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October 30, 2009
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
MARY WITTENBERG: We'd like to say the best in the world come here to run. And I'm so proud we can say the same about our wheelchair athletes in our wheelchair race. As we begin, I want to, where's Bob Laufer, I want to give a special shout out to our wheelchair race, Bob Laufer who has been critical in building this event over the last few years.
When we get serious about something, we get really serious about it. And this race has become vitally important to us and critical to us that it's the best in the world. This year's race. Every year we say best field ever, it feels like. I think we're going to have a hard time next year.
This is a really incredible field this year. We've got champions from Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin, Oita, it's really topnotch. I think top 16 men in the world, Top 10 women in the world. And they'll all be vying for what has become, as it is in running, the toughest podium to make, and the toughest title. They'll be vying for $65,000 in prize money.
And we're just especially pleased to be able to introduce on behalf of the field two athletes who we've gotten to know and love here at New York Road Runners. First our three-time defending champion, one of the most dominant athletes in any sport in the world. His record is outstanding. From 2001 to 2008, he was actually a young guy when he first started here. From 2001 to 2008 he's competed in 32 marathons, won 20 of them. 32 marathons, think about this, athletes, 32 podium finishes, that is extraordinary. No one tackles the course with as much grit and determination.
He's overcome a lot of different things in the middle of this race, including a fall. This year he comes in it, I would think, with a lot of pressure. I don't know. We welcome back Kurt Fearnley.
And to Kurt's right, really pleased, a favorite of ours. We've gotten to spend some time together. I love this story. We love comebacks in New York. In 2007 she was our last place finisher. She's a sprint specialist. She said no more of this, Bob Laufer wouldn't hear of that. She came back last year to be on the podium and take the bronze medal.
So it's with great pleasure that I introduce and welcome Christie Dawes. Christie is the national record holder from Australia in both the 1500 and the 5,000. So Edith and the rest of the ladies know they better be awfully careful if Christie's there at the finish. So we welcome you both, and want to turn everybody's attention to a video.
If you like that video, wait till you see the video on the television show on Sunday. We're going to introduce all our athletes up here, and open it up for questions after we show you one more video. Next up, as we celebrate our 40th running, very important to have champions in our wheelchair race, and very important to have former champions and champions from around the world here for our running race.
And I'm really pleased, as you know, to introduce as part of simply our total best field ever, really pleased Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot. Robert may have been a last minute replacement this year, but I don't think he's an afterthought to any single competitor.
Robert, people don't usually clap at press conferences. That is a pretty impressive response. A four-time winner in Boston, one-time winner in Chicago, a zero time winner at the ING New York City Marathon so far. But a gentleman who has raced really well here and been part of some big races.
He's overcome many odds throughout his life. Really looking forward to having you on the start line, Robert. And curious to see how you're going to do on Sunday. We wish you well.
Ludmila Petrova, no doubt the surprise of last year's ING New York City Marathon with her second place finish, and something of a surprise way back when when you won for the first time here. Talk about hanging tough. Ludmila is certainly this event's most durable athlete.
And I watched last year's race many times over, and grit and determination can well be applied to you as well. Ludmila, we're really pleased to have you back and the 40th wouldn't be the same without you.
The 40th would definitely not be the same without our next athlete. We have a lot of favorites, but Hendrick has a very special place with all of us in New York. We'd like to claim him as one of our very own here. This is Hendrick's 8th ING New York City Marathon.
Many years ago when he first won, Patrick, you might want to pay attention to this, Hendrick was in the Half Marathon specialist, and hadn't really transitioned into the marathon yet, and he did it. And ever since then Hendrick's been known as one of our best marathoners anywhere in the world, and he's been the race maker here many times in New York. So we always want him back. We love his style. He makes things happen, Hendrick Ramaala.
A tiny woman, a towering figure in our sport. The first Black African woman to win gold in the Olympic games, an 11-time Olympic and World Championship medalist. I really think we should feel privileged to be in her presence and to have her in our race, Derartu Tulu.
I think he's the most dangerous man in field. Patrick Kwambai comes in as the third fastest man ever in the marathon. He's run very smart and very well here. Check his records in our New York City half. Check his records in the marathon. He knows how to run and looking for his coming out party, James, we know you had a tough flight. And you and Robert had a little sleepover I understand when you didn't get to get on the flight you wanted to get on. But you're here, we're really pleased to have you. We welcome James Kwambai.
