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April 3, 2012

Abdi Abdirahman

Bernard Lagat

Mary Wittenberg

THE MODERATOR:テつ We'd like to welcome Abdi to the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K, which we announced just this morning.テつ We'll start with opening statements.テつ On the line we have Mary Wittenberg, our president and CEO, we have Abdi and Bernard.テつ Mary, if you'd like to get started.
MARY WITTENBERG:テつ Thanks so much, Lauren.テつ Hi, everybody, and special welcome to Abdi and Bernard.テつ At New York Roadrunners we rarely think about the highest pursuit of the sport being an individual sport.テつ We really believe that to be the best in the world, the most successes come from where people have benefitted training with other people, and we spend lots of time talking about training camps at New York Roadrunners, we spend a lot of effort in supporting training camps, but we've also recognized that there's other kind of relationships that have really benefitted world‑class running by individuals.
We thought it would be really fun to introduce and tee up the Healthy Kidney field, and Abdi is one of our stars this year, by talking about his unique and powerful relationship, friendship with Bernard.テつ So that's why we have Bernard and Abdi here.
We are ecstatic to welcome the USA men's marathon team to headline Healthy Kidney this year.テつ Abdi, Meb and Ryan have all built fan bases here in New York as well as obviously throughout the nation and many parts of the world, and we are really excited to celebrate them and support them in this important year and on their road to London.
Excited for the Healthy Kidney race, excited for the big trio, and Bernard and Abdi, we just have great respect for both of you and your friendship that's helped both of you at the highest level.テつ So we're excited to just talk to the two of you together.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Abdi, would you like to go ahead and give an opening statement, please?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:テつ Yeah, I just want to say thank you first of all to the New York Roadrunners and New York City especially.テつ New York Roadrunners, actually they have a special place in my heart.テつ They've been supportive of my career and always encouraged me to do better, and I'm going to look forward to coming back to New York every single year.
I'm just so excited to be a part of a Healthy Kidney 10K event that goes to supporting a good cause.テつ I'm just so happy to be a part of that.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Bernard, would you like to give an opening statement?
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ Thank you very much, everyone.テつ I'm really honored to be on this conference call today, even though I'm not going to be running, but just to be here and talking with my friend Abdi here with you guys.テつ It's always an honor.テつ Like Abdi said, this event is for a good cause, and we really thank New York Roadrunners for an amazing job that they've done over the years putting together a great field that is running in New York City, a city that loves athletics, and they know road running in general.
Thank you very much, and I'm happy to be on this conference call.テつ I wish I would be there to watch the race itself, but I'll be at training camp.テつ But as we go ahead in this conference, I'll be happy to share a few things about Abdi's preparation and my preparation, as well, together for this race for Abdi and mine for later times in the summer.

Q.テつ I was wondering if each of you could maybe sort of tell us about the first time that you guys spent some time together, maybe even away from running, and when that was and what your recollections of that were.
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:テつ I think I remember we spent a lot of times like away from running, basically every off season we spent a lot of time together.テつ But I remember the first time we spent time together was I think in '97, '96 actually.テつ I think we just‑‑ that's when we first started hanging out, getting to know each other.テつ It was just a great friendship we built up from there.
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ Yeah, it's been a long time.テつ I think I remember it was '97, and it's been great meeting Abdi all the time during NCAAs, and even when I moved into Tucson, part of the main decision making was that even though Coach Li was going into Tucson, I knew my best friend was going to be in Tucson.テつ When I was looking into the house, Abdi took me around, showing me places, even introducing me to the realtor that ended up helping me buy a house.テつ So Abdi has been part of my life as a runner and also as a person.
And of course not forgetting that after we had all our kids‑‑ after Gladys had Miika and Gianna, Abdi has been like my older son.テつ When he is with Miika and Gianna, you can't differentiate who is a kid and who is an older one.テつ So Abdi has been always a good uncle and almost like a son to me.テつ It's weird to say, but that is Abdi.
MARY WITTENBERG:テつ Bernard and Abdi, what you may not know is whenever it's time to recruit you to a major event, especially around marathon, we're always checking to see if you're running with Bernard or not because you've had some pretty strong performances when you two are hitting it together.
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:テつ Definitely that's true, Mary.テつ Bernard always keeps me on my toes.テつ I'm also glad, too, because Bernard always tells me how it is.テつ Gladys always, when she senses that something is not going right, she says, Abdi, you need to tell me what's going on on, you're not training the way you're supposed to be training.テつ What's going on?テつ The last couple years I've been struggling with injury, like a year and a half, and Gladys knew that, and she would say, Abdi, just get healthy and everything will be all right.テつ That's kind of the people you want to surround yourself with, but now it's Coach Li, Coach Murray, Gladys, the whole community there has been supportive of me.
I wish I could say I make the team by myself, but it's Gladys and the people and Coach Li and Coach Murray, they are a big part of the team.テつ You don't see them, but they're the people who do all the work in the background.テつ I just do the running.テつ That's it.
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ That's true.テつ Abdi, always I remember from a time I was getting ready for World Championships in 2007, Abdi was the one that pushed me.テつ I cannot believe that the training we did in Flagstaff‑‑ we did training together, rooming together in Flagstaff.テつ Every training we do, sometimes he trains for 10,000 or marathon while I'm training for 5,000 or 1,500.テつ But he's the ideal training partner.
And Abdi is also funny, so it makes life kind of go so fast in the training camp and quite enjoyable.テつ And of course he has other things that it's not only about running, but just as a friend, hanging out, and he loves barbecue the way I like it.テつ Life is really here with Abdi.テつ So over the years I've come to realize it's good to surround myself with someone who is serious, someone who is strong, and when I need to perform so well I need to surround myself and be with somebody like Abdi.
It has worked so well, and that's why we don't change anything.テつ On April 1 we come to Flagstaff because that's our routine, and it's always good to have a routine like that which has helped us over the time.

