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November 6, 2005

Mary Wittenberg


THE MODERATOR: The director and CEO of the New York Road Runners, Mary Wittenberg.

MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you. In my wildest dreams, I don't know that I thought we would see races like that. We worked very hard to put together stellar fields. We worked on being ready and all we can do is hope for a good show. It really comes to the athletes. I think today showed that our sport has got to be one of the most compelling there is in sport. Our women showed how gutsy and determined and talented they are. You know, we put them up front by themselves. They don't have men to shield them. It's their show. And for the second year in a row, they had us hanging by fingertips. Susan Chepkemei, vomiting along the way, and she and Jelena just going to hard and knowing they have got a number of women stalking them and a number women that could have taken them down, so that was thrilling in itself.

THE MODERATOR: The men's race, could it have been any closer?

MARY WITTENBERG: Who would have guessed it would be a track race at the end? Being on the finish line like that, it was like you could feel -- you could feel the power of the two of them surging forward, and every image evoked in my mind was that of a track race. They were trying to get their chest out, you know, Hendrick dove for the tape; spectacular. As a race director, I know all of a sudden I look up and I thought, do I go for Rod or do I go for Jeff Smith? And I remember reading along the way from Fred that you go for the one that's down, so I went to Hendrick. But that was remarkable. It was an incredible finish. And Meb is the toughest guy around. Some seven weeks of training, he came in here and he didn't hold back. He came in here and went for it, and Abdi went for it, and just walk away completely impressed with those guys and Meb in particular. Tergat was the green winner here, world record holder, so big in the sport. I think this is a career-capper for him, and I think for us, it's a solid fix of what you can expect from New York going forward.

THE MODERATOR: Doesn't this solidify so many people's views that this sport is all about racing? It's not just about times; it's about competition?

MARY WITTENBERG: Absolutely. In our view, all of us, you guys included, need to do all we can do develop a fan base. I don't think there's any better way to attract the fans that do what our athletes did today, which is try to beat the hell out of each other.

THE MODERATOR: There spoken by a marathon winner in her own right, just a couple of years ago. Questions for Mary.

Q. Why did you call Jelena your secret weapon?

MARY WITTENBERG: I called Jelena our secret weapon because to be honest, we knew she could win this race. I was in Osaka in January, when in a tough, windy cold day, she ran very tough. She ran a high 2:23 there against solid competition. To me, that was worth it, 2:21-low 2:22 marathon, and she runs like a champion in that she seems to throw her watch away, look who is around here and compete. So we knew New York is perfect, and also, she said on the podium in Osaka to me that New York City, it was her dream to win New York. She then came here and was second in our Circle of Friends New York Committee in June, and then reiterated, "I can win here." We knew what she was coming in with.

Q. How was your run this morning at 3:30 this morning?

MARY WITTENBERG: It was great. It was 4:00 a.m. We had a couple of us out there. It's a thrill to run through the finish line and around the finish line, even if you're jogging at 4 a.m. I have weather information for you. At 12 noon in Central Park, it was 62 degrees, 77 percent relative humidity, and the wind from the south was six miles per hour. There was very little wind out there. We got extremely lucky. I was at the start and the two TV stations I interviewed next to the weather man and I wanted to go to another segment. They said 72 degrees it was going to be and sunny and the others said 68 to 70 and sunny. It's hitting there now, but boy, did we get lucky in the professional races. The crowds, I've been on this race course eight times now, I have never seen crowds like this, 20-deep in spots. Really, covered the course. We worked hard. There's 100 bands out there. It felt like you were in the middle of a moving MTV video. Well, beyond the professional race, in our effort to constantly get our stars out in the sport, as you saw, we invited Deena Kastor and Al Culpepper into the booth. I had Dathan Ritzen (phonetic) behind in the lead vehicle which was a lot of fun, and that was Mizuki Noguchi, and of course the only woman in the world to have broken 2:20, have an Olympic gold medal and be the Japanese national record holder, she was on the other end of the tape from Mayor Bloomberg, and I imagine we'll see that photo of Hendrick going for the dive around the world. So I think we fulfilled a couple of goals by getting all of our athletes out there. And Hendrick knew where the tape was. I've got to add this, on the course, I turned to Dathan at mile six. "Hendrick looks like he's sprinting." He had -- we have all seen him run, right? He won here last year, he's third in London, he comes back, he looked like he was running harder than last year early in the race. So it was clear he was going after it. And the fact that he was still there at the end, is a tremendous testament to his strength.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Mary. Congratulations.

MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you to all of you. You guys are the ones who make people read and watch, and we appreciate it.

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