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October 30, 2008
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
RICHARD FINN: We'd like to thank you and welcome you to our Thursday morning ING New York City Marathon news conference. Again, we have a very big program, as you can see by the athletes here at the table. We have several more athletes in the back that we'll introduce. We are hoping to have just a little bit later this morning Lornah Kiplagat for a special award, and then at 1:00 o'clock this afternoon, we will another additional special news conference. Grete Waitz is supposed to be here as our special guest, and we will announce the No. 2 moment in New York Roadrunners history as we count down to No. 1.
Tomorrow just for all the journalists, again, we are here beginning at 10:00 o'clock. We will have our leading men, our leading wheelers, wheelchair athletes, tomorrow. We will announce the No. 1 top moment in New York Roadrunner history tomorrow morning, and then at 1:00 o'clock we will have a Paula Radcliffe here as she returns to defend her title.
Hopefully everybody sees at the chairs we've distributed several releases on the moment, also on the World Marathon Majors Series Championship, which will once again come down to the final day of the season this year, and also we have distributed quotes from Irina Mikitenko, the London and Berlin champion, who is also eligible and in the running, contention for the $500,000 jackpot. She is not running here, but there are quotes there for your use and any stories that you might use.
I'd like to introduce now New York Roadrunner president, CEO and race director of the ING New York City Marathon, Mary Wittenberg. Mary?
MARY WITTENBERG: Welcome, everybody, on behalf of George Hirsch, our chairman of the board and our deep and committed team at New York Roadrunners. Welcome to Thursday race week. Things are heating up, the weather is heating up, and luckily it's going to cool for a really beautiful, beautiful day for all our athletes on Sunday. At the 2008 ING New York City Marathon, we have a lot to look forward to.
Just some background, record number of applicants, once again, over 105,000 people from around the world applied to run this race. We expect 38,000, 39,000 on race day from over 100 countries around the world from all 50 states around the United States.
We have an expanded broadcast package to share. We will be seen locally on WNBC 4 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. There will also be a 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. pregame. We'll also be seen nationwide from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. on NBC. Added this year, Universal Sports partnering with NBC. The entire five-hour show will be shown on NBCsports.com and then also over the air on Universal's digital tier in the cities where that is available.
As this race has become known for, once again, we will have tremendous economic impact, perhaps no better appreciated than in a year and in a fall like this one in this economy. Over $220 million of economic impact with this race.
We have a lot new this year. This will be the only year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of New York Roadrunners. We've taken advantage of the 50th anniversary as a chance to allow us to look back while we celebrate our present and we look forward to our future.
We've looked at our best moments, as many of you know. We've narrowed the list of thousands to 100. We gave several esteemed journalists the opportunity to narrow the list to 15, and then we went to the fans, and we voted to our top five moments in New York Roadrunner history, and we will be releasing moment No. 2 this afternoon at 1:00 o'clock.
New this year but has become our tradition and an absolute requirement of a New York City Marathon as far as we're concerned, stellar fields, professional fields. Our wheelchair races, we welcome back our defending men's champion, our defending women's champion. In our men's race I think it's the most evenly-matched group of athletes we've ever had. Eight guys have run 2:08; 11 men have run 2:09; former champions Tergat, Ramaala, Marilson Gomes in the field; top American Abdi Abdirahman will lead a group of some 13 American men.
Women's race, we'll talk about in a moment. To ensure there's lots of excitement on the course, we've added to the entertainment. On average there will be four bands per mile. No need for iPods in our race. We have worked hard to really allow the runners to experience the history and the energy throughout this course, and this year we're really privileged to work with the Harlem Chamber of Commerce, and the Harlem miles are really going to be punched up, especially in Marcus Garvey Park, where we will have bands and we'll have jazz and we're going to have gospel, and runners are going to have a great time running through mile 22 in Marcus Garvey Park.
We're going that much greener. You can read all about it, but it's important to us in New York Roadrunners and we're taking our recycling program to a whole new level. We've worked with our sponsors to really continue to build this race. We're excited about our Toyota Pick the Podium program, called Pick and Drive, where people can go online and pick the winner in the men's race and try to win a Toyota Prius and try to pick the winner in the women's race and another Toyota Prius will be given to someone who picks the podium right on race day.
