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With Rod DeHaven

Welcome to the first LetsRun.com "On The Road To Sydney" interview. This interview is with 2000 US Olympic Marathoner Rod DeHaven. Formerly a miler, Rod has made quite a transition over the years as a runner as in May he won the US Men's US Olympic Marathon Trials in Pittsburgh. As a result, he will be the sole US entry in the Olympic marathon in Sydney.

Since winning the US Marathon Trials, Rod has bounced back nicely. He competed at the US Track and Field Trials at 10,000 meters in July and finished 8th - the highest finish of any marathoner in the field. Just last weekend, in his final race before the Olympics, Rod got a nice confidence boost as he won the US half-marathon championships in Parkersburg, West Virginia in impressive fashion. He destroyed both the field (winning by more than one minute) and his own American course record (formerly 1:03:38) by running 1:03:06.

On Tuesday night (August 22nd), Rod spoke at length with LetsRun.com via-telephone from his home in Madison, Wisconsin. Rod was more than willing to answer our questions on a wide-range of related topics. We figure he was so generous with his time because he was somewhat thrilled by the fact that he wasn't talking to a typical sports writer who knows nothing about running and asks him incessantly about how being the only US male marathoner will affect his performance.

Read below about Rod's goals for the Olympics and his plans for the future.

Click here to see what Rod has to say about his high school career.

The Rod DeHaven File:
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 130 lbs.
Born: September 21, 1966, in Sacramento, Calif.
Current Residence: Madison, Wis.
High School: Huron, SD '84
College: South Dakota State '87 (Division II)
PRs 1500m: 3:40.15 ; 5000m: 13:40.4;
10,000m: 28:06.25, Marathon: 2:13:02.
Coach: Self
Affiliation: US, New Balance

Click here to see a bio of Rod DeHaven as compiled by USATF.

Q and A
(August 22, 2000)

LETSRUN: Before we get started, we just wanted to congratulate you on making the Olympic team. It's quite an accomplishment.

DeHaven: Oh yeah, ok (laughs).

LETSRUN: After making the team, You seemed to have rebounded very nicely. You surprised a lot of people by running the 10,000 meters at the track trials (where he finished 8th - top finisher of all the marathoners) and then you did so well at Parkersburg (where he won the U.S. Half-Marathon Championships).

DeHaven: I guess I planned all along to go out there and I also had to go out there to get drug tested. You have to get tested within 100 days of the (Olympic) Games and I just felt like I wanted to be in shape if I was going to go out there. I didn't want to be lapped a couple of times (laughs).

LETSRUN: Did you take any time off after Pittsburgh?

DeHaven: Yeah, I took like a week off and then started running 50 miles a week and I had intentions to kind of build up a little faster but I got bogged down - you know answering telephone calls, and going to celebrity golf tournaments (laughs) and drinking parties (another laugh) and that sort of thing .

LETSRUN: Has your life changed a lot since you're an Olympian now?

DeHaven: Yeah, a little bit. I mean before I could win a race, say Parkersburg, and it would be no big deal, but now that I have Olympian as a tag so to speak, all of the sudden, the kids want your autograph or should I say their parents think it's a good idea for their kids to get an autograph of an Olympian (laughs). It's changed in that respect and also going to the grocery store occasionally, I get stared at now whereas before people wouldn't recognize me.

LETSRUN: It sounds like you are being treated like a real professional athlete now.

DeHaven: Yeah, pseudo-professional athlete (laughs)

LETSRUN: Can you tell us a little bit about your race last weekend. You pretty much demolished the field and broke your own American course record in the process. Were you expecting to run so fast?

DeHaven: Yes, given that the weather was pretty good, the day before the race I thought to myself that I wanted to run under 1:03 but I didn't say it publicly because I already had the feeling that I was the hunted (one). So I was happy with it in some respects (since I ran 1:03:06), but I kind of fell apart a bit during the last 5k. There's kind of a large hill at 11 or 11.5 miles and then a real sharp downhill where you make a 90 degree turn in the middle of the downhill (laughs), which really kills all of your momentum.

But considering everything, I was pretty happy with my race. I think it's a pretty good indicator of my fitness.

If you compare Parkersburg to say (a flatter course) like the Philadelphia Half-Marathon it's probably worth like a minute. So if that means I can break 1:02 for a half-marathon, then I would say speed-wise I'm about as fast as I need to be to run a marathon.

LETSRUN: Considering that your confidence must be pretty high after Parkersburg and you have six weeks until the Games, have you set any specific goals for yourself at the Olympics?

