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March 14, 2013

Abdi Abdirahman

Bernard Lagat

Dathan Ritzenhein


Q.  For starters, you guys, Bernard, what have you been learning from the black cactus there about raining and training for the Half Marathon?
BERNARD LAGAT:  I guess what I've been learning is that during training runs sometimes it's good to‑‑ he likes to, once you set a pace when we do the training, he likes to kind of go in there and start sprinting like five miles, which is already hurting me.  Then after the end, I'm like what was that about?  And he's like that's a race.  I wanted you to learn something.
I was like, no, way, man.  Once you started going like that, you just messed up my strides, and I was so tired afterwards.  He said, no, we're still going for a longer run.  So after, he's been good.  He told me to take it easy, and not to think on it too much.

Q.  Anything you're picking up from him as far as you've done this so many times, but are you getting any good lessons from him on getting ready for this race?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  On this race?

Q.  Yeah.
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  Oh, man.  Not that much, actually.  I thought I was going to be able to hammer him the long workouts.  But anything that you have a rest for it, you can't ask this guy.  Even if you do ten times a mile, he's always there.  So I don't know.  He's just one tough cookie.  That's the way I look at it.

Q.  Dathan, you've been on your own, pretty much, right?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  Pretty much.  Yeah.  Just kind of, you know, my teammates and training partners have been doing different stuff.  Galen's training 7:30, so I'm not doing that.  We were working out together a little more in January.  But the last month or so it's been on my own more.

Q.  I think it's true that you two have both had successful half marathons, you got your bronze medals at the World, and you were second here to Haile, right?  In retrospect, do you think you were in the best shape of your life?  Do you think that was maybe almost the best race you've had at any distance?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  I don't know.  I have a lot of great races.  It's just you have to be at the right place at the right time, and you have to be fit.  I think I was fit that day.
I don't know if you remember that the same year the World number six at the World Championship that year.  It was just a great year.  The year before that I ran the Chicago Marathon and ran and ran 2:08.  So I ran the Phillie half 6:21.  So it's been a great couple years.  Also a year later, I ran like a 27:16 at 9:00 in the morning.
So it's been‑‑ I was having a great couple years, and then it just got the injury bug and it can slow you down for a few years.  But I am where I want to be now.  Just things are coming back in full swing, and I'm happy where I am.

Q.  Now have you since you've been to the race here that didn't happen, have you raced since then?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  I haven't raced since then.  Just because, actually to be honest with you, it takes a lot out of you mentally, physically.  Because as a marathoner, you get ready for one race and you prepare for that race for three months, and then suddenly the race didn't happen, and then you go through that emotion of the roller coaster like trying to pick that race at the right time.  Everything was towards that one day, and the date didn't happen.  You lose all motivation, just like all the adrenaline, everything.  So it was hard for me to go find another race.
The best thing for me was just to get rest and just to recover well and just have another great year this year.

Q.  What does it mean to be back in New York for the first big race since Hurricane Sandy?  Does it have any extra meaning?  You were sort of alluding to your own personal emotions, but do you have any for the city itself?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  I have, just to be honest with you, it was a tragedy what happened.  Just at the same time, we all have to recover from it.  I'm just glad to be back in New York again to see everything kind of getting normal.  I don't think it's a hundred percent normal still.  We still have‑‑ it was only a few months ago, but I'm glad to see New York City still getting back to normal the way it was in New York City.
I was kind of sad for the Marathon not to happen, but at the same time, I think it was the best part among the people of New York to do what's best for them, and I think New York Road Runners did a great job for not interfering with what the city wanted and what the people wanted.  It was great.

Q.  I went to Abdi on that last question, let me finish with you.  As we mentioned, you had the bronze at the World Half, and you are the second fastest American ever at the distance.  And it really was under an hour, but they had to round it up, and we understand how that works.  So you have to feel this is a good distance for you?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  Yeah, this has always been a good distance for me.  It's something that feels natural for me.  In training, those are the pace that's feel the most comfortable.  I've always had a lot of success at the Half Marathon.  And like at the World Half, you don't think about that time.  Like I saw the clock too it said 59:59.  But you don't go for time in those races anyway.  It's something that you want to compete and do your best.
When you put together a good field like we do on Sunday, you have to run a great time if you're going to be up there and try to beat everybody.  So you don't even have to think about that.

Q.  (No Microphone)?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  I really got him there.  The course ran 2:03, So I think he might trade places with me.

Q.  Dathan, you had quite a Marathon in Chicago last year.  Has that changed the way you approach any of your other races now that you know you can do that?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  Not really, because I tried to change the way I thought about the Marathon a little bit.  That was something that I struggled with a little bit before.  It's pretty unusual, I think.  I had some moderately successful races in the Marathon, but nothing really good compared to running 12:56 or 60 minutes.  Those were much better than I had done in the Marathon.
For me, it was shifting the focus of the Marathon not being this thing where you focus everything on.  Like Abdi said about when the race was cancelled last year, it was hard to have those emotions.  So for me, I didn't want to get wrapped up in it like this is all there is?  So I just kind of put it on the end of the year.  Obviously, had to do some specific training and had to be healthy.  But for me, that was important.  I don't want to go backwards and do that again.  Like I did this in the Marathon.
Now I can come back down.  I just try to think of everything as the same.  It's just another race.

