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November 2, 2010

Meb Keflezighi

Mary Wittenberg


RICHARD FINN: Welcome, everybody, including our global TV audience to the ING New York City Marathon and the first of our daily news conferences.
I'd like to introduce New York Road Runners president and CEO, Mary Wittenberg.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thank you so much, Richard. On behalf of all of us Road Runners, welcome to the 41st running of the ING New York City Marathon, an event that has grown to be so much more than a race.
At the same time every year we have the most extraordinary competition up front that is so intense that includes the greatest athletes from around the world. And on race day, we get to crown a champion among champions, the King of the Road in New York City.
Last year was a simply extraordinary race, and what a very, very special moment when we got to crown a champion who embodies exactly what it is that makes this race so much more than just a race.
We got to crown our champion, our gentleman who is about heart and soul and perseverance and overcoming odds. He travels with 11 family members here, and he's Mr. Family, husband and father of three. But a gentleman who cares about so much more than himself, and is about something way bigger than himself, and what he does is about something a lot more than running on a day-to-day basis.
Meb, your victory last year was so deeply, deeply satisfying. It felt like a team victory to us. And New York Road Runners can't and don't play favorites, at the same time, Meb's family. When you crossed that line, it was not only an historic moment in American running, it was not only an historic moment in history of this great race, but it was a moment that all of us here at Road Runners will forever treasure and feel a part of.
So for all of us, it's just really, really rewarding to welcome you back. We're really excited to see what's ahead for this year. So we want to thank you, Meb. And we look forward to seeing you out there on race day. We look forward to sharing this entire week with you.
So while it's a race we'll never forget, it's so good that it's always worth watching it again. So let's take a look at the video.
(Video Playing)
RICHARD FINN: Brings back some memories, doesn't it, Meb? Any reflections upon a year ago right out here in Central Park?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Thanks, Richard and Mary and the New York Road Runners for hosting a great event. It's always been a dream of mine to win the New York City Marathon. Even watching it now a year later with the history, I cry. Because when you really want something you keep trying, you keep trying, second place, third place, ninth place. You say it seems so far away.
But one day you keep believing in what you're doing and you are committed to it, and things will work out. It happens probably when you least expect it. Not when I was in second in the Olympics, not several weeks later, but five years later or close to six, and it happened.
But a year later now, it's a year that changed my life. That is the bottom line of it. It's just great opportunities to write a book, set up my foundation things like that. New York really did it.
It's a wonderful event, not only nationally, internationally and wherever you are, it's a wonderful event. It's great. First class always. You guys do a great job. And who wouldn't want to come to New York just to visit, but to be able to run it and to come out on top. That means so much to me.
So I tried so many times to get a win, and I finally got a win. Thank you to all the people supporting me. And I can't say just the names, but thousands of thousands of people, but to my wife, my parents, my brothers and sisters, Coach Larsen, you know, my team, my Mammoth Track Club. It's been an awesome, awesome experience. To make it happen, to make it a year and to have that last year, it was a life-changing experience.
RICHARD FINN: Any predictions for this year, Meb?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: As always, it's a stacked field, and that's how New York is. New York brings the best in the world, and I'm looking forward to it.
I feel my conditioning has gone well, and I'm excited to be here because this is what I'm waiting for all year long. It's going to be fun and exciting, and it's going to be the person who is the most fit and fit and strong will prevail, and I hope from last year I can do it again.
THE MODERATOR: Let me introduce this is one of our Foot Locker five borough challenge students. I think one of your teachers is running in the challenge.

Q. We have a health program, and what does running do to change your life? We wondered if you could talk about?
THE MODERATOR: How did running change your health and help your lives?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Well, first of all I'd like to thank also Foot Locker, and I believe the foundation is great to have you guys come here and ask me questions.
It is great to be able to -- it's a way of life, living a healthy lifestyle. If you can be healthier and fitter and stronger and better, you can be better in life with work or whatever profession you have. So why not start early to get the discipline and hard work and patience to get it done and the commitment that you put in.
So running is a great tool to teach you strength in life ahead. You might not be running a marathon right now, but it's running one mile at a time and things will fall into place. In the schools, you get the results and that will help you as a person in life.

