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Goucher Wants to Break Alberto Salazar's 8k American Record
By David Monti
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Editor's Note: David Monti is the elite athlete coordinator for the NYC RoadRunners the host of the US 8k Championships

When Adam Goucher lines up for the U.S. Men's 8-K Championship on Saturday, March 17 in New York City's Central Park, he'll not only be trying to win his second national road racing title, but also knock off one of the country's oldest national records, which happens to be held by his coach: marathon legend Alberto Salazar.

"It would mean a lot," said Goucher yesterday of breaking Salazar's record.  "I'd like to have an American record."

Salazar set the U.S. 8-K record of 22 minutes and four seconds over 26 years ago in Los Altos, Calif., in a race held at night.  He recalled that it was hard to judge his speed in the darkness, and that for a few years he doubted the legitimacy of his own mark.

"We went out very fast (13:18 at 3 miles)," said Salazar who spoke on a teleconference with Goucher yesterday which was hosted by the New York Track Writers.  "It was at night; it was very hard to tell."

But he later came to accept the time, and doesn't see why the 31 year-old Goucher, a 2000 Olympian, can't break his mark.  He said that 8 km was the ideal distance for Goucher, a 5000m specialist who has won two U.S. outdoor titles at the distance.

"I think with a little more speed work over the next month he's got a good chance of breaking that record," said Salazar who was pleased with Goucher's second place finish at the U.S. Cross Country Championships last Saturday in Boulder, Colo.  "I think that if it's a farily fast course, there is no reason Adam can't do this."

The rolling course, which has few flat sections and an uphill finish, will be the same as the final 8 kilometers of the U.S. Men's Olympic Trials Marathon which will be held on Saturday, November 3.  The New York Road Runners, the not-for-profit organization which organizes both the 8-K and the Men's Olympic Marathon Trials, will use the same 8 km loop four times to make up the heart of the Trials course.

"It's a tough course," said Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of the Road Runners who is also the race director for the 8-K and the Men's Olympic Trials Marathon.  "It is tougher than a flat course."

Tougher, but also potentially lucrative.  The U.S. 8-K champion will earn $10,000 out of a total prize money purse of $35,000, but can add to that a $25,000 bonus if he breaks Salazar's record.  In addition, to help assure a fast pace, the Road Runners will pay the first three runners to pass the 5-K mark in under 13:50 a prime of $1000 as long as they finish in the top-10.  Therefore, an athlete who wins the race, breaks Salazar's record and is in the top-3 at the 5-K mark in under 13:50 will take home $36,000.

"We've put a lot of incentives for Adam and others to run well," Wittenberg also said.

For Goucher, the 8-K is also a chance to run a race which he has wanted to compete in for years, but was unable to.  In 2005, the last time the championship was held in New York, Goucher injured his knee a week at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, forcing him to withdraw.

"It's something I wanted to do the last few years," said Goucher who watched the 2005 championships from the sidelines.  "I'm excited to do it. New York is a place I love to be."

Goucher has raced several times in the Big Apple with good success.  He made his New York City debut at the Millrose Games in 1999, finishing fourth in the 3000m in 7:47.90.  Most recently, he won the 2006 U.S. Cross Country Championships at 4-K in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, then finished fourth in the Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile last September.

"It was a thrill," he said of running in New York City last year.  "It was a lot of fun."

Goucher also said may also return to New York City again to contest the Marathon Trials in November, a distance he has never tried, or even come close to in racing (the