Q.テつ I'm looking at some of the stats from the past Pac‑10 championships, and you guys were actually both individual champions in the Pac‑10 back in 1998 and 1999, so it really‑‑ you were actually, it seems, the two outstanding runners in the Pac‑10, 13 and 14 years ago.テつ So it really has been a long ‑‑ Bernard, you won your own races, but do you remember watching Abdi win those races?
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ Oh, my goodness, I remember.テつ I remember first of all in '97 when I ran in Stanford and I won the race with Meb.テつ Meb was in there running together neck to neck, and then Abdi was breathing right behind us.テつ So we came to University of Arizona for the western conference, and Meb ended up winning, I came second and Abdi was third.
But I remember most clearly when we came for the regionals in '97, Abdi was running at home, and everybody was cheering for this guy that almost passed me at the end.
And then of course I remember when we went back to University of Oregon when Abdi was kind of running behind me and I was telling myself he's not going to beat me, he has never beat me, so I don't care about him too much.テつ But he came over, and then he overtook me, and he went for the lead.テつ And from there I never beat Abdi in cross country, even in nationals and everywhere, so he was quite ahead of me.テつ And that is when I realized, man, this guy has a special talent.

Q.テつ Because you have the long record of racing frequently and with great success and all that consistency, we might think of you as a guy who doesn't have motivational problems, and I think you've sort of talked about that.テつ But have there ever been times where you find Abdi to actually be a source of motivation for you when you have some doldrums if you have any doldrums?
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ Yes, absolutely.テつ Abdi is not just a training partner, he is like a brother, and so whenever I have a problem, I need to tell it to somebody.テつ He is the guy that I want to talk to right away.テつ I just ring Abdi, or Abdi drives over to my house, we'll talk, I'll go to his house, we'll talk, or we can meet at Starbucks or somewhere and I'll talk with Abdi.テつ So Abdi has been a source of inspiration for me.
I've had ups and downs, and a true friend will actually show up at a time that you need, and that person will always be with you, and he will never leave you alone, and that has been Abdi.テつ Every time I have something to tell him, I just feel like I'm down, I just talk to him.
People can look at you and be like, okay, that guy, he doesn't have any problems.テつ He always runs good.テつ But there are a few times, I'm not running as good, I'm not feeling good in training, and what can I do to do this, and Abdi is always there, and we've been like that.
Like he was telling you earlier, me and Gladys, we say as it is, and that's why friends are supposed to give you that tough love, and I get that from Abdi.テつ I know not a lot of people look at that, but he always does that.テつ He's like, you've got to have your stuff and be good at it.
And I take it to mind, like that means a lot, I'm going to go with what you say, and he does the same thing when me and my wife talk to him.テつ So it's been a great relationship.