Q. There are a lot of great runners in the field. I'm just wondering if you're anticipating an even faster first half than you've gone through in the past?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: There have been Half Marathons, but this is a marathon race. I have to remember that. I have to be really careful especially on First Avenue. Coach Larsen and I have talked about what to expect, what not to expect.
But the best in the world will be there, which is five plus so I have to be careful. There are some guys you have to see who they are and what their experience in the marathon is.
But I remember first time I ran in 2002 in my first marathon, and it was 1:03:45 or so. And it was halfway, also trying to get through Central Park in this condition in good condition and up with the pack and feeling good with a little workout. I've just got to rely on my experience and my training and the people that I trust to come here.

Q. I know you ran the San Jose Half Marathon in preparation for this race. But do you have any other things that you do to prepare yourself for this week and this marathon?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: I just did San Jose like I did last year. But by winning New York Marathon last year, a lot of doors opened for me in sponsorships and things like that. With Sony, and my all time sponsors, Nike and Power Bar, so I'm thrilled with that.
In San Jose I ran about 45 seconds slower. But one of my dreams came true. It's not really a dream, but beyond a dream, to be inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame Friday night. So I was busy driving from Mammoth to L.A., L.A. to San Jose.
So there was a lot of travelling and obligations. I'm probably behind than I was last year. But I'm healthy, I'm here. That's what you can ask for getting to the marathon, getting to the start line healthy and having the preparation. And I have the runs that I had last year, so I'm excited.

Q. Do you see Haile Gebrselassie as a major threat to your second victory here?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Well, Haile's, Haile. If he comes up like he did in good shape or if he ran behind, we have to beat him. But this is New York, and you compete against the best. He's been the best for a long time. Done very well. But the course is different than what he has run, and we'll see what he scores.
(Indiscernible) they have a little leverage, but with the time that he had over everybody else. But there are plenty of others to worry about. I can't just pick that one guy. I've experienced that. Do not count anybody out.

Q. Do you feel pressure to beat your victory?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: I don't know if it's pressure. But for me everything that I do from here on is crossing the finish line. I have a wonderful career to win a major in my first and only marathon so far. And if I don't win anymore, I'll be satisfied because this is the race that I really wanted to win.
It happened to me, and great things have happened. But I can dream again. I'll reach for the title again on Sunday. I can only concentrate on what I can do. And Coach Larsen and my team have worked very hard to get us here and to give it the best shot.
I think I'm ready to do that. My preparation has been, even, though I'm not really sharp, my work is done. I'm here in one piece. I'm excited. Who would not be excited to be just here. It's a great time in my life. To have my name be called the defending champion of the New York City Marathon, and I wrote a book, so many things that have happened.

Q. You held the American record in track for nine years. Finally went this year. Are you completely done with the track? Are you committed to marathon or do you have any interest in going back there and trying to run fast again?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: In 1998 when I finished UCLA, it led me to say, hey, with the sponsorships I'll be able to run. With that, so many great things have happened. From (Indiscernible) ran a phenomenal race and assisting by me around town or something.
But this is representing people and I'm happy for them, I congratulated them and just said, hey, for me I still think that I'll be competitive again, but I'll also look to 2012 especially at marathons. But it's still fun to go run track once in a while. It's just there are a lot of guys that do that, if it fits, it fits. If it doesn't, I'll concentrate on the marathon.

Q. When you were at San Jose, you said you enjoy the race. It was a fun race for you. But New York meant all business. What's that mean and tell me how you trained for this business?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: This is also fun (laughing). New York is just I got a few obligations that I do Thursday or Friday morning. It's all get up on my feet and concentrate on myself and my sponsors understand. Like some small races like San Jose, I don't mind going to the booth or things like that.
But right now it's business means getting the best out of myself and try to push more where my talent is, and work, and all that hard work's going to show.

