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November 4, 2007

Kurt Fearnley

Edith Hunkeler

Bob Laufer


THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our 2007 ING New York City Marathon Men's and Women's Wheelchair Champions, Edith Hunkeler from Switzerland and Kurt Fearnley from Australia. I'd also like to introduce at this time Bob Laufer, who is our wheelchair race coordinator. I'd like Bob just to say a few words about both of the champions and also a brief description of today's race. Bob?
BOB LAUFER: Thank you, Richard. Just three things I think I want to note. Number one, sitting up here are the two course record holders, Kurt from last year, Edith from two years ago, and broke her own record today. That's number one.
Number two is that they're obviously people who have been here before and know the course. They can speak for themselves. From my vantage point in the lead car, this is one of the most difficult wheelchair courses in the world in terms of hills, bridges, turns, sometimes streets, condition of the streets, although they were pretty good today.
I also want to mention that Edith missed defending her title last year because she was injured, and I'm not sure she can say -- I don't think she's done a major marathon since coming back from injury, so the idea that she not only won this against a great women's field but broke her own course record I think is terrific. I haven't told Kurt this but I'm not going to invite Kurt back next year because it's getting to be boring. This is the second year in a row that he broke away right at the start on the bridge, and all I could look at for 26.2 miles was Kurt. A good-looking guy but I wanted to see a much closer race than we did have for the spots behind Kurt.
The final thing I'll mention with Kurt is I was hoping this year we would have at least a two-man race right to the finish because Ernst Van Dyke, who I think still holds the best time in the world from Boston a few years ago, is in great shape. I think he won last week. Unfortunately Ernst showed up but his chair never showed up, so he had to watch from the sidelines. He smiled, but I think he was hurting today as much as Kurt is now in a different way. We had one runaway. Edith had a fairly close race. She can tell you how tough or not tough it was, but the now two course record-holders up here and two new repeat champions. Good job, guys.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ladies first. If you could say a few words about today's race and then we'll go to Kurt.
EDITH HUNKELER: For me it was the first marathon after the crash last year, and I'm a really lucky girl today. I never expected to win. We've been three athletes, all of us, worked really hard, and it was tough to go, and at least I'm the winner.
KURT FEARNLEY: 20K into the race it was running perfect. I think I was well and truly onto the course record pace. But I think with 10-K to go the fast pace of the first 20 was starting to catch up to me, and it felt like battery acid was running through my arms.
I thought of -- it was actually a week before I went away, I heard this guy say, it's not over until you're dead or something like that, and I said, well, I'm still kind of kicking, so just keep going. Geez, the finish line couldn't have come soon enough, so I was two minutes or four minutes off the pace from last year, but geez, it was -- I was just happy to cross the line.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. I had a question for Kurt. Has that ever happened to you in a race before, that feeling of your arms going completely dead and really struggling to the finish?
KURT FEARNLEY: I don't think I've probably had it as hard as what I have this year. This year the race was tough. This has been my 11th marathon start for 2007, and luckily my tenth win now. I think it's been a massive year, an incredibly, incredibly, incredibly tiring year, and the last 10-Ks everything was catching up to me, I think. But I've never felt as fatigued as how I felt in the last 10-K. Those hills were killers.
BOB LAUFER: Could I ask one question of Kurt and one of Edith? Are you ever going to try a different strategy here, do you think, besides coming off, blowing everyone away in the first mile? Because if you are I'm not going to ride in the lead car, I'll go back further.
KURT FEARNLEY: I'm more than happy to look at your face for 42-K. Sometimes it's easier to break at the start line than to wait until the last minute. If you can get away and you can win the race from the gun, then I'm going to do that. Sorry, mate.
BOB LAUFER: I'll change my mind.
And Edith, what are your plans from this point on and how do you feel after the injury and your first difficult and successful marathon?
EDITH HUNKELER: It was emotional. Last year I said, okay, I'm going to come back for New York. I'm here right now. I really didn't know what's going on for the future, and I always believed in me. It's a great feeling. I can't believe it right now, but I'm working on it, and I think in a couple days I'll feel more. But to have a comeback like this, that's really great. I never expected it, and I worked hard, of course. I always used -- I start to forget the past because I live for the future, and I think it makes me strong what happened. But it was a hard time, really.

Q. What did happen? What was the crash?
EDITH HUNKELER: It was at the world championship. I won already three medals, gold medals, and it was the last K in the marathon, and I crossed a bridge. It was a long road. I have seen the finish, and then I was focused and said, okay, I have to go on the right side and then you can break away because I had two athletes with me. And then I tried to get up to speed and then it crashed. Then I crashed with the light pole and smashed my whole right leg. Then they flew me back to Switzerland and did an operation, and the first question I had was can I go for this sport again. He said, no, your racing is over because it was so smashed. Then it took me two heavy operations, and next week, and I won.
THE MODERATOR: Where was the world championships and when was this?
EDITH HUNKELER: Last year in September.
THE MODERATOR: Where is it?
EDITH HUNKELER: In Assne, in Holland.
BOB LAUFER: We decided, New York Road Runners, to raise the course record bonus money because last year Kurt loaded it to a point where I thought it would be really difficult if not impossible to lower. As I told you, having run out of stream, having done so many marathons, this is the end of his program for the year. So I was safe there. I knew Edith was coming back, and I didn't think for a moment with the injury she sustained and with the little time she had coming back that she was a threat to break the record. It's going to cost me money which I'm glad to be spending. A remember a few years back Fred LeBow offered a million dollars to someone in one of our events who broke 2:04 or 2:03. Luckily at the time no one did it. Edith is going to cost me money this year, and I'm happy to spend it.
EDITH HUNKELER: I'm happy, too.
KURT FEARNLEY: If anyone is willing to throw in a million dollars for next year's race we'll be happy to accept it. I don't care if it's an hour and 15.
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to offer congratulations to our two champions, Kurt and Edith. Thank you, Bob.

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