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Billions of Spectators, The Greatest American Field Ever Assembled, and Much More: America's Top Coaches (Brad Hudson, Keith Hanson, and Terrence Mahon) Talk About the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials
by: LetsRun.com
October 19, 2007

Editor's Note: If You Want to Listen to the Full Teleconference or Just Selected Audio Highlights You Can Do That in the Audio Player At the Bottom of the Article
If you'd like to download the entire teleconference (1 Hour) right click here 

The New York Road Runners hosted a teleconference on Wednesday with coaches Keith Hanson (coach of the Hanson Brooks team with 13 entrants in the Trials including 2:10:47 marathoner Brian Sell), Brad Hudson (coach of 10k Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, Ed Torres, James Carney, and Jason Hartman) and Terrence Mahon (coach of Ryan Hall (2:08:24 Marathon in his debut)). Hanson, Hudson, and Mahon shared their thoughts on the much anticipated men's Olympic Marathon Trials, November 3rd in New York City.

Ryan Hall

It may only be 2007, but the Olympics are not that far off and there is a lot of buzz surrounding the Trials as evidenced by the number of non running journalists on the call. For some reason, a lot of the journalists were already focused on Beijing, as it seemed a disproportionate number of the questions concerned Beijing and its air quality instead of the actual Olympic Trials which are just a little over two weeks away. Considering that to get to Beijing you have to finish in the top 3 in the Trials, and the Trials will be the greatest collection of American talent ever assembled in one distance race we're going to focus on what the coaches had to say about the Trials instead of Beijing. (Although we will point out that Keith Hanson noted that USOC staffers who have measured the air quality in Beijing said that it is "better than the Los Angeles Olympic air quality")

200,000? Spectators on the Spectator Friendly Loop Course
The Trials in New York have a few changes compared to the past men's marathon Trials. There is the somewhat controversial fall date (the Trials traditionally have always been held in the same calendar year of the Olympics), and the introduction of a spectator friendly loop course (the racers will start outside of Central Park and then do 4 loops within the Park). The fall date (one day before the NYC Marathon) and the loop course both were both designed to bring more spectators to the course.

ING NYC Marathon Director Mary Wittenberg said she expects spectators to pour into the park at totally unprecedented numbers (and what we believe are unbelievable numbers). She said, "We expect to have the course, the five mile loop, full of people. I'm guessing that's a couple hundred thousand people... The buzz in New York is sky high and everybody is eagerly anticipating our top American men coming into the Trials as part of what you've heard me say is the biggest weekend marathon running has ever scene."

Most message boarders like ourselves were surprised by the 200,000 claim, but pointed out even if Mary is off by a factor of 5 and only 40,000 people come out it will make for a raucous atmosphere in the park that the Olympic Marathon Trials have never seen before. (Crowd estimates are very hard to do but organizers for all events seem to give inflated numbers)

Brad Hudson agreed saying, "Having a loop course that is spectator friendly that's in NYC the day before the NYC marathon is what our sport has needed for a very long time."

While some pundits have called the course with small rolling hills in Central Park, challenging and even slow, the coaches liked the course and Keith Hanson pointed out it may not be too slow. He said, "We've seen some faster runs in everything up to the half marathon distance on this course. I think this course can run fairly fast, I wouldn't say it's a fast course, but using different muscles groups with the ups and downs of the hills can sometimes be advantageous in the marathon. I like the course a lot."

Brad Hudson believes the undulating terrain in the park should make things interesting for spectators and runners alike. He said, "There is a lot of action on the course. I think essentially that means there is always change going on, as far as up and down, grades. I think it is going to wear on people. But we've done the best job we can preparing the athletes for Central Park." (More on the course in Clip 3 in the Audio Player including Terrence Mahon talking about how the loop course will let athletes better gauge their effort instead of just looking at mile splits)

Greatest American Field Ever?

Hall, Khannouchi and Meb
The strength of the men's field, which features Olympic silver medallist Meb Keflezighi, former World Record Holder Khalid Khannouchi, sub 2:09:00 guys Abdi Abdirahman, (the new marathon sensation) Ryan Hall (2:08:24 in his debut after a 59:43 half marathon), and (the aging) Mbarak Hussein (2:08:10 3 years ago), plus defending Trials champ Alan Culpepper (2:09:41 pr), Brian Sell (sub 2:11 twice) and Dathan Ritzenhein (who many considered to be the American future in this event prior to Hall's stunning debut), has garnered a lot of attention.

Dick Patrick of USAToday asked how the field compared to the Trials fields of the past in the golden era of American marathoning with Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers. Keith Hanson said at least up front it is the greatest American field ever, and we agree. Hanson said, "I would go so far as to argue it's the deepest (men's field) ever...I think certainly across (the top) eight or so it's deeper than it's ever been."

The Federation's (USATF) Development of Marathoners "Inept"
Hanson credited private individuals who instead of waiting on USATF to fix the problem went out and formed training groups on their own for the rebirth in American marathon running. Hanson said, "But obviously as someone who started a group in (19)99, that (the groups) I felt that was a huge component, the group training mindset and aspect to developing a large group of 2:15, 2:14 guys who would push the guys who in the past had run 2:12 and 2:13 and been the dominant marathoners in the United States and can no longer be dominant because there is a large group (behind them)... and that pushes the guys who can run 2:10 and so on and so forth. I really think that is how development needs to take place. This had occurred by individuals who have gone out and done this and gone outside of the organization, gone outside of the federation (USATF) that had been inept at doing that...Private groups and individuals have gone out and done it themselves and stopped looking for our organization (USATF) to do that."