Q. How do your nerves calm before a big race?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Well, I wasn't nervous usually in high school. But you're going to get nervous no matter what when you think about it. But I just remember just do the preparation before. Just visualize running, practice two or three weeks and visualize yourself racing. And then on race day visualize, all right, it might come down to this race. It might be the last mile, and you have to work on your form and things like that.
So when it comes to racing, the work is done, so you just have to relax and all the hard work and visualization is in the past and just relax.
I have been nervous before. In 1996 in Oregon, I write about it in the book, but I was clearly running the race in my head. I was really like sweating was drenching out of my head because I was thinking about how I was going to run, how I was going to do my hand in the race. Just all things mentally going on, and the next day I was wiped out. I was done just like I was racing because you overanalyze and things like that.
Now I visualize weeks and months ahead, so I'm prepared for it. On Saturday night, you get a good night's sleep and there is no problem because you believe you have the preparation.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your book, about your story and when the book came out and what it's about?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Thanks. It's "Run to Overcome." It talks about life. It talks about my how I began, and then to New York, and how I got and started my running started because of PE.
I wanted to get an A in seventh grade. And my parents and my teacher said, hey, go out there and do your best, if you put the effort in you get an A or B. I didn't want to get an F, so I ran as hard as I can the first time I ran a mile.
I talked about more about overcoming what my parents had in their life to give a better chance for their kids. It's about me, my high school days, overcoming obstacles and challenges in life, so it's very personal. It's a family story, and I think people will enjoy it. Anything in life that you run across, it gives you tips, parenting tips and life tips and things like that.
RICHARD FINN: We're very excited here at New York Road Runners not only for Meb's book, but the co-author of the book, Dick Patrick, will be honored here on Friday as the first recipient of the George Hirsch Journalism Award, so you picked a good first author.
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: I knew when the first time in 1996 we met, so we've known each other for a long time. He's a great guy to work with. (Indiscernible) so we've spent quite a bit of time in San Diego to write a book.
And I'm thankful to Dick for giving me this opportunity, because it was a year ago today that I was given the chance, and I'm grateful for that.

Q. You talked about being race sharp. Sort of describe what that means?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: You know, by doing more races, you get faster and sharper, meaning that you try to be as quick off the ground as possible whether it's a 5K or 10K or 7-mile race. But just the training has been coming along, and you have to rely on those races also.
We've been working together. I have a guy that paces me on the bike and helps me with that. You know, the workouts have been good. I'm in solid shape and we'll see what happens after Sunday. But by sharp I mean how many races have you done or not.

Q. What will you really be doing this week? Just say you're jogging a slow 10K in the park?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Today, this week?

Q. Like tomorrow, for instance.
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Yeah, we have an interval session there this afternoon. Yeah, and after today just we'll do K's and 400s and tomorrow evening probably like six, seven miles. And then Thursday our usual three-minutes hard and after that jog.
BOB LARSEN: I'd like to follow up on one thing that Meb said about race sharpness. I think if he doesn't win on Sunday we'll ask to re-run the race the following Sunday, and he'll be sharper because he'll have that. So to clarify that, he needs one race to be ready.

Q. Talk about Haile, will this be the first time you're head-to-head?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: We started together both of us in '07 in London. Both of us DNF, did not finish. So, Haile's a great guy, and we've had tea together and talked about things. He's someone that's been a great role model.
So it's like visualize this guy who has been since high school or college, he's somebody that I can challenge him now.

Q. This is the second time you've been running marathons?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Yeah, yeah. Numerous times I ran and then the World Championships in Edmonton, Paris, and Helsinki.

Q. How close do you feel to where you were a year ago? You had some setbacks this year, physically to where you were a year ago?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: The setbacks happened early on, so that is a good thing versus four weeks ago or five weeks ago. Whereas in 2006, I had a hamstring pull with four weeks to go.
But I feel like the training we have done is solid, very comparable to what we've done last year, and, you know, that's why you race. You go into practice and you're going to race.
But I don't know what the strategy's going to be according to other people. So you can't say he ran this, can he do that again, because different guys, different weather, and things like that.

Q. What is the biggest way your life has changed since you won here last year?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Notoriety. I'm noticed more going through parking structures or airplanes or anywhere. Yesterday as soon as I got to the plane, they were like are you Meb Keflezighi? Because somebody knows somebody who does a marathon, half marathon things like that.
The guy was a runner at Stanford, Ben. He was going for some chemist award, biology or chemistry award. You know, we talked almost the whole way. He knew Coach Larsen, and he knew Coach Johnson at Stanford was his coach, so many things that relate to running in an international competition.
Obviously, I try to be the same person as possible, but there are more demands on my time. But it's great meeting people and dealing with sponsorships.