Last but not least, I think Patrick's going to take some cover in their incredible field and have a little less pressure, he might be considered a bit of a rookie with only one marathon to his name, and what a marathon it was with 2:06 and change in Rotterdam this year.
This man is a megatalent. He's won at many distances. Won our 10K here. He's been on our podium before in our New York City Half Marathon. Really another man who I think feels at home here in New York, a big deal for us to have him in this field. He's going to make it interesting, and adds a whole other element of intrigue, Patrick Makau. And to welcome all of them, a video.
MARY WITTENBERG: Travel schedules changed, hence why the video doesn't reflect all of these athletes.
RICHARD FINN: Yes, and we apologize to Patrick and James, the fact that they were in other videos, and. We're going to start in the front here. We'll just ask for a quick comment from all of our participants, and then we're going to open it up for some questions up here. We'd like to start with Christie. If you could say a couple of words about the race, and coming back to New York.
CHRISTIE DAWES: I always love to come to New York. Of it's not only a great race, but it's a fantastic city, and I think if you had to live in any city in the world, it would hands down be New York.
I'm looking forward to this year, it's much warmer. I'm from Australia, so I'm not used to the cold. I froze my ass off last year. So it's a lot warmer this year.
I'm really just looking forward to having a really good race. I hear it's May rain, but that doesn't really bother me. We're all in it together, and the conditions are the same for everyone. So I think it should be a really good race.
KURT FEARNLEY: Yeah, it's good to be back for, I think, this is my fifth run in New York. So it's my favorite race of the year. It's my last race of the year. So, it's, you know, it's always good to be back.
Again, Bob Laufer, and Kathy, you've done an amazing job again scouting around and getting all the best guys here. So it means so much to all of us because we know that the winner in New York can win anything. So good job, guys, and looking forward to Sunday.
RICHARD FINN: We'll get Kurt's story about what he's doing a few weeks after the race a little bit later, which is quite a story. Quite a story. We'll start here with Robert.
ROBERT KIPKOECH CHERUIYOT: First I'd like to thank you for being here. And this is the second time I run here. In 2005 where I was number four, and I've never run here again. This is the second time. I'm very happy to be here and compete with the strong guys to win for on Sunday.
RICHARD FINN: Ludmila, your thoughts about coming back, especially after last year's astounding performance here by you.
LUDMILA PETROVA: I'm in New York more than ten times. I am very happy to be here always because here is very nice and fun people. And very good organization.
And thank you so much for invitation again. I think it will be okay on Sunday. I will give you maybe my little happy to you, too. Thank you. You will be happy on Sunday for me. I will hope. Thank you.
RICHARD FINN: Hendrick? We always welcome Hendrick back, and we know that Hendrick will be right there in the mix of things as we hope and look forward to.
HENDRICK RAMALA: Thank you. I'm very happy. I'm excited to be back for the 40th Anniversary. It's a special race this year. And I know I have trained very well. I guess all athletes have trained very well also, because this one is going to be the one to me. So this is a special one.
So I have to say thank you to the New York Road Runners for all these things for us athletes. And for looking after us and for inviting us all the time to this big race.
So Sunday hopefully everything will be well. The weather will cooperate and athletes can give it a very good show. Thank you.
RICHARD FINN: We always know that Hendrick, you always give a good show. Derartu, your thoughts?
DERARTU TULU: I'm very happy to be back here for the second time. This will be my second time running in New York. And on Sunday I expect along with my colleagues I'll be able to put up a good competition. I'm happy that after giving birth for a second time I am back in top competition, and I am looking forward to put up a good race on Sunday. I hope with God's help I will do well. Thank you to the organizers for inviting me back.
JAMES KWAMBAI: Thank you very much to all organizers for New York City Marathon. I think this is my second time to be at New York City Marathon, and I'm very happy for inviting me once again. And on Sunday I know everybody's very good to run the race on Sunday, but also me I am very good, too. We'll see what's going to be on Sunday. Thank you very much.
PATRICK MAKAU: I appreciate for the ING Organization to bring me back here, you know, especially for this because I have been here for other small races. But I'm here for the marathon. And I'm hoping everything will be okay on Sunday. Thank you.
RICHARD FINN: Questions?
