I will, because I'm so young that I have a few more opportunities and I think I can really do so much more.
So it's something I carried with me a lot for four years and I'll probably carry with me all the way until the race is over in Beijing, because that's still the only race I've ever dropped out of is the Olympic games. And that's something that I will definitely take with me and serve as motivation to come back every time over the next few years.
And I'll be very focused going into Beijing because of that.

Q. Dathan, can you tell us a little bit about how you're feeling about the 10,000 meters at the trials? Are you very disappointed, or are you sort of -- is there weight off your shoulders in having to worry only about one event for the Olympics?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: It's funny. I get kind of mixed reviews on that race. Some people tell me I did great and some people tell me that it was probably a little bit of a disappointment. But coming away from it, I wanted to finish higher than I did. And it didn't quite go as perfectly as I wanted it to. But I took a few things away from that that I had not been training very long and the training I had been doing was very difficult, and I didn't rest very much going into it.
So for me it was kind of hard because I was almost already focused ahead of me on Beijing, and when those guys that made the team, that was everything for them. Like it was do or die. And so to put yourself into that mind-set when you're already thinking down the road and you've got that spot cleared up in a different event, it was definitely probably not to my advantage.
But at the same time, I was able to roll out of bed and compete and run in the Olympic trials. And actually I gained a lot of fitness and gained a lot of information off from that race in particular and I'm so happy that I did it. And even if I had pulled off making the team, at that point I had already known for a month at a time or for months ahead that I was going to do the marathon, and that's really what my focus had been on.

Q. Any lingering injuries of any sort? How is your health?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Everything has been going really good. I feel my preparation has really gained a lot of steam over the last few weeks, and getting ready to go. Hopefully what happens on Sunday will just kind of reiterate that into my mind and even the week after that is going to be really my biggest week of the training.
So I'm coming into this race a little bit more rested than I would have for like the 10-K, for example. Partially because of the race itself but also because I have that big training coming up next week and I need to be fresh for that as well. Everything is going great, though.

Q. Dathan, did you do opening or closing ceremonies last time around? I can't remember.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: I did do the opening ceremonies. I didn't do the closing because I had to go back and go to school.

Q. So having done it once, is that part of the reason you did it again? Certainly you could have chosen not to.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Yeah, I kind of told myself that if I was to run the 10-K I wouldn't do it because it was much -- it was closer in. Because it is a very long and strenuous -- you're on your feet for half a day, and a lot of athletes will opt out of it.
But the marathon is about two and a half weeks after that. It's the last possible day. And the experience of walking into the tunnel at the Olympic stadium really makes the experience come to life. And I think that that will help me, not that I'll need any extra motivation, but that really makes that experience happen for you. And so I'm really excited for it and I'll do the opening ceremonies and the closing ceremonies as well that afternoon, I guess.

Q. And just who all family-wise, friends, et cetera, is headed over to China?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: My wife, Kalin, she's going with Addy. Addy will be 10 months at that time. And so she's going over. And then my dad and my mom and her husband are all going as well. And so we'll have a good crew there. And then Brad and his girlfriend are also going to go.

Q. Kalin, when is she going to go over? Keep it as short as possible?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Yeah, she's doing one of the Lotus tours, so she's going to go over for less than a week.

Q. Dathan, have you thought much about the kind of race you actually expect to see in Beijing? And obviously the weather's going to temper this a little bit. But if there is in fact a very fast pack at the beginning, have you thought about how you might respond to that?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Yeah, there's all these scenarios that can happen. And the Olympic marathon is such -- the marathon is an unpredictable event. But the Olympic marathon is even more so. And that's one of the reasons why not always the 205, 206 guys win and get medals. A lot of time it's 207, 208 guys. And I haven't ran that, but I think I'm capable of being in that category. So it's a smart 207, 208 guy can really do incredible at the Olympics. And, I mean, you look at guys like Meb, he's only run two 10s at the time he was able to win the Silver. And you look through the whole list and it's like that almost every year in and out.
And that gives me a lot of hope going into this, because I think that where I'm at right now I can be capable of doing that. And so I have to run a smart race but I'm not going to take myself out of it right away either. Because just the kind of person that I am, I do better if I am competitive. It doesn't necessarily mean being competitive with someone who makes a break-away. But I'll definitely keep in contact with whoever I think is going to be up there at the end.
And I'll have to explain my race, how I feel. But there will be a balancing act for me for sure on being really aggressive and being smart. And so I'll have to see how bad the conditions affect me in the weeks leading up to the training before I completely fine tune my whole approach for the race.

Q. You mentioned that you're not really a full-time marathoner yet and that your career is obviously going to extend well beyond this. Do you anticipate that in the coming years that you might become the typical two-a-year marathoner or do you think you'll hold off on that until you get closer to 2012?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: A little bit depends on what happens over the next year or two. But I think that I see one more year of me trying to maximize what I can do at the shorter distances. Because I guess I'll be 20 -- I'm 25 now. Next year I'll be 26.
And then after that I think that my future really lays in the marathon. And I want to be as experienced and prepared as I can when I'm at the height of my career, which will probably be next four to six years. And so I'll start to move in that direction probably after -- maybe after this year, maybe after one more year after that.

Q. Can you just describe again your trip to New York, how difficult that was?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Yeah, we left our house at 4:00 a.m. on the West Coast yesterday. And we were in airplanes or airports until 10:00 East Coast time last night. Then we were up again this morning at 6:00 and in the airport until 12:30. We had a good, I don't know, 30 hours, probably, of travel.

Q. When did you actually take off this morning in Pittsburgh?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN: Well, we were supposed to take off at 9:15. But I don't think we actually left until about 11:30.

Q. Can you run down again the list of who in the field is going to be going to the Olympics?
MARY WITTENBERG: Sure. Kipkoech, Ramaala is one. Wait a minute. Hold on. Let me go through the list. Men's field. Men and women?

Q. Sure?
MARY WITTENBERG: Women, Benita. Catherine Ndereba.

Q. Madai?
MARY WITTENBERG: Madai Perez. On the men's side, Ramaala and Dathan. Who am I forgetting? That's it. Five total.
THE MODERATOR: Mary, closing remarks?
MARY WITTENBERG: I'll just close. It's just a real exciting time here in New York and, let's say, in our sport.
And I think that this is an especially unique time with the marathon. Obviously we love to have it as an event on its own, but it's also building the marathon. And I think it's no better time when marathons would be on prime time on TV in Beijing.
And I think one of the best things the games have going for, Beijing has going for the games this year is on the men's marathon. And I think that we're going to have -- I think we have a tremendous U.S.A. team.
And I think all of us are just really already so proud and rooting for Dathan and Ryan and Ryan. And all of us in New York, we have so many people here that, throughout the course every day, they're asking how are they doing. And I think there's going to be a lot of attention around the marathon in Beijing. It's going to be great. So I'm happy that our New York City Half-Marathon can play a role on the buildup for Dathan and some of the other athletes.
THE MODERATOR: Again, thank you, Dathan, for getting here.

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