What Happened to the Great Track Clubs of the 70s and 80s?
Terrence Mahon agreed that the Trials field was incredibly strong and posed a question that we never had thought of before. What caused all of the great track clubs of the 70s and 80s to completely disintegrate creating the great void of American marathoning in the 1990s? Mahon commented, "I think the better question would be is what happened in the 80s and 90s when all these track clubs fell apart, Nike Boston, Great Boston Track Club, Florida Track Club, Athletics West." (This question is so good it gets it's own message board thread.)

Coaches Talk A Little About Their Athletes
Each of the coaches did not reveal too much about their specific athletes but did reveal a few nuggets of information.

Keeping Ryan Hall in Check
Terrence Mahon indicated that the biggest problem with Ryan Hall is preventing him from overtraining, and that Hall actually overtrained a bit between his stunning 59:43 half marathon in Houston and his incredible 2:08:24 half marathon debut. "The one thing I learned with Ryan after his half marathon in Houston, was his excitability level is very high. We actually had a stint after Houston where he overtrained for a bit... and I had to shut him down a little bit prior to London," said Mahon. This summer Mahon gave Ryan a mini track season. Then they followed his wife Sara Hall around in Europe as she raced on the track circuit, all part of a plan to keep Ryan from getting too geared up on his own marathon trials preparations.

Mahon indicated the plan worked well saying "For us I thought it has really played out well in the fact that is has kept him from being overtrained coming into this race."

Brian Sell and His "170" Mile Weeks
Keith Hanson indicated keeping Brian Sell in check is also his biggest concern. "Brian is somebody in the past who I would give him a 140 mile week and he would do 150, 155 and if he is recording it at 150 to 155 it is probably 170 because he underestimates all of his mileage... We've had some long talks because I believe his last two marathons although good marathons, he was a little tired going into them.'

Brad Hudson's Athletes Have Trained "Much, Much, Much Harder" Than in the Past

Dathan Rizenhein
While Mahon and Sell focused on keeping their athletes in check Brad Hudson acknowledged that his athletes have trained a lot harder for the Olympic Marathon Trials than for their marathons in the past. He said, "The real difference between last year training for the marathon and this year is my athletes have trained much, much, much harder. A lot more mileage up to 140 miles a week."

Hudson indicated that the stallion in his stable Dathan Ritzenhein has not increased his mileage, but has done more longer, harder marathon paced runs this time around than he did for his disappointing marathon debut (where Ritzenhein ran 2:14:01 to finish 11th and received a reported six figure appearance fee) He said Dathan "(did) a lot more specific work, a lot harder long runs, a lot more specific 14-16 mile runs at sub 5 minute pace that he didn't do the first time around because its very difficult to stay healthy your first time..."

Hudson stressed that he coaches each of his athletes individually, but that the preparations for all of them went well. He said, "The athletes trained very differently, but they trained very well, very hard, they're very prepared. That goes for James Carney, Ed Torres, Jason (Hartman) and Dathan."

The Consensus Longshot at the Trials: Jason Lehmkuhle
While this year's Olympic Marathon Trials features a ton of firepower upfront with what we are calling the strongest men's field ever, one of the greatest things about the Trials is its egalitarian nature where any athlete finishing in the top 3 can book their ticket to Beijing.

Carney and Lehmkuhle
When asked to name a darkhorse candidate to watch at the Trials, both Brad Hudson and Keith Hanson mentioned Team USA Minnesota's Jason Lehmkuhle. Lehmkuhle has been on fire of late. He ran 59:42 for 3rd at the US 20k champs in New Haven on Labor Day, then followed that up 47:48 for 10 miles at the US 10 Mile Championships at the Twin Cities 10 Miler on October 7th. (Lehmkuhle traded places with Hudson coached athlete James Carney in New Haven and Twin Cities (Carney ran 48:03 for 3rd in Twin Cities and 59:38 for 2nd in New Haven)). We're not sure if a guy who has run 47:48 for 10 miles and been picked by 2 of the top coaches in America as someone to watch can be truly a long shot. Lehmkuhle however still will has a lot to overcome with only a 2:16:27 marathon pr and the host of guys he'll have to beat in New York. But that is what always makes the Trials interesting. Anyone remember Trent Briney from the 2004 Trials (a Hanson's guy who came out of nowhere to run 2:12 and finish 4th and has done very little before or after that race)?

But for all of you out there who root, root for the underdog and love the movie Hoosiers, along comes Terrence Mahon to trample your hopes and dreams with a dose of reality. Mahon said do not expect a breakthrough name to book a ticket to Beijing saying, "...there is not going to be a breakthrough in the top 3...I don't think they (the favorites) are going to let anyone go."

Nonetheless it should be an exciting weekend, 2 weeks from now in New York City. 40:02-41:55

Full Audio Interview Plus Excerpted Highlights Below
(Just Click on Your Favorite Track in the Audio Player to Listen or Listen to the Whole Audio Teleconfernce Which We Assume Very Few of You Actually Want to Do. In other parts of the teleconference without highlights below, Beijing was talked about, Me
b Keflezighi's inhaler, and more))

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If You'd like to download the entire Teleconference (1 Hour) Right Click Here 
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