Q. James, I think there is a pole being conducted this morning as to who the favorite in this race should be. And with Martin Lel out, a lot of people are voting for you. I just wonder how you feel about the idea that an awful lot of people are expecting that you could be the person to win in this race?
JAMES KWAMBAI: I think because of what your people they think, you know, for what you are saying here, some would say that I'm that fastest man in the world. But you know for when I prepare for this marathon, I cannot say that I'm coming here to run to be faster than what I did before. But I'm going to run to try my best only to win. Because I know this course is very hard, and I'll try. Thanks.
Q. Kurt, I'm just wondering when you get to the hill on 5th Avenue, there is that one long mile uphill and it's 21 and a half miles or whatever into the race. What kind of challenge is that for you? I imagine for an awful lot of the race coming up to that appointed you're pretty much sprinting and going pretty quickly. What kind of adjustments do you have to make for? What's probably going to be like five minutes of an uphill grind there.
KURT FEARNLEY: That part of the course finished me in 2005. I was up with Ernie, actually and another athlete, Aaron, I think. And we were all in a group together. And I attacked up that hill. It was my first New York run, and, you know, that can be painful, I think. And I blew up there and hit the wall and finished two or three minutes behind.
So I have a couple of nightmares about that one every now and then. But by that stage you're well and truly busted, I think, and you've just got to find your rhythm and make sure you stick to it. And if you did what I did in 2005, the next two or three K once you're at the top can be tough. Can definitely cost you the race.
Q. I was wondering how -- I know you continue to train on the same 3.5 kilometer loop. And I know you like to do the same things. This being the 40th Anniversary of the race and you coming into it later in your career, I'm wondering, first, if you've done anything differently? And second, if you feel like with your experience that will help you in this race?
HENDRICK RAMALA: Yeah, I've been doing the same all things. Same training. Some hill sessions, yeah, trained on the same loop. I'm not going to change a winning formula. I mean, I won with the same training in 2004, done well since then. So I'm still doing the same thing.
But the main thing is now I'm getting kind of older. But I have to know age is just a number. I don't feel old that's the thing. It's just a number. I'm 37, that's it. I still feel I have a few great races in me. I just need to keep myself motivated. That's the main thing.
RICHARD FINN: Hendrick, just to follow up, you being here as often as you have been here running, do you think your experience on the course or running with no pacemakers, you know that, do you think that can be of any advantage to you on Sunday?
HENDRICK RAMALA: Yes, it's my 8th running of ING and New York Marathon. And I think I know this course by heart. If I lose my eyes, I think I can see where the hard part -- yeah, seriously. Learned this course well. I know where to hit them hard or where to slow down if I'm doing good shape. So Sunday, we'll see what will happen on Sunday.
I have to respect the competition this time. It's very hard. We have all these great runners here. The men's race is very tough, we have very fast guys, and guys like Cheruiyot here. Guys with experience. So I have to be careful what I do.
But I have to say with Martin Lel out of the race, it's opening a new chapter, so I think I look a little bit better for most of us. Thank you. Sorry for that. I feel sorry for him, but, I mean, so (laughing).
RICHARD FINN: So you really believe with Martin out it becomes a whole new race?
HENDRICK RAMALA: Yes.
RICHARD FINN: We would just caution Hendrick to make sure you run with your eyes open here, because we have made a couple minor changes on the course.
Q. James, I know you're a super fast marathoner and third in the world, and these are on flat courses like Berlin, and I know you've been doing Half Marathons in the Netherlands which is a flat country. What have you been doing differently for this incredibly challenging course with the late race hills in training?
JAMES KWAMBAI: I think that it's not -- I did not change anything about my training. The training that I used when I was running in Berlin and Rotterdam is the same course. There is nothing I changed so.
RICHARD FINN: Are you training on a hilly or flat course? Whether it's for here or for Berlin?
JAMES KWAMBAI: I'm training on not very flat and not very hill. So it's something up-and-down sometimes. It's a mix. So I cannot say that I am training when I am coming to New York I should train in uphill, or when I am on a flat course, I'm supposed to training on flat course. But I'm training at the same course there is nothing I changed.
Q. Ludmila, you won this race in 2000 when you were 32. Last year you were runner up at age 40, and a faster time even than the year you won the race. Do you see yourself slowing down at all? Are you training any differently as a masters runner than you did when you were younger?