Q.  What did you think of running in the Half Marathon against this guy?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  After seeing him run 8:09 a couple of weeks ago, I think it's like any other race.  If Bernard's there the last 400 meters, it's bad news for whoever is there.  Whether it's a Half Marathon or two miles, it doesn't matter.
I liked to hear what Abdi was saying that you have to try to break him early on.

Q.  Now they all know.
BERNARD LAGAT:  Now they know.  That's right.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  But it's easier said than done.  That is the other thing.

Q.  Can you guys talk about your relationship?  You guys all seem‑‑ I know you're kind of best friends, it seems like.  All three of you guys know each other very well.  Can you talk about that?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  Yeah, I met Dathan when he was in high school.  I was like his Nike team captain I think.  Actually in Orlando is when I met him.  So it really came a long way.  Then we just kind of built a relationship from there.  I remember when he went to Colorado, I used to see him when he was running college.  We'd run at the same meets like Stanford.
I'd say hi to him, and he was my Olympic teammate in 2004 when he was injured and he barely made the team.  I remember that.  I'm just glad to see the runner he became and how he grew as a person at the same time.  I know he had been on a roller coaster also.  He's just a great guy, a guy that never gives up.  So it's just like a lot of people charge us as runners, but at the end of the day, we're human.  If we have a bad race, they think oh, man, this guy's done.
But I think we take the same path in life.  Just most of our injuries we struggled like earlier with injuries.  So I can relate with that.  He always says keep your head up.  When things don't go well, he always says there is always another race.  We kind of support each other as a friend.
Also, Bernard, I've been friends with Bernard since 1997 at the NCAA Cross Country Championship when I beat you (laughing).
BERNARD LAGAT:  But I beat him the following year.  Too bad we don't have Meb here.  We'd have a reunion like 1997 NCAA Championships.
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  We've been friends for almost 12, 15 years.  We have a great relationship.  He's one of my close friends.

Q.  You said he was like another son?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  I'm glad if he that old like I'm his son.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  I bring down the collective age of these guys, you know.
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  Hey, you have a 3‑year‑old, so you're not that much younger.
BERNARD LAGAT:  Dathan, I think we ran together at the Nationals 5K, right?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  Yeah, 2005 or '06, something like that.
BERNARD LAGAT:  Yes, and I don't think I remember anything.  Of course, you ran in college at the time of my brother, I think.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  Yeah, Robert beat me out of some NCAA Championships.
BERNARD LAGAT:  But all the names were amazing.  We had Robert; we had Galen; and then we had you together in college.  So I was following these young guys and seeing how they're doing.  They were remarkable athletes.  So, of course, adding him being my teammate in the U.S. in the Team USA and seeing him do what he has been doing in the Half Marathon, Marathon, this is really good to note Dathan as a great athlete.
Of course, I am a dad.  And first of all, when somebody is a good dad like he is to his two kids, to me, that is very special.  He's a great dad.  He's a man who works hard, and when something is trying to knock you down like injuries, you find a way of coming back.  When somebody comes back like that, you have to appreciate the fight that they have to fight through the injuries and be the best he can be.
Of course, this guy, my other son here, what can I say about Abdi?  He's a good man.  Good training partner.  He always gives me advice.  He doesn't hide it.  Like, for example, coming here.  He's telling me exactly things that would help me.  Just to not think it too much.  And for some reason, that is the advice that a lot of people have given me.
And I don't know if you're going to be happy, Dathan, but I was on the phone with Mo Farrah, and he told me the thing about Half Marathon is people think about it too much.  They make a big deal of it.  If you go in there and treat it like another race, you don't have to worry too much about it.  So don't be mad.
So it's amazing that Abdi gives me all those advices, and real advice that is going to help me.  And he's been great in terms of training with me.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  I think it's a small world, running it.  So you make friends along the way.  There is not much bad that you ever hear said about these guys or, like you said he's talking on the phone to Mo Farrah, and it's a small world.
These guys have been guys that have always been supportive.  They were a little older than me, So I looked up to them as roll models.  When I broke the American record, like Bernard, said through his agent to me, that makes me want to do that much more.  And he went out the next year and did it.
Abdi to be able to tell me that you're going to run this, you're doing so good.  That is the kind of thing you don't get in other sports, and it makes running a really close‑knit group of people.

