home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


October 31, 2008

Brandi Chastain

Frank Litsky

Kerri Strug

Tom Waldorn

Mary Wittenberg


RICHARD FINN: Welcome, everybody. We'd like to say that we always have a big program, and today we have a very full house, and we thank everybody for joining us on this final pre-race news conference for the ING New York City Marathon 2008. It's a long program today, lots of stories. We appreciate everybody's patience in working with us. Please remember to all the journalists, at 1:00 o'clock this afternoon right here, we'll have Paula Radcliffe our defending champion for a formal news conference. So we invite everybody to stay. We have a lot of special guests.
Please for all the journalists that have just joined us, please find Susan. Any of the staff in the blue shirts if you have any questions, Julia, Sara, Meghan, if you have any questions with credentials, with power, with seating, we will have a full seating chart for race day that we're working on, so don't worry about coming in early and trying to find a seat. We'll have a seat for you.
I'd like to introduce New York Roadrunner president and CEO, race director of the ING New York City Marathon, Mary Wittenberg. Mary?
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you, Richard. Welcome to marathon Friday. On behalf of all of us at New York Roadrunners and our chairman of the board, George Hirsch, we're so pleased you're here, and we're so pleased we're to marathon Friday.
Marathon Sunday is setting up to be a picture-perfect day. The weather is going to be fabulous. All the professional athletes have arrived. Runners from around the world have been arriving. The expo was bustling yesterday. There was a buzz in the air, and the city is bustling again.
As you know, there's a lot new this year. One of the things that's most special about this year is we celebrate New York Roadrunners' 50th anniversary, and as we celebrate our 50th anniversary, and as we celebrate the 39th running of this marathon, we've been able to spend a bit of time looking back on our rich history while we very much live in our exciting present and look forward to the future.
Today we'd also like to take advantage of our 50th anniversary and the 39th running to say a special thank you to an individual who has chronicled this sport and this event through many of the years, to an individual that shares many of the qualities of what it's going to take to win our race on Sunday. He shares the qualities with the type of athletes that are going to stand on the podium on race day.
When we think about this individual, Frank Litsky of the New York Times, we think of dedication, commitment, perseverance, ability to handle intense pressure, someone who's in it for the long run, and Frank, when we think of you, we think of excellence. We think of excellence in sports journalism, and we think of excellence as a person. And to us, you exemplify the very best of what we like to celebrate around marathon day. We congratulate you on your many, many years of writing.
When this idea came up probably ten months ago, whenever Frank called and said that he was going to retire, I said, well, Frank, okay, but we hope you're not really retiring, and I'm quite pleased -- if you read the New York Times you can read Frank Litsky almost as often as before, which is great news for all of us in this industry. But we just wanted to seize the moment to say a very deeply-felt among all of us at New York Roadrunners and I'm going to say in the industry, a thank you.
And I think evidence today of this crowd, Bert Rosenthal, longtime Associated Press; head of the Melrose Games, Howard Schmertz, is here; and this packed room, which is the most crowded room that we have seen all week. I think it's a great testament to you, Frank, so congratulations for many years of tremendous service, and we thank you on behalf of our organization, our marathon and the entire industry of running.
MARY WITTENBERG: Now, I've been looking forward to this moment. I'd like to turn the table. Does anybody have any questions for Mr. Litsky?