LUDMILA PETROVA: I miss with myself, my years are going up, but I am running faster and faster. If I run on Sunday well, I will be happy. New York, again, will give me happy. If not, I will be happy, too, because to run with strong athletes like Paula, like Derartu it is happy, too. Because not everybody can run together the athletes like them.
I didn't change my training. I training like many years ago. Maybe little -- not much, but little?
Q. The American field here on Sunday is going to be one of the strongest we've seen in a while. I want to get your thoughts on what you think about your American competitors for this race?
ROBERT KIPKOECH CHERUIYOT: I think that will runners all over the world, because they are very strong, as you see in Berlin. All the 5,000 they are running and all the marathon they are doing. Like Ryan Hall, he is wonderful. Guys like us, we are all the same. There is no one that can say that Americans are slow. But we are all together. We know that when we are running, you know Ryan is here, who is here, and who is here.
HENDRICK RAMALA: I agree with Robert. The American athletes have improved a lot since 2000. I remember in 2000 they just want a representative, and now a lot of them started to make the long distance events. So we're very pleased for them, and this is their championship. This race on Sunday is their championship.
You have guys like Meb, Ryan, Abdi, yeah. On a good day they should be able to win the race. I mean, it's all in the mind. I don't know if they believe it.
They have to believe it because they have all these things. They have camps, they have all this support. They have the talent. They have all the support. They have the best coaching out there. They have more advantages than us. They don't even travel to come. I traveled 18 hours to come here. They don't need to do that. It's all in their mind if they want to win the race they can take it. But it's very hard. They are not going to get it easy (laughing). We are not going to give it to them, that's the thing.
RICHARD FINN: We will say at New York Road Runners we've told them that, it's not going to be easy for the field. I do want to ask one more question before we finish up. Kurt, we don't want you to look past Sunday. But if you could just briefly tell the audience what you have planned for your next I guess adventure or race or challenge?
KURT FEARNLEY: Yeah, next Saturday after we get home me and about 15 of my family and a couple of friends will all be crawling through the jungle in Papua, New Guinea for 12 days, 100 kilometers so 60 miles, we're crawling along the Kokoda Track. Raising money and awareness for a men's health charity, which is why I'm sporting a NASCAR style mustache.
And it's going to be a long 12 days in the last four months until Chicago. I've taken four or five months off racing and been crawling up-and-down the hills around home, and getting myself ready for this trek. So it's going to be a long, long month.
RICHARD FINN: Again, we don't like to applaud, but we do applaud you in that and wish you best after Sunday on that great endeavor.
KURT FEARNLEY: Thanks. And I've got to thank New York Road Runners as well from Mary all the way through that the respect the wheelchair division is shown. That's why we're all here as well. And we really appreciate that respect because it doesn't happen for wheelchair racers all year round.
So to have this race is the reason that it's going to continue to be one of the strongest events for wheelchair athletes, the marathons, just because it's not every day that we get to do things like this weekend.
RICHARD FINN: Is Bob Laufer? Bob in the back. He is the wheelchair race coordinator, and has been at the helm of the wheelchair race for several years: We thank Bob for all of his hard work and efforts.
KURT FEARNLEY: He's an all right bloke, too.
Q. How are you feeling?
HENDRICK RAMALA: I'm fine.
Q. Nice to see you. Is this No. 8 for you? Your 8th marathon?
HENDRICK RAMALA: Yeah, I'm going for No. 8 this weekend.
Q. So experience is on your side. What short of shape are you coming into the race?
HENDRICK RAMALA: I think I'm in good shape. Mentally I'm very well. I trained well. I'm here. Hopefully on Sunday I'll be feeling good and feeling and the weather will cooperate. We'll see who is the winner?
Q. Your experience of 7 previous races, how important will that be come Sunday? Have you raced much here in New York?
HENDRICK RAMALA: We have faster runners than myself, James Kwambai, 2:04 mile, and I know the New York course is be a fast course. So the hills will hold them in part, Central Park will be faster. Hopefully I'll be there to ease their pressure. To take advantage of the park.
Q. Do you know what it takes to win a New York Marathon, you also know what it feels like to lose the New York Marathon by the slim margin.
HENDRICK RAMALA: I have to say the key to that part of the race is coming back into town at First Avenue. The pace changes there. And then you have to save some energy for the park, because if you use too much energy on First Avenue, they're not going to have much in Central Park to go for the line.