We're working with Food Emporium, as you may have seen in yesterday's New York Times, to have another sweepstakes for lots of runners to participate in. And with Foot Locker this year, we're going to have a lot of fun with our five-borough challenge. The theme this year is marathon moms, which is especially fitting as we segue into this year's professional women's race and a couple of our athletes are marathon moms themselves.
The stars of the show today, I fully expect to be the stars of the show on Sunday. This is the best women's race we have ever assembled. Contenders include defending champion Paula Radcliffe; debut runner Kara Goucher; seasoned, one of the most accomplished runners in our sport, Lidia Simon, who is in the back and available for questions; not new to the Brits but new to us here in New York, we welcome a woman we were quite inspired by seeing her stellar run in London this year, Hayley Haining, and Hayley will also be available for questions; and then we have the women at the dais here, and they're part of this stellar field.
I think what's so interesting about this year's field is there's a major question, and I think the major question at this year's race is will it be the changing of the guard, or will one of the best generation of women marathoners we've ever seen prevail on race day?
We have on one hand the stars of a generation, Paula Radcliffe, Catherine Ndereba, Gete Wami.
We have, on the other hand, the first double significant debut we've had in a long time, if ever, with both Kara Goucher and New Zealand's Kim Smith debuting.
In the middle, we have some up-and-coming proven marathoners looking to establish their legacies like Paula, like Gete and like Catherine; that's Rita and Dire. I can hardly wait.
Ladies, we're going to get to you now. I'd like to begin. We'll give each athlete a chance to comment, and then we'll open it up for questions.
First up, we've been working on this young woman for years. As I like to say, I think she can be as good as any marathoner we've ever seen. She reminds me of our defending champion. We're so pleased to welcome from New Zealand at age 26, one of New Zealand's finest, if not the finest distance runner ever, women's runner ever. Two-time Olympian, she holds seven national records for New Zealand. She may be one of the quieter individuals in the field if you're talking to her at a cocktail party, but I guarantee you, it's never quiet on the course when Kim Smith hits the roads.
Kim, we're so pleased to welcome you. You've maybe had a little bit of unusual buildup for a debut runner, not having raced since the Beijing games. We welcome you to New York. How are you feeling as you prepare to step up to your first race?
KIM SMITH: Yeah, I'm definitely feeling excited about running my first marathon. Definitely a little scared, as well. But I'm really excited to be here, and thank you for having me. Thank you for talking me into it for the last couple years.
MARY WITTENBERG: Now a nice segue from haven't raced coming into the race to a woman who's run three marathons this year. She's the winner of Houston, she was the winner of Boston and ran the most impressive second half ever to a course record. She ran the Olympic Games, was a 2008 Olympian for Ethiopia. It's clear to everybody that this woman is a marathoner. At age 23 she's proven she has what it takes.
Dire, we welcome you to New York. Do you have enough left in your legs for the fourth marathon of the year?
DIRE TUNE: I guess I've worked hard for this. I've worked harder than I have in the past. If I have wheels, I expect to do well.
MARY WITTENBERG: Next up, age 27, 2006 Boston champion, she finished fourth here in 2006. In 2006 we thought the next five years would be all Rita Jeptoo. She had a tougher 2007.
Rita, we're so glad to welcome you back to New York. We believe you have a very bright future in this sport and in marathoning. How are you feeling coming back to New York for the 2008 edition of this race?
RITA JEPTOO: I'm happy to be here again in the New York Marathon in 2008. The thing as I was saying, I prepared well, and I wish someday I can run very well. Thank you very much.
MARY WITTENBERG: Next woman is called "The Great" for good reason, the incomparable Catherine Ndereba. Always a fan favorite here in New York City. Catherine has won a medal in every major marathon that counts. She has finished on the podium 17 of the last 19 marathons that she's run. She's got two Olympic silver medals, three world championships. The list goes on. You all know her well.
Catherine, you've run so well here, but our gold medal is one you don't have yet. Is this the year coming off an amazing Olympic Games with your silver medal that you take New York?
CATHERINE NDEREBA: Thank you very much. First of all, I want to thank the New York Roadrunners and the sponsors and everybody who has been working so hard to make this race the kind of a fantastic race as it is each and every year.