DeHaven: Well, everyone knows the marathon is kind of a tough thing to set specific goals for, but at the same time, nobody sets out to say: "I want to be 8th at the Olympic Games."

I think everybody in there - the top guys - are thinking, "I'm going to run hard until I fall out of medal contention", and then given that the marathon is such a business type thing they might say "Well, I'm just going to pull over" (since I'm no longer in the medal hunt). It's almost like the Olympic Trials (where a lot of runners don't care where they finish if it's not in the top three) maybe even a bit more so than the Olympic Trials.

I mean I could run tactical and get 15th, but I'm kind of like, "Who cares?" Initially, that was my mindset, I wanted to be in the top 15, but now I'm kind of under the mind-set that I might as well run as hard as I can for as long as I can and whatever happens, happens.

I don't know - maybe that's foolish. Maybe I'm in 2:11 shape and 2:11 guys probably don't have any business hanging around the lead pack at 18 or 19 miles, but we'll just see what happens.

LETSRUN: Have you thought about how the introduction of the EPO drug test might affect the results in the Olympic marathon? Do you think that might level the playing field and give you a good chance (for a medal)?

DeHaven: No, I tend not to worry about that stuff too much . I don't know how much of it is going on out there. The way I look at it is that my p.r. is 2:13 (and the world record is 2:05:42) and EPO can't account for all of that (difference). If I was a 2:09 guy, I might be a little more worried about it.

For me, the only worry that I have is getting in the best shape that I can and getting to the line healthy. If the test catches somebody and starts deterring other people, that's great. But I don't believe the Kenyans are on "the Juice" or on EPO or anything else for that matter.

(The introduction of the EPO drug test) for me is not the one pill solution. If people are saying that this is going to help the Americans get back to the top of the world level or even near the world level in mass numbers, (they're wrong). We need to train smarter and run races that potentially give us the ability to run faster times, and I think that means not running marathons in the U.S. I mean Chicago (the Chicago marathon) is one blizzard away from disaster. How 's that for a quote?

I covered a lot of subjects there (during my last response).

LETSRUN: Yes, you did.

DeHaven: O.k, so you take a 2:15 guy who is going to Chicago thinking he's in 2:13 shape, he gets a blizzard and runs 2:17 and now he's thinking, "Damn, where do I go know?" I mean similarly you go to Boston - it could be hot, it could be windy. What are you going to do?

To me it's a no-brainer, (you go overseas). But the difficult part is getting to Europe, spending the money to get on a plane to get in a race in Europe or going to Japan, which is even more expensive. Those are the things that I think we're going to have to do to get faster.

I mean if you look at the Canadian guy, Bruce Deacon, he got the A standard (by running 2:13:55 at Japan's Fukuoka Marathon in December) and 2:13 is probably about as fast as Bruce can run right now (but he's going to the Games). If he'd come to the US to try to get 2:13, he'd probably have been screwed.

LETSRUN: Sort of like the Pittsburgh fiasco?

DeHaven: Well yeah, but not just that. Say Bruce goes down to L.A. or he goes to the Cal International marathon, which ended up having great conditions last year but most years it's pretty hit or miss, he might not have qualified (Editor's note: Bruce actually sort of did do this as he ran the San Diego marathon in May of 1999 and dropped out after going through half-way in 1:07:49). But he did the smart thing, he went to Japan and got the time - only by a couple of seconds - but it doesn't matter by how much.

I mean if they'd run the Chicago marathon the day before they did last year, there would have been no world record. There was a 30 mile per hour wind here in Madison, (Wisconsin) on Saturday at 7 a.m. and thus there had to be at least a 30 mile per hour one in Chicago (laughs). They got lucky and it just calmed down enough on Sunday where they were able to do it (run a world record).

LETSRUN: What kind of training are you going to be doing between now and the Olympics?

DeHaven: Well I'm just going to try and play it safe this week and just do one workout. Next week, we'll be kind of a high week and then I'll kind of come back down to 120 (miles) the week before I take off.

DeHaven: At that point, I'll be heading over. I probably won't do that much the week I'm heading over. I'm actually going over to New Zealand to try to get away from the chaos (of Australia and the Olympics) and to stay with Pete Pfitzinger (US Olympic Marathoner in 1984 and 1988) and to try to get a couple of workouts in. Then you're seven days away and I'll just lace 'em up and see what happens.

LETSRUN: Are you going to run any races between now and the Olympics?

DeHaven: No, that (Parkersburg) was it.

LETSRUN: How much mileage have you been running this summer? Did the fact you ran the track trials keep your mileage down?

DeHaven: With the track trials, I've been averaging about 125 and I had a high of 144 the week before Parkersburg.