Q. There's no Martin Lel. You're pleased about that?
HENDRICK RAMALA: It opens the race. I have to tell you, I was worried about Martin Lel. I trained really hard to make sure I was going to match him to the finish. And now he's not here, it opens the race. But at his age I know he was going to give us a fight. And you never know at what point that can do.
So to not have him in the race I'm sorry. But the race is open.
Q. Who is going to be the favorite?
HENDRICK RAMALA: No, I don't want to be the favorite. I don't know who is going to take that. Let's give it to Kwambai.
Q. James, you said you had really changed your training for New York, why is that?
JAMES KWAMBAI: Yeah, I did not change I cannot say that I changed. So maybe I did not change in my program the way we are training for a flat course, you know, I know that have the course here is hard. But I don't want to make my mind to be a training. And so I did not decide to change.
Q. Do you feel like are you concerned about the laid race hills in Central Park? At the end of the race there are some tough hills at the end. Are you concerned about that? Are you going to be cautious maybe at the beginning?
JAMES KWAMBAI: I think probably in the beginning it's a problem, because you know everybody's still little bit in front. So if you're only in the beginning. But after that it will be fine for me.
Q. You've run just the two marathons?
JAMES KWAMBAI: This is my second time out. Second time to be here.
Q. When was the first time?
JAMES KWAMBAI: In 2007.
Q. What do you think of the fact that there are no pacemakers?
JAMES KWAMBAI: You know we like the pacemakers. But here they don't have the pacemakers. So but, you know, it depends who is going to be in front. And me, I always stay quiet because I'm running with the others.
Q. So you'll probably let somebody else -- you'll probably tuck in behind somebody else.
JAMES KWAMBAI: Yeah, I'm staying with sometimes maybe 7 other guys maybe I will be in front.
But for me, the beginning is the problem, because, you know, some people they like to.
Q. Back and forth?
JAMES KWAMBAI: Yeah, back and forth. So for me.
Q. So most of your training is where?
JAMES KWAMBAI: In Kenya.
Q. And when did you begin to run? What age did you begin to run at?
JAMES KWAMBAI: 2002.
Q. Your first race was a road race?
JAMES KWAMBAI: Yeah, road races, in 10k in U.S. in 2002. In Utica.
Q. Did you, how did you do in some of those early races?
JAMES KWAMBAI: I was 8th position, and I was 7th at the Boilermaker.
Q. Did the absence of Lel change anything in your mind?
JAMES KWAMBAI: Nothing.
Q. Same race as it was?
JAMES KWAMBAI: The same.
Q. Are James, I guess, is one of the few people who has beaten you in a race. Do you have extra respect for James, or is that just inexperience that brought that?
PATRICK MAKAU: Of course. Of course I was expecting something, but me, myself. I knew what I was searching for. But just to be behind him, just to know how long I can go.
Q. So that was more a practice. Your first marathon was a practice marathon?
PATRICK MAKAU: Yes.
Q. So this is the real thing today, tomorrow?
PATRICK MAKAU: Yes.
Q. I think you were supposed to come to the healthy kidney race, the 10k?
PATRICK MAKAU: I was to come.
Q. But you were injured?
PATRICK MAKAU: Yeah, I was injured. I was there.
Q. But you didn't come to the half?
PATRICK MAKAU: Yeah, I got some knee injury.
Q. Have you recovered completely?
PATRICK MAKAU: Yeah, yeah, of course I've just recovered.
Q. How fast do you think you can go in the marathon? In your mind do you think about going for the world record in the marathon? Is that something you're thinking about yet?
PATRICK MAKAU: With some experience, and with some marathons, you come in my mind, and I I'll try that.
Q. How did you choose the New York City Marathon for your first marathon?
PATRICK MAKAU: Because this marathon is challenging. If you can do it in New York City. You can do it anywhere.
Q. Have you talked with other people about this race in particular? Have you talked to Robert or James or anyone?
PATRICK MAKAU: Of course when we are training usually we discuss the course. Which part we're going to go faster, yeah.
Q. Do you think you'll be talking on the course?
PATRICK MAKAU: It will depend.
Q. Do you have any plans to work together?
PATRICK MAKAU: Yeah, yeah, most of the times we usually work together.
End of FastScripts