Q. Have you learned especially like preparing for a race, to really balance those demands and make sure you still get the training in?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Yeah, yeah. Surround yourself with good people. I have a great team, Coach Larsen, my manager, Howie. My wife does a lot of the people work, and Sports Entertainment has been helping out with the foundation.
So I kind of delegate people to do things for me and they actually try to make my life as easy as possible. So this is something that is serious.

Q. You talked about your notoriety after New York. Was it similar after winning the Silver medal in Athens or was it much more?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: I'm fortunate I had both. But New York, there's more things happening in New York. I was noticed very well after Athens but more so in New York. So definitely that's changed.

Q. Among other leading athletes in the race, who do you have the longest history with and who do you feel you know the best?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Out of the race competitors, probably Haile, I guess. We've been in the Olympics. First time we went with me and him, and were like, Can I get a picture with you? And in Edmonton a year later, we had tea together and talked about life in Ethiopia.

It's a small niche, we know each other very well. We speak to each other. We want the best guys to win that day, and we will cheer for them.

Q. I want to ask about your ice baths. How do you stand it?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: How do I stand it (laughing)? I read my bible. It's my time and God time. I do it in the creek usually, but when it gets too cold outside I'll do it at the house. And the kids come down and we do our prayers together, and each one puts their hands in there. And I'm like, Why do you do it, because I have to, why? You don't have to do that, you know?
But it's just a valuable time. And I have a scripture that I read almost every day. And there is a little book, the Prayer of Jabez.

Q. Do you get numb as it goes along?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: The first three minutes are the toughest. The first three days you are almost in tears sometimes you got to go in there because it's excruciating pain. When you haven't done it for a long time, the first three days or four days are brutal. But once you get to it...
I'll do it tonight. I'll have my Bible book with me and go there, and after three minutes I'm okay.

Q. Is the stream even tougher than the bathtub or anywhere else? Is it that much colder?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: In Mammoth, we're fortunate to have the creek. It's cold, if it's about 60, I'll go home and put ice on it because we're trying to keep it between 50 and 55. After that, you know, if it gets too cold, 38°, I've done it at 38°, too, which is not fun at all.
But in Mammoth, just turn it all the way cold, the water, and it will get to about 50°. But in San Diego or anywhere else, you have to put 40 pounds of ice.
So when I'm going to the grocery store and have 40 bags or sometimes 60 because I'd rather keep it in the freezer than try to make an every day trip. They're like, oh, you're having a nice party. And I'm like not the party you're thinking (laughing).

Q. You're a runner, maybe it's a dumb question. But how do you keep from dreading it? It sounds really painful?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: You know, it's almost like brushing your teeth, every day brushing your teeth. For me, it's to stay healthy for the longevity of my career. That's what I've got to do. It's not fun.
I tell my wife one thing I'm looking forward to in retirement is I don't have to sit in the ice bath (smiling). So things like that. But just got to do it.
My rule is if I'm running 90 miles a week or getting ready for a race, I have to do it. If I'm doing 45, after two weeks break after next week or so, I don't have to get there. But after that the first week of the marathon, I'll do it, because it helps you recover and bring inflammation down. It's shown that. So it's my therapy, also massages.

Q. What family members are going to be here?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: My wife and three girls are coming today, with the help of my brother and sister. My parents are coming tomorrow. My oldest brother who started running has a little trophy like this size that we have in our living room. It's a role model for us. He doesn't want to miss it.
He's coming on the red eye Friday night after work and going back to work on Monday. So Sunday night he has to go back.

Q. What does he do?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: He's an engineer.

Q. Where's that?

Q. 1993 Foot Locker championships, your father hoisted you on his shoulders, has he ever done that before or since?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: My dad did in Boston, actually. He tried to pick up Ryan Hall and me. He tried to get us up like this. But he tried to lift both of us up, yeah.
So he's a proud father, and I'm a proud father of my daughters. But he gave us opportunities. But they didn't have the opportunity. But they just wanted the best for their kids as any parents would.
For me, I'm a parent now, and I hope my girls become runners. But at the same time, as long as they're active to do other sports, I'm happy for them. If I had a boy, there would otherwise be pressure.

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