I can say I'm grateful to be back, and I'll be always looking forward to come to this race, because one, I feel proud when I'm here. I feel welcomed. I like the hospitality that the people have here. And I like the New Yorkers because they are very friendly.
And if I talk of the race, I think it is the only race that I don't have the gold, as Mary was saying, and I'm looking forward to get that win, no matter what.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you, Catherine. Catherine has some added incentive. As many of you know, this is the finish of the World Marathon Majors 2007-2008 Series. At stake on Sunday is not only the title of ING New York City Marathon, not only the bronze, silver and gold medals here in New York, but the title on the women's side of the World Marathon Majors champion for 2007 and 2008. Left in the running, Catherine and Gete Wami, and Irina Mikitenko, who will have to be here and sit on the sidelines and watch her fate be determined by these two ladies.
I will also add that I'm going to assume Catherine has something left because when I saw Catherine in Beijing right after she finished the race, she yelled out, "I will be in New York," just after she finished crossing the line in Beijing. So I knew then that she would be back.
A woman who gave us one of the best races we have ever seen in New York City, she is the reigning, the first-ever World Marathon Majors champion. She is one of the best athletes from the track to cross country to the marathon that the sport has ever seen. She's a two-time Berlin marathon champion. She's currently tied for the lead in the World Marathon Majors standing. She's a favorite of ours here in New York City. We're so pleased to welcome back Gete Wami.
Gete, last year you ran with the Berlin Marathon in your legs and gave Paula Radcliffe a chase to the finish. Is this the year that you win New York?
GETE WAMI: In the first place, I'd like to say that this is my second time running in New York and I'd like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of the organizers, to Mary, to David and to everyone involved in this.
New York holds a very special place for me. Of course, I've enjoyed all of the marathons that I've run in which I've done well, but New York is very special for me because this is the first time that the World Marathon Majors was decided here and I was the first winner of that, and it holds therefore a very special place for me.
God willing, I hope to do very well on Sunday. I have prepared well. Of course, we have a very tough field. There's some very strong competitors, but I hope to be able to do very well, as well.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you so much. We're going to move on to questions for all of you, but first a quick look at the athletes' accomplishments.
RICHARD FINN: We're going to take a few questions here and then we have our special guest Lornah Kiplagat arrived, so we'll get to her in a moment. We'll have a few questions from the floor to these athletes.
Q. Catherine, talk about what your approach is when you're coming off an Olympic silver medal and have to build up again in a very short amount of time, which is also an amount of time in which you also have to recover before you come here.
CATHERINE NDEREBA: Well, if I talk of how much I've recovered, I feel excited coming back to New York because I feel like I didn't do much, and I always look to do two marathons in a year, and I didn't get to do a spring marathon, so I still feel like I have much left in my body. So that's how I just kind of adjusted and got back in my training to get ready for New York.
Q. Gete, the problems that you had at the Olympics, did they prevent you from getting back to training very quickly after that?
GETE WAMI: During the Olympics I just had some stomach problems, so there was nothing remaining after that. I did not have any problems getting back into training.
Q. The question is for Catherine. Welcome to New York City. We congratulate you on quite an achievement, but right on the podium, you have some very, very strong contenders. You have people that are looking forward to actually capitalizing on New York to win the title again. Are you scared of any of those contenders on the podium?
CATHERINE NDEREBA: Thank you very much. Well, when I talk of being scared, I think everybody here has been training for the race and is getting ready for the race, so there is nothing to get scared to. And I think because I've done what I'm supposed to do, all that's remaining is just to seek what I've been working for and hopefully get a payday because after working so hard for the last few months, I still expect to see the result of what I've been doing.
RICHARD FINN: If we could get Lornah to come up. Lornah?
MARY WITTENBERG: Ladies, we're asking you to stay because we think this is a moment of significance for one of your own, a true leader in this sport for her pursuits well beyond the athletic field. First we're going to show a quick introduction of Lornah as athlete, and then we'll talk about Lornah as person and why we are awarding her a special award today.
MARY WITTENBERG: We have a special event that's part of the marathon every year, and that's Continental Airlines International Friendship Run, and we welcome about 20,000 runners, not only the athletes from around the world that will run on Sunday but their friends and family come and join for this very special run.