Q. Tell us your most memorable marathon moment.
FRANK LITSKY: Most memorable marathon moment? 1964 Olympic trials, they were combined with the Yonkers Marathon. It was a -- something like 91-degree day, humidity was around that. Buddy Edelen won the race. He had been in England training for I guess a couple years, teaching and training. And the day was so hot that Norm Higgins -- remember Norm Higgins who coached Jan Merrill? Norm, it was so hot, he ran into a wall. Not the wall, a wall. He was out of it; he just ran into a wall.
Kurt Steiner, a beloved friend who was so important to this organization in his early years, Kurt used to be in the French Foreign Legion. He passed out from the heat that day. So that was a great day. I think that was probably my favorite (laughter).
Let me say this: I'm very grateful for this recognition, and I'd like to share it with many of my colleagues, a lot of them I see here. Bert Rosenthal has been here a long time; Peter Gambaccini; Jim Dunaway; many others.
I love track and field. I've been involved with it for 60 years. I've been involved with the marathon for over 40 years and this organization for 40 years, and I remember this organization when it was Ted Corbitt and Nina and a handful of people when the world looked at it as funny, nuts, to run marathons and marathon running wasn't what it is now.
The sport grew beautifully. It had a lot of -- the track and field itself had so much newspaper attention years ago. There were more papers. The papers were wider (laughter). The type was smaller. There was a lot more room to get this stuff in the paper, and times have changed, as you well know. Papers got narrower by this much a year or so ago. It saves millions of dollars, just less paper to use.
The business, newspaper business, is in a bad way. A lot of papers are going to go bye-bye. Some of the papers we read are going to go bye-bye. Some of them are in deep trouble. Everybody, of course, doesn't get news in the newspaper anymore; they get it on the web. Nobody gets news.
Young people read, get their news on the web; young people don't get their news. They don't care.
Now, it's difficult; track used to have all this space. Every paper with a track writer. When there were seven New York papers, they all had track writers. There aren't seven New York papers anymore and there's no track writer in any paper. People who write write track, but they don't spend a lot of time doing it.
The sport struggles for space. There are some professional sports that become addictive, that become so important. There are more teams, more leagues and less space in the paper. So track has to fight, and marathon is part of track and field. It has to fight for space, has to fight for attention. And it's difficult; it takes a great organization like this one to get it done, and there aren't many New York Roadrunners organizations out there.
I've seen this organization grow; it's grown beautifully. This race has grown beautifully. This race was a bunch of guys running in Central Park, plus a couple of women. Now it's a happening.
Mary was saying the economic impact of this race in New York City is $220 million. That's a lot of dough. I wish that people would buy papers with that (laughter).
It's a difficult time for everyone and everything, and I'm delighted to see the marathon thrive and delighted to see this whole thing. I'm delighted to see all of you. I really appreciate you listening and coming out. Thank you.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you, Frank. We have our commitment. We will continue to do everything we can to continue to put on such a show that the coverage will continue to grow and we continue to do all we can to make sure this is a very positive, important celebration and happening for many years to come.
Our notes to Frank: "Frank, it's nice to know a living legend. All of us at New York Roadrunners are lucky to know you and work with you. The marathon, New York Roadrunners and the sport are all tremendous beneficiaries of your stellar work. Deepest appreciation and loads of respect and love from all of us at New York Roadrunners. We congratulate you and we thank you."
MARY WITTENBERG: As the editors of the New York Times know, this is very special to me because I've always been afraid of Frank (laughter). He's a tough journalist.
I think this is an appropriate beginning with thanks, nice segue to thanks.
Next up, on behalf of all the New York Roadrunners I'm so pleased to welcome one of our most important partners in putting on this race, and somebody that we say thank you to on a daily basis. Our partner, ING, our first-ever title sponsor since 2003, and a partner that we continue to appreciate because they share our commitment and belief in the sport and our commitment and belief in kids and getting kids running as the future of this sport. Please join me in welcoming executive vice president of ING America's Tom Waldron.
TOM WALDRON: Well, thank you, Mary. Thank you for the very nice introduction. On behalf of ING, I'd like to thank everyone for joining us today, especially our elite runners and our very special guest of honor that I will introduce in a few minutes. We'd also like to recognize the New York Roadrunners as Mary said earlier. With Mary and George here today, we congratulate you on your 50-year anniversary.
TOM WALDRON: As Mary said, this is our sixth year sponsoring the marathon, and we could not be more excited about it. As you probably already know, our company color is orange, and it could not be -- I was thinking we're very lucky today because it's Halloween. Our company color is orange, the trees are orange, and this is definitely going to be quite an orange city for this weekend's wonderful race.
As Mary said, we're very proud of our relationship with the Roadrunners but also our commitment to New York City over the last several years. As I often say, when ING is involved in a sponsorship, we're not a drive-by, we're there to stay, and we get very involved in not only the race but also in the community and children in any way that we can help.
People often ask me what's with ING and running, and basically what we say is we believe there's a definite correlation between being fiscally fit and physically fit. Bottom line, when you want to be physically fit, you want to run a race, you set a goal. You plan to get to that goal over time. You have milestones and you train, just like you set up for a financial plan over time. Very diligent, very structured, and over time unbelievable goals can be met.