Q.テつ Have you two trained together ever since you both got out of college?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:テつ Yeah, I feel Bernard was kind of‑‑ he stayed at Washington State a little longer when we both got out of college, but since we've been in Tucson we've been training partners.テつ We run together most of the time, almost 90 percent of the time, but he does his morning run, like 10 to 12 miles in the morning we'll do together, and then in the afternoon I'll do my own run, like my 6 miles.テつ But we train together most of the time, 90 percent of the time.テつ Even in Tucson we try to meet up as much as we can, even though we live in two different directions.テつ We don't meet up on easy days but we do meet up mostly when we need to do some real running, some serious running, 14, 13 miles of hard‑paced running, we'll meet up.テつ That's when we help each other.テつ But like five, six miles everyone can run their own without their partner.
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ Yep, I wouldn't add anything.テつ That's all covered.

Q.テつ What do you each think is the number one thing you've learned from the other?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:テつ You know, just number one thing I learned from Bernard, one thing I'll never take for granted is discipline and goal setting and hard work, and that's the discipline‑‑ take running as your job and as your profession.テつ That's one thing I learned from Bernard, and I'm so thankful for you teaching me that, Bernard.テつ I know a lot of people that know me before, first couple years I was a pro runner, I enjoyed life, I did a lot of stuff, and there's no regret there, and that's what life is all about.テつ You learn from it.テつ But there's a point in your life when you learn, and I just happen to have one of my great friends who happens to be one of the greatest runners of all time who is teaching me the ropes basically, and I took from him.テつ I want to just say thank you, Bernard.
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ Thank you, Abdi.テつ One thing about Abdi that I really admire a lot is his ability to do extra hard work when it's needed.テつ He always has time for his training and time just to relax and be himself.テつ So that's the thing that defines the strong athlete.テつ At the same time, Abdi is a great friend.テつ What I like about Abdi is also the ability and that virtue of willing to listen.テつ It doesn't matter what you tell him, he's going to listen and he never gives up.テつ So when he made the team, I remember very clearly he was not even in the radar.テつ Going to Houston, people were like, maybe Abdi, he might not even make it.テつ And I believed it, I knew it.テつ I was telling him just go do it, man, you are ready.
So that ability to say, you know what, I'm going in there, believing it and never give up.テつ Bounce back whenever you have an obstacle.テつ He may have been having a few injuries, but he doesn't give up.テつ That is something I always remember very clearly, even whenever I have my small problem, I think of a bigger problem that Abdi has had and you overcame it, and I always think, this is how I want to achieve what I have to do, because Abdi has done it, and I always see this as an example.

Q.テつ Bernard, where were you for the trials?テつ Were you able to watch Abdi down in Houston?
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ No, it's funny, I was just waiting for the results.テつ I don't know, I think I stepped out a little bit, and then I was like, okay, I'm going to come and watch.テつ But when I came back, Abdi was just finishing, and then it was just celebration.
But the good thing now with Twitter, I was not in the house, but I was just seeing‑‑ flow track and all these people just giving updates of how it's going.テつ I had this belief that Abdi was going to do so well, and I was not nervous, but I was so excited afterwards, I'm like, yes, he did it.テつ It's like one thing you believe he's going to make it, but then when he makes it, it's like, whoa, this is a great day today.
I remember even calling the journalist in Tucson, I'm like, you'd better cover this tonight on the 10:00 p.m. news or whatever, 6:00 o'clock news, he made the Olympic team, and the guy said, we are going to do it.テつ And it was amazing how it made me really, really happy, but I was so proud of him he made the team.

Q.テつ I'm wondering, do you ever try to convince Bernard to do the marathon?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:テつ Well, actually we have talked about it to be honest.テつ I'm not going to lie.テつ We have talked about it because we train together and I know what he's capable of.
But it's Bernard's decision.テつ The day he decides to do the marathon I know he's going to do well.テつ I've seen his training, the way he runs like long runs, and I think he would have no problem.

Q.テつ Bernard, your thoughts on that, on doing the marathon?
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ You know, Abdi is trying to be real modest in saying he hasn't been pushing me for marathon.テつ He has been.テつ Abdi has always been like, when we go for these 14 miles, 15 miles, you are always tough, man.テつ You know what, you should try this thing.
But also he has respect for me and the fact he knows I want to achieve something in the Olympics which I have never done, and so I just told him, Abdi, I just want to try one more time in the Olympics, and after that we'll see what's going to happen.テつ If I was to join your side of the world, then maybe after the Olympics and see what I can do.
I can't wait actually to maybe even step onto the roads with my buddies and see what I can achieve over there.テつ Of course I'm not going to say I'm going to be doing well or anything like that, but I'm going to give it my best because it's going to be a new territory.
But Abdi has always insisted that I can do well in this.テつ So I have to believe in him and of course believe in what I can do in terms of getting prepared to get there.

