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Shalane Flanagan, Carrie Tollefson and Alan Webb Address the Media
Three of America's top distance runners, American record holder in the mile, Alan Webb, American record holder at 5000m, Shalane Flanagan, and Olympian Carrie Tollefson addressed the media on Thursday in advance of Saturday's Central Park Challenge 8000m which also serves as the US Men's 8k Championships.
Since we talked to Webb for nearly an hour and the women much less (call us sexist pigs or incapable of talking to 3 people at once), we'll start with the women.
Shalane Flanagan and Carrie Tollefson enter the Central Park Challenge 8k in tremendously different circumstances. Flanagan had an incredible 2007. She started off by breaking drug cheat Regina Jacob's US 3000m record indoors and then broke Jacob's US outdoor 5000m record at the Mt. Sac Relays. Flanagan finished behind American Jen Rhines in Osaka, but if an 8th place finish at Worlds is considered disappointing, clearly Flanagan came a long way in 2007. Flanagan began 2008 by showing 2007 was no fluke, as she completely and utterly dominated the 8k US Cross Country Champs in San Diego, winning by 70 seconds.
Shalane Flanagan Showing the Benefits Of Altitude Training
Flanagan went back to Mexico for some more altitude training after US Cross and came back down to sea level this week for the 8k. She said "German was a pleasure to work with" and said he has given her "words of wisdom" she kept in her head while racing US Cross Country.
The rest of the women in the field likely will be in trouble on Saturday as Flanagan will be racing the same 8k distance where she destroyed the rest of the field at US Cross. Flanagan had this to say of her preparations for US Cross, "I had some good indicators I would run decent...." Clearly, Flanagan is at another level in 2008,if her training only pointed to a "decent" run, yet she beat everyone else in America by over a minute.
Tollefson Back After Being Sidelined in 2007
Tollefson said of last year, "It's been a tough year but I'm excited to be back. I hope I can wear the USA jersey with these 2 guys again. (Webb, Ritz and Flanagan were all on the US Olympic team in 2004)."
Tollefson put her 2007 year in perspective, "You know life can be tough. And in our sport when you're hurt, that's when it's tough... There was nothing that was going to hold me back (from coming back to racing)."
Tollefson, Webb, and Flanagan were all excited to be racing in America's media capital. Tollefson noted, "It's always so much fun for us athletes to come out here (to New York) because you guys do such a great job. And it's so important for distance running to have the media (in NY) and to have people want to come and watch."
Flanagan was excited to be in NY as well. This actually is her first NYRR event (in addition to the 8k and the NYC Marathon, the New York Road Runners put on many of the top professional races in the US: the Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile (men and women), the Healthy Kidney 10k (men), the New York Mini (women), and the new New York Half Marathon). But clearly word had reached Shalane of the quality, class, and financial prowess (in addition to the prize money above, the NYRR is a chief sponsor of the Team USA training groups) of the NYRR under director Mary Wittenberg. Flanagan said, "I'm extremely excited (to be racing in NY)...What Phil Knight (chairman of the board of Nike) is to Nike, Mary (Wittenberg) is to distance running. I'm excited to show off how hard I've been working."
(Wittenberg briefly addressed how the NYRR feels the stars of the sport, help bring children into the sport. At Saturday's race, local kids in the NYRR youth programs will be alongside the professional runners at the pre race introductions and also will give out the awards).