Of course, as you know, when you're in a job like mine marketing people are always offering you free advice, so last week I got free advice from my wife, and basically she's a big runner, but she said, you know, with all this market turmoil on Wall Street and everybody stressed out, I'm reading all these articles about stress, and they're saying the best thing you can do is work out. But guess what the best workout is for stress; running. So why aren't you using that running thing in dealing with the stress on Wall Street. So that's one more thing we can achieve this weekend.
In terms of commitment to the community, one of the things that ING has done is over the last several years we've donated over $2 million to youth running programs throughout the United States, and to date we've had over 30,000 children across the United States be introduced to the sport of running. And here in New York actually 10,000 students have been touched by this program through really two things that we put together with the New York Roadrunners.
One of them is the Mighty Milers, which includes a sponsorship of running programs in over 12 New York City schools. And secondly, we support 14 different park districts in the summer track and field program to introduce children to the sport of running during the summer. So between these two we're quite happy with the response and the activity that we've had in the community.
You've also probably seen these orange laces all over the place, and what these are all about is this is part of our ING Run for Something Better program, and where it came about is even though -- although we've been donating the money to marathons and running programs, the people who run have asked us how can we become involved in this program, as well. It's more than just the running.
So a few years ago we developed the ING Run for Something Better orange laces program where people can buy these laces for $10 when they register for the race. They're sold at running stores all over the country, and the amount of money that we have raised is unbelievable, and every cent for the orange laces goes to Children's running programs.
In fact, this year's race, this year alone, over 2,500 runners in this weekend's race have bought the laces, so $25,000 right there for children's running programs.
I guess I would say it's the way the community and the athletes have become involved in more than running just for themselves.
I'd like to introduce to you at this point in time, we have some very special guests. We have our soccer Olympic gold medalist Brandi Chastain to my left here. Brandi, glad to have you with us. And next to Brandi we have Olympic gold medal gymnast Kerri Strug.
TOM WALDRON: How about some words of wisdom from both of you? Brandi, you want to go first?
BRANDI CHASTAIN: You set me up for at that. I don't know that I have words of wisdom. Actually what I was thinking about sitting over there listening to Frank talk and Mary talk about the importance of track and field and running and being physically fit is this is my first time, so I've had quite a few significant first times in my athletic career, being the first women's team to win an Olympic gold medal in '96 in Atlanta, being the first team to win a World Cup championship in 1991 in China. To have something be your first is pretty special, and to be able to do it under the umbrella of ING and Run for Something Better, like you just said, to do it for more than just yourself, for a great cause, for getting kids active.
Kerri and I participate in programs in the places that we live to hopefully help young girls and young boys see the value of physical fitness and taking charge of their lives. So for me this is an incredible event to be not only here to run for myself but to run for a group of people next to me and stand in the same room as these types of runners is truly amazing for me.
I'm just thrilled to be here. I think this is just an amazing event, and I'm very grateful.
TOM WALDRON: We're thrilled to have you, as well, Brandi. Thank you very much.
TOM WALDRON: Kerri has got quite some stories to tell.
KERRI STRUG: I'm very excited to be here and part of ING's Run for Something Better program, as well. I think the majority of my adolescence I was focused just on myself and my gymnastics, and since Atlanta I've been more focused on our youth and many more facets, so this is a really easy fit for me, something I really do believe in, and I'm really excited to run on Sunday. A little nervous, too, especially after hearing all the history and seeing all of you.
I have run a few marathons before just for fun. I think being an athlete, you are Type A and you want those goals, and it's hard for me to get motivated to work out in the morning, probably like many of you, and so when I have a goal like this, I have a little bit more incentive to get to the gym.
You know, I'm going to be hopefully in the middle of the pack is what I'm aiming for. I was laughing when the gentlemen came in, and I said, you know, I'm probably going to be on mile 12 or 13 and they're going to be done, eating, drinking, relaxing. But it's all about the process, and I'm excited to challenge myself and raise money for a good cause.
TOM WALDRON: As I said, we've been involved in the race for six years, and every year I have to say, Mary, that the Roadrunners, every year we have something special happen. We have special people every year, we have pleasant surprises every year, so I'm glad to have both of you here with us. Again, on behalf of ING we thank you for letting us have the honor of sponsoring this race with the ING New York Marathon. We think it's going to be a great weekend, and hopefully everybody enjoys their time.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thanks so much. Brandi and Kerri have a lot of fans out in the streets. We know we have a lot of fans, we know they're going to have a lot of fans out on Sunday, so we want to make sure that everybody knows who you are as you go flying by, so Brandi, Kerri, your official athlete bibs.
MARY WITTENBERG: We're going to pause for a moment and come back and celebrate our No. 1 moment in New York Roadrunner history. Kerri and Brandi will stay as we then introduce our professional athletes, and then everybody will be available, including Kerri and Brandi, afterwards for questions.

End of FastScripts

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297