On that big stage in front of all those athletes, and at a very appropriate place, we start at the UN, and at the UN, United Nations, every year we grant what is the most special award that we have beyond the podiums in our races, and that award is named, quite appropriately, after a very special individual in our sport, Abebe Bikila.
If you look at our history and you look at the athletes that have been given this award over the years, you'll recognize the key to us granting this award is to give it to somebody who has displayed tremendous commitment and service to the world through running.
I can think in recent times of no better athlete that exemplifies the spirit of this award and that has set a standard way beyond the standard performance on the field but off the field at a very high bar for all the athletes in the sport, for all those of us in the industry and in the sport.
Today we honor Lornah. On Saturday we will give her her award in front of the 20,000 runners from around the world. And we just want to take the opportunity to talk a bit here about why we're giving Lornah this award.
Lornah, through her Lornah Kiplagat Foundation, has been laser-focused on how she can help provide a better education to young Kenyan men and Kenyan women with special focus, I know we've talked about a lot Kenyan girls in education in providing them opportunities that might not otherwise have been provided to them.
The foundation has given young girls the opportunity to study in the United States and Europe and the goal of returning back to Kenya with that experience and that learning. And we at New York Roadrunners applaud that and want to continue to see how we help you, Lornah.
Her High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, Kenya, was established by Lornah in 1999. With many athletes when they're in the midst of their careers, it's very hard to take the time to think ahead and to reach out and engage others. Lornah has done this, where both young Kenyan men and women have had the opportunity to pursue a professional career in running and to use their running as a further means of concentrating on their education.
I'm going to let Lornah talk about her experiences as a young girl and the opportunities she was given to explore education and the decision she made to pursue professional running and how that's guided her to help others. Lornah, on behalf of all of us at New York Roadrunners and George, the chairman of the board, we want to congratulate you for your athletic pursuits. Watching you in Rio, winning the third half marathon champion title. We can't wait for you to come back and go after Grete's record and win five New York Minis, but today we honor you as person, as leader, and we thank you for leading by example.
LORNAH KIPLAGAT: Thank you, everybody who is here today, the athletes. It's my pleasure always to be with them and see them running. I'm less happy that I'm not competing this Sunday (laughter).
But all in all, I think it's a special day and time for me. Being born in Kenya in the middle of the bush, I can say I never knew that I would reach these heights in running in what I've achieved.
And today, joining in the heroes and the legends that have won the Abebe Bikila award makes me so special and makes me realize how far I've come and makes me appreciate that people appreciate, also, what I do in my career and what I do for the rest, and it gives me more encouragement and more energy to continue doing more in sport and more for others.
I've won so many road races and what I've reached, it was also necessary to reach back at home and to see what the less privileged, and that's why I started the High Altitude Training Camp and later on the Lornah Kiplagat Foundation, which is focusing on academics.
The reason why I chose academic is that when the people are educated, we don't have to help them in the future; they will be able to help themselves. Education is the best tool you can ever give to somebody.
We are very privileged to have had good friends that have also helped me to come on a higher level. First of all, I did the secondary level, that's high school, and I paid for school fees. But later on we've had students also who have got scholarships here in America, and on Friday evening we're going to -- a good friend of ours, their tickets are paid, and we will be joining together and having a reunion, and I can't wait for this day because we have about 48 kids, boys and girls, who most of them are in Ivy League. And it makes me feel good.
I do this not for others, I do this for myself because it makes me feel good, makes me feel that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, and I'm doing it because I know there is a gap that has to be filled. I know I can't do everything, but small drops makes an ocean, and I hope that my few things that I am doing will be able to make an ocean in the future. Thanks very much, and I appreciate for this award.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you, Lornah. We'll be adding to her TV show on Sunday after the pros are finished, Lornah and one of the athletes, one of the young women that is now at an Ivy League school, here at Columbia, thanks to the efforts will be joining us on the TV show. Lornah was a few minutes late because she was out at our kids' run. So we thank you for your ongoing support and for what you're doing here in New York.
We're going to allow you journalists to have time one-on-one with all of our athletes, including Lornah. Thank you very much, and at 1:00 o'clock we'll have Grete Waitz and No. 2 moment in New York Roadrunner history.
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