Q.  Do you guys feed off of each other, do you think?  When one person succeeds, the other wants to match that?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  Oh, yeah, there is synergy.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  That's why you see American distance running has gotten better.  It's just a synergy that goes.  One person does it, the next person can do it.  Having them break barriers like that, makes the guy who is my age or a little bit younger than them be able to do it.  Then the next group of guys down the line, we have young guys coming out of college that are so good, so it's all part of that synergy.
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  The funniest thing, I'm glad I'm not one of the younger boys, because they have a lot of big shoes to fill.  They have now it's not any more going under like a 27:10 or under 13.  Now it's under 13:50 or under 27:40.  That is the goal.  So I want to wish them luck (laughing).
I remember first when we came in the main thing was just to get under 13:20.  Then if you go under 27:40 was amazing.  I remember when the standard was under 28 minutes at the Olympics.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  You made it like I limped my way on to the team only eight years ago.  Now you can't get even‑‑
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  At 27:30, you wouldn't even make the team.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  No, you wouldn't even think about making the team.

Q.  No, that was the standard.
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  That was the talk.  Everybody was the standard.  If you don't have the standard by now, you might as well not even show up to the U.S. Championship.

Q.  It sounds like you retired from the 10K after beating Abdi in the cross country.  You've never run that far since, have you?
BERNARD LAGAT:  Yeah, because I was just doing it because it was in my liking to do it.  But basically you're forced to do it because it's cross country.  So your team depends on you and the coach is looking up to you like, hey, you've got to run this, stretch it.
So when I was running the 10K, that was a huge stretch.  I would not even train for it, and I didn't even know how to train for it.  So I was just basically training with the guys on the team.  Then my specialty was the short stuff, the mile.
But back then, that was what I was known for doing.  That is the 1500.
Then the cross country was a straight running with the guys that are naturals, like Abdi, and Meb, and Adam, all of those guys, that was their distance not for me.
I was like when this thing is over, the cross country is over, you're not going to see me doing anything like that because there is no point of me doing it.  So now I'm here doing something like three times as long.

Q.  You just leapfrogged over the 10K and went to the Half Marathon.  What's that?
BERNARD LAGAT:  I think it's fun.  I've been training since November, and I wanted to do something that is a bit of a challenge.  Abdi, of course, has been telling me ever since we trained in Flagstaff "Hey, you know what?  You're looking so strong in the workouts.  I think you ought to try the Half Marathon."
In fact, this is a guy that according to Abdi, I could have done this thing five years ago.  Because he's been telling me, "Hey, you have to do this.  You're training so hard.  You're matching my strengths and look at what I've done."  So I was tempted.  Then after, this after the Olympics, I decided I'm going to do my best and try to go out there and try my best with these guys.  So it's something different.

Q.  We hear the phrase rhythm runner used a lot talking about people who get into the same pace on flat surfaces mainly.  And that is mainly the kind of racing you've done, obviously.  Something like the Hills of Central Park here.  Do you have any idea based on your workouts how you can handle that?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  I don't know how I'm going to handle it.  But the thing is you don't think about that.  I'm going to hit another Hill somewhere there.  Just go with the flow, and I guess just running in the pack.  You don't even see some things.  You don't even hear how things are going.
So, basically, I'm going to be‑‑ I'll try just to avoid it as much as possible.

Q.  Not going to think about it?
BERNARD LAGAT:  Yeah, I'm not going to think about it.

Q.  Do you think he's in for a rude awakening on those hills?
DATHAN RITZENHEIN:  I don't know.  My first Half Marathon was one of my easiest.  Sometimes you say you don't know what you're getting into, so it's not as bad.  You can get through the last few miles, you know.  At that point you're already ten miles in or something like that.  It's psychological.  Whereas if after that first one you're like oh, God, I know what's coming.
It's going to be terrible.  That is a different story.  So it's just like any other race.  You're going to hit rough spots.  If you can manage those, for Bernard, if he can manage those and make it to the end, it's all instinct.  You know you hang on, and you kick like any other race.  So hopefully that's not the case for me.

Q.  You guys roomed at the Olympics this year, correct?

Q.  How was that?
BERNARD LAGAT:  We were rooming at the Olympics together, but I think most of the time, I would say maybe 10% of the time I stayed in the village, and most of the time I was with my family outside of London.  We rented a flat, so we were making our own food.  I wanted to get away from the village life.  It was like almost too much.
I stayed in the village the last three Olympics, and I wanted to get something different, just a different environment where I can see the kids and playing and then my head is off running and all these things.  That, to me, I thought that was the perfect setting.
But yes, he was my roommate, Manzano, Trevor Barron.  He's a good kid.  Who else?
BERNARD LAGAT:  And Meb, yes.  But I didn't see Meb even one day, because he was downstairs.  But this guy's always good.  He doesn't make noise, so that's good.

Q.  Your kids are going to be here for the race?
BERNARD LAGAT:  Yes, they're going to be here.

Q.  They're going to be cheering like mad.  What are they going to do about uncle Abdi?
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  They'll be cheering for me too.
BERNARD LAGAT:  My son might actually go for Abdi.
ABDI ABDIRAHMAN:  Oh, Daddy, it's okay.

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