LETSRUN: In college you were a miler, did you ever envision yourself as someday being an Olympic marathoner?

DeHaven: No, of course not. Even a couple of years out of school, I didn't envision myself running until I was 33, but I got kind of sucked into it and couldn't get out (laughs).

LETSRUN: In that light, do you think a lot of guys wait too long in their careers to test themselves in the marathon?

DeHaven: Yeah, I believe that's the case. I think Todd Williams may have come into it a year or two too late. I think his meltdown in Indianapolis (at the 1997 USATF outdoor championships where Williams collapsed in the 5k with 3 laps to go) certainly affected him one way or another.

Also look at (Bob) Kennedy who has announced that he wants to run marathons. By the time he gets around to it, he's going to be 31 (years old). If it takes him three (races) to get it right, then he'll be 33. Obviously, that's if it takes him three to get it right. If he gets it right the first time, then Bob could potentially run 2:07 I'm sure. But I don't know, when you've done as much as he has, do you really still have the fire? Do you want to hammer 140 mile weeks and get out and run road races?

Contrast that to the British guy, (2:09 marathoner) Jon Brown, who ran the marathon and still came back to the track and ran pretty well. I think if (the Americans) followed that example more so than the Todd Williams' example or the common statement that "If you run the marathon, you're career is over", it would be better.

Ideally, I think I would have went after the marathon a bit earlier (than I did). The marathon certainly seemed to help me lower my 10k times as well. When I ran 2:14 (for the marathon) in 1994, my 10k p.r. was 28:38 and I ran 28:06 the following Spring.

Another thing is that when you're training for the marathon, you get a certain type of focus that you may not necessarily get when you're training for the track. With track, you can always think, "Well, I can always get in another race on the track (at a later date)." Whereas with the marathon, you kind of say , "At the end of the 12 weeks, this is it. I've got to be ready at this time."

In track, there's always something in the back of your mind like, "Well there's the (US) nationals and if I run well there then I can go to Europe and then I can really run fast."

LETSRUN: Do you also think one reason people might run fast track times when training for the marathon is that they feel very little pressure in the track races since they're so focused on the preparing for the marathon?

DeHaven: Yeah, I agree with that. When I went to Stanford (on March 25 this year to run a 10k and ran 28:17 (the fastest time in the nation at the time)), I was just trying to get a qualifying time for the track trials (sub 28:50), I wasn't even thinking about hitting the (Olympic) A standard (of 28:10) by any means. Only when Vin (Stanford coach Vin Lananna) started yelling, with four laps to go, that we needed to get going did I even think that was a possibility.

LETSRUN: If you were asked to give advice to the average runner trying to complete a marathon, what would you say?

DeHaven: I don't know. For average runner, it's just a matter of putting in the time commitment (to train properly). And probably finding a coach that could help you draw up a plan.

Find a coach, find the time, do the work.

LETSRUN: Do you have any plans for after the Olympics? Are you going to keep after it for a couple more years?

DeHaven: Well I'd like to try to run fast (for the marathon). Right now, the tentative plan is to run Boston next Spring if the weather is good. If I don't get the time there, then I'll go to Europe (laughs) or go to Japan. So I'll give it two more shots next Spring, and if the weather's good and I can't do it, then that'll probably be it. That's kind of the way I'm looking at it right now.

But, who knows? Maybe I'll just hang it up on October 1st, but I doubt that though.

LETSRUN: We hope not, considering with how well you've been running this year.

DeHaven: Well you've got to look at (the reason for my performance at) Parkersburg as I have a lot of motivation to train right now and most of those guys (in the race) are still trying to figure out what happened at Pittsburgh (at the US Olympic marathon trials). I know from 1996 that it was hard to get going again after the Trials.

Once (the Trials) are over, other people are more in the mode of, "What are you running so much for?" It's not so much your buddies - it's more people you work with, or your neighbors, or whatever, and that just kind of plays into your psyche a little bit I think.

LETSRUN: Are you still working these days?

DeHaven: Yeah, I'm still working 30 hours a week. It gives me a bit of balance.

LETSRUN: Good luck to you at the Games. We're excited about your chances especially since you're the only US man we can cheer for.

DeHaven: (laughs) That's pretty much the question of the day. All of the typical sports writers are like, "Do you feel any extra pressure (because you're the only men's US Olympic marathoner)?" and I'll say, "No." Then they'll ask. "Are you going to run worse because you don't have any teammates?" Then I go, "Come on, we're American, we don't care about each other" (laughs).

Click here to see what Rod has to say about his high school career.

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