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November 3, 2016

Matt Llano

New York, New York

MATT LLANO: That did not go well, but that was at the beginning about three weeks into my buildup. So I hadn't really gained that much fitness, but it was a good step for me.

Coming off of that, I saw a huge surge in fitness, and things really started clicking after that.

Q. Who do you train with?
MATT LLANO: I train with Hoka Northern Arizona Elite in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Q. With Ben Rosario?
MATT LLANO: Yeah, Ben Rosario is my coach.

Q. I went to high school with him. A thousand generations ago.
MATT LLANO: He'll be out here on Saturday. I'll have to let him know about that.

Q. So did you do one workout which tends to give you a greater sense of confidence?
MATT LLANO: There are a couple throughout the buildup, but one of the biggest ones that we do is, in most marathon buildups, typically is a 16-mile steady state run, where we run marathon effort. We're at 7,000 feet elevation. So we don't use marathon pace specifically, but we -- it's marathon effort, altitude adjusted marathon effort.

In this buildup, I did that as an 18-miler instead of 16, and it actually is the best one I ever had. In the past, I would average maybe just a little under 5:20 per mile. This one was just a little over 5:10 per mile. It's like 5:12 or 5:13, I think. That gave me a lot of confidence coming off of that one. We did that one three weeks before the marathon, so it's kind of when we really know we're dialing in our fitness. That's the one that I do that I know I'm ready to race.

Q. Last marathon was the trials?
MATT LLANO: Correct, yes.

Q. And your position was?
MATT LLANO: I was sixth at the trials.

Q. You said you went farther and faster in this last workout that you predicted?
MATT LLANO: Yeah, this was the fifth time that I've done this workout. My first couple buildups, it was okay. It wasn't something I'd done before. So we didn't really have a benchmark to compare it to. But in this buildup, we had all of my previous four steady state runs to compare it to, and this one was farther and faster. And I would say easier effort than the previous ones.

I finished. I felt like I could have kept going. My coach was there every mile to make sure I was not straining too much and just kind of keep an eye on some physiological signs that I would exhibit. We've been working together for almost five years now, so he knows me well enough to know when I'm struggling in a workout. Now he just said I looked easy, I looked comfortable. So that was a good confidence booster for me, especially after kind of a rough year since the trials, to really make me feel good going into the race this weekend.

Q. How long did it take you? You were close enough at sixth. I mean, Josh can talk about that too, getting close. So that sort of -- you put an enormous amount of emotional energy into the trials, and when it doesn't happen -- it's not that you raced poorly, but you didn't make the team. How long did it take you to psychologically come out of that and say, okay, put that behind me and start moving forward.
MATT LLANO: I think there were a couple of things in a real way that I had going for me. I remember I was disappointed after the trials. I remember I talked to Ryan after the race, and I broke down a little bit. I also was dealing with an injury going into that race that post-trials, kept me from training and competing for almost four months. I've gotten that taken care of and everything's all good now.

I think in a way that helped me to bounce back a little more easily than I would have otherwise because I was able to focus on rehab and my longer term goals rather than the in and out everyday struggle mentally and emotionally that I might have been having after the trials.

Q. So you weren't actually at the very top of your game at the trials. You were a little compromised going in, and yet you still ran very well within those parameters?
MATT LLANO: Yeah, it wasn't really something we talked about before the race. I didn't want it to be on my mind, and Ben didn't either. So it was just something we kind of kept to ourselves.

Q. What was it?
MATT LLANO: I had -- most people call it a sports hernia. I had two of them. So I had seven torn core muscles and severe osteitis pubis. So it was rough, but I got through it. I was able to train at a similar level I had before, but I wasn't able to do a lot of the little things. I had to completely cut out core before the whole marathon trials.

So there were definitely some compromises I had to make, but I still think I was fit and ready to go on that day, just didn't have the best race.

Q. When you say you want to be in the top five, it's a very top heavy with people like Desisa and Biwott and Dathan, these guys have proven to be at the very top level. There's not a huge number, only 19 or 20 of them. How do you go into this race competitively? How do you decide what you're going to do? When you hit Fourth Avenue and get over the bridge and the race finds its pace, how do you decide they're going too fast or going too slow, how do you like to mark yourself in a path?
MATT LLANO: I kind of have an idea of what I'm capable of on Sunday, and my goal is I can kind of run my own race, and it will play out the way I really want it to. That never really happens to a tee, but I just have to trust my race instincts on the day. This is my first experience in New York, but I did come out here about two months ago, and I ran the last ten miles of the course. So I have an idea of what's coming. I know what the hills in Central Park feel like. I know what a couple key markers along the course that I can kind of keep an eye on to gauge myself throughout the race.

So I'll just kind of play it by ear, and maybe I'll have a more specific race plan when my coach gets here and we dial it in a little bit. But I do feel like I'm probably mostly going to try to run my own race and hope that that plays out well.

Q. You're feeling more like 100 percent coming off this training session. Are you excited to see what you can do out there?
MATT LLANO: Yeah, this one has been on my list for a long time. I'm from New York originally. This is my first event I'm running with New York Road Runners. To come here for the marathon is just something that I've talked about with all my marathon friends that I've gotten advice from over the years. This is the one that they always say is really special. So for me to come here and to be feeling good, feeling healthy, I do feel relaxed. I feel more experienced now than I ever have before and fitter and just more confident. I think that everything is really just kind of coming together, and I'm able to move forward knowing that this is going to be another step in my career in the right direction.

Q. Is there a range of place or time that you kind of view as a benchmark for success this weekend?
MATT LLANO: Yeah, I'd be happy with -- I'd probably be satisfied with top five. I have really lofty goals all the time, but I think getting on the podium is not out of the question. I think it's a good year for an American to step in and kind of use this as a springboard to a great marathoning career, and I think I'm ready for that.

I've had four marathons now where I felt confident going in and felt that in the past I could have run under 2:10. That never really came together, and now I'm a whole other level of fitness. So I'm really just excited to put that to the test and just see what the streets of New York have for me.

Q. What do you think of the regular runners that run the marathon? Those that are overweight or 80 years old and take six, seven hours to finish, should they run marathons?
MATT LLANO: I think more power to them. Anybody that gets out there and is exercising and being healthy and doing things to better their own life, I'm in full support of it. I actually had this conversation with my parents for a long time because they were kind of wanting to get into running and never really found like the competitive drive that I have, and then they would always kind of discount themselves and say, well, I don't do it for the reasons you do it, and maybe I shouldn't be out there.

I think everyone has a place in this sport. That's one of the things I love about it. You see people who are trying to run two hours, and you see people who are trying to run five hours, and I think everyone deserves the same amount of respect.

I just love that people are out there sharing what we all love to do, and we're all out here because we love it. I think it's great. I think the more people, the better.

Q. You don't think the spirit of the marathon is going to be affected by the fact they take -- they arrive sometimes after the finish line is officially closed?
MATT LLANO: I've heard that train of thought before, and I don't really agree with that. I know there are people, you read every couple months in Runner's World or something, that marathon times are slowing down overall, but it's not all about speed for everyone. It's not all about how fast you can go. For some people, it's just a huge accomplishment to run a 5K let alone get in there and run a marathon.

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