Q.テつ Most of our Olympic distance runners seem to come out of California and Oregon, so could you maybe pitch a few attributes of Arizona that makes it a special place to reach the top?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:テつ Arizona, I think like every state, California has great athletes, they have Meb, they have Deena, they have a lot of great athletes.テつ And Oregon has Dayton, Galen.テつ But Arizona has me, Bernard, and they have McMillan Elite.テつ So we're not all from Arizona, and California athletes are not from California, it's just where we choose to live.
And I think for us Arizona is the best place to live because we have the best of both worlds.テつ We have Flagstaff, which is like three hours away from us, and we have Tucson, Arizona, but we have the winter and the summer.テつ California is the same way, they have Bend and they have San Diego.テつ It's just what you prefer.テつ We prefer Arizona, and we're happy where we are.

Q.テつ This is a question for more Bernard.テつ What are your plans up through the Olympics?
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ My plans would be after the trials here‑‑ after my training here in Flagstaff‑‑ actually not before my training.テつ On the 28th I'll be running the Pan Relay stuff like I did last year, then come back to Flagstaff for another two weeks, which will take me to May.テつ Then my first race really will be in Track and Field Classic, which I'm going to do the 2 mile.テつ Then I'm going to go to New York.テつ After New York will be the U.S. trials on the 25th and 28th, then go to Europe, run on the 6th, 5,000 in Paris.テつ The 10th of July will be London, 1,500 or 1 mile, and that will be the end of my pre‑Olympic races, and then will be training for London afterwards, of course if I make the team, and I hope I'll make the team.
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:テつ Actually my plan is right now my first thing is just to get ready for the marathon.テつ The marathon is a long race, so I don't have many races, but one of my main races in between will be the Healthy Kidney 10K.テつ I was trying to do the U.S. 10K trials, but me and Coach Li and Coach Murray, we talk about it, and I think the best interest for me would be just to focus on marathon to do my best.テつ After the marathon we'll see how I come out, and then maybe fall marathon after that.テつ

Q.テつ So the pressure is on, Abdi is on the Olympic team, now the ball is in your court.
BERNARD LAGAT:テつ Yes, the pressure is on now.テつ As a matter of fact, training in Flagstaff, two of my roommates, Abdi, of course, is in the Olympic team, he has his ticket already I'm sure, and then we have one Luis Barrios from Mテδゥxico, he is going to go run the 5,000 and I think the 10,000, as well, and David McNeill from Australia was second in the Olympic Trials in the 10,000 meters, and all he has to do is just wait to run in Stanford or maybe New Dean and get the A‑standards.テつ So basically I feel like, wow, three of my friends are going to London, and so I really need to step up my training.テつ But I'm not going to change so much a lot of my training, but I will just keep knowing that you know what, hey, the pressure is on.テつ My buddies are going.
Abdi is going to be my roommate in London I've told him, so I've told him, Abdi, you're going to have me as a roommate.テつ I'm going to train as hard as possible so I can make that deal.
You know, I feel comfortable coming from the successful indoor season, I just feel like I have the speed, I have the endurance, and all I have to do is run well at the trials and make that team and go to London with Abdi.

Q.テつ Mary, is this going to be more of a celebration of U.S. running?テつ I know the Kenyan trials are a couple weeks after this, and that might pose some difficulties.テつ Is there going to be an international field for this race?
MARY WITTENBERG:テつ Great question.テつ There will be a bit of an international field, but definitely our priority is giving a great show to the fans of our men's American team.
In wrap for everybody, I just want one more perspective, Bernard and Abdi, you both have a lot of running left, but a unifying characteristic about both of you that's been phenomenal for the sport is not only do you most in the most intensive times have an amazing chill factor or ability, you've got the two biggest smiles in the sport, and I think when we think legacy and think of some of the power you've brought to the sport, fans and kids connect so much to both of you.テつ I think that together you not only relax each other, but I think a lot of other athletes as well as event producers and organizations like ours.テつ So we thank you for that.
And in closing, our role at New York Roadrunners is if we can support you guys as athletes and support our sport the way you support each other, then we're doing our job right, and that's our commitment to keep doing it.
We thank you both for joining us today, and Abdi, really psyched to see you in a couple weeks, and it's going to be hopefully another big highlight on the road to London.

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