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November 4, 2007

Mary Wittenberg


THE MODERATOR: I'd like to introduce Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of the New York Road Runners.
MARY WITTENBERG: Obviously the race is still going on, but it was very good. It was very important for us yesterday to keep going and to get out there this morning and be ready for a big day. We had 39,000 runners counting on us. I'll admit it was the hardest it's ever been. The team has never been through anything like that, and our hearts are still very much with Ryan Shay and his family. We needed something of a healing day, and I think that's what we've got. We had a chance to celebrate Ryan in a way that if it weren't for marathon weekend we would never have had, so we appreciate that.
What a day. The weather was unbelievable; the crowds, I don't know that I've ever seen such big crowds all along the way. I had a world champion that got with me in the lead vehicle, and he was just awestruck the whole way. It was impressive.
And then the racing, Paula and Gete, gutty. They dug deep and kept digging deeper and deeper. That was a real race. Those women, that was all they had. Paula crossed the finish line and was confused and said, "was I hallucinating?" They had really gone deep. And Gete, it took us several minutes. She was just heaving and heaving and heaving. You know, impressive spirit. I love the Paula and Gete story because obviously they have such a rich history and it's been several years since they've run. But as cross country runners they were always against each other. In Seville we watched them run one, two. It's interesting that Paula can get that step ahead of athletes who have beaten her in the end of track and field. So that was an inspiring race to watch.
Jelena, as always, such a gracious woman who came back to I thought run a pretty strong third. I'm sure that hurt a lot to not be defending champion and -- $500,000 is $500,000 as is a World Marathon Majors title.
The men's race, all I kept thinking is Ramaala is so worth his money. That guy, I don't know if you saw this, I'm sure you did, I know we had the splits in front of you, but we're at mile five, 5:05, between mile 5 and 6 it was somewhere between 4:25 and 4:30. 5:30 for miles 5 through 7. He's such a race maker. And as we expected, Martin, very strong run. Goumri, I absolutely knew he'd be there. That's exactly the way he ran in London. So for Martin to come in first in London and New York and for Goumri to be second in New York and second in London, now those two go into next year looking really good.
The people's races so far, obviously you got to see Lance, but we have a good energy going out there right now. People love to see him. He's beyond accommodating. He goes out and talks to Vic Navarro, our story coordinator, who's unfortunately battling aggressive cancer. Everybody is impressing, lots still going on. We're still out there for all 39,000. This is just the midway point update. Everything is still really good. Any questions on today?

Q. After last year when you made the decision to do away with pacesetters, you said the final decision on future years would depend on what happens today.
MARY WITTENBERG: Definitely no pacemakers next year. I think our instincts were dead on. These athletes, they're ready for any kind of race you throw at them. I think this is a perfect tune-up, especially for Paula going into Beijing, to know you can win off a race like that. I think it's important for her coming off the pregnancy, and then for Gete, a very important race. And then for the men, it prepares them all for what's ahead when they run in Beijing and certainly for the foreseeable future we won't have pacemakers in New York.

Q. The women's head-start has kind of proven to be great in that it gives the women their own spotlight, their own showcase. The double-edged sword of it is people who aren't up front, I'm thinking of Elva who ran 25 miles solo time trial. How would you address that?
MARY WITTENBERG: I think it's hard. I felt for Elva a lot today. But I also think these women are as good as the men. Brian Sell ran a solo race by himself in Chicago. Certainly any of us that run at whatever level, it's much easier to run with other people. This is a big stage, and I think our women are up to it. I definitely think it's hard. What we try to do is make sure we're deep enough, and Elva just was in the middle today, and I know it makes for a very hard way to run a race. But the men are used to doing it all the time, although there's more of them.

Q. The men you have sufficient depth and the race was tactical. The women it's not as deep a field and you get a runaway runner like Paula and it gets stretched right from the getgo?
MARY WITTENBERG: Most definitely. And if not for having TV and you guys watching it, it would be easier to have a crew with them, too. I think the women deserve their stage, so it's really hard to take it away from them and put them back with the men.

Q. Do you think Gete doing what she did twice in five weeks has set a precedent now for more runners trying that, and do you have any concerns that it's not necessarily a good thing because of the injury factor?
MARY WITTENBERG: I don't know that it'll start impressing anybody because it was Gete. Gete is a seizing, strong runner. She was prepared for this. She had a situation in Berlin that led her -- still quite an impressive run, to do it. I think if a lot of these athletes did it early in his career it would be a mistake. I don't know that Meb has ever been the same after his Athens-New York double. I think for more experienced athletes it's possible. I don't know, I'll be interested to see what it does for the future.
She was certainly prepared for this. In many ways for Gete that ended up being a perfect long run because we were getting indications all along she was -- the World Marathon -- she was here to win this race, especially in the last two weeks, every indication was she was coming here to win this.

Q. Any update on Ryan?
MARY WITTENBERG: Yes, I do have an update for Ryan. The Medical Examiner's Office has performed the autopsy on Ryan. The cause of death is pending further study, and that's the official statement from them. It will be another week or so it sounds like. You can feel free to contact them, but that's literally as of about 20 minutes ago.

Q. Any thoughts on changes because of what happened yesterday?
MARY WITTENBERG: You know, we're going to -- I wish there were a way to do a full screening on every athlete before, but that's not really realistic. I don't know that we have our full perspective yet on yesterday. But from what we know so far, he certainly had immediate medical attention. Whether it would have happened on the street or it only happened because of the race, I don't know, but it was only five miles on a cool day and at a pace he can easily handle. Still reflecting on it.

Q. We had heard some reports that Ryan was dead before he ever got to the hospital. Is there any way of confirming that? That's from the CPR people.
MARY WITTENBERG: His father said that to me when he had talked to one of the medical experts, but I don't have -- that's not for me to say. That's for his father. And I have not heard that outside -- we are not with the Medical Examiner's Office, so we don't know that.

Q. The World Marathon Majors, a really exciting finish to the women's. The men was already sort of decided. Now we have a clear men's leader again going into next year. Any thoughts of adjusting the way the overall scoring might go in the future?
MARY WITTENBERG: We're in the midst of this next series. No changes at all for 2007-2008 series. Like everything else, we'll constantly look at it and see what we might fine tune. But as of now we have not discussed the rules for 2008- -- 2008-2009 is also the same, leading into that. Now we're talking about 2009-2010, so we have a little bit of time to consider that.

Q. Why were pacesetters eliminated this year?
MARY WITTENBERG: Because our philosophy in New York has always been we're a championship-style race, we're Olympics style. But the reason we are those things are not only our course. We really think this sport is about competition. It's about winning titles. It's about person against person. And you lose that when you've got to focus on time. And pacesetters are generally there to help focus on time. And in New York the racing is a lot more thrilling when you don't know what's going to happen from the gun, and we want thrilling races. That's what's going to promote and sell the sport, and that's ultimately what makes it very compelling.

Q. What were the numbers today? You said 39,000.
MARY WITTENBERG: Unofficial starters, and you know how it goes with that many people going over the mats, it'll take us a little while to look at 5-K and really confirm all that, sometimes we get a higher number, 39,085.

Q. Is that up or very close to last year?
MARY WITTENBERG: Very close to last time. We'll lose half a percent today of athletes that won't finish, so we'll have all the finishing numbers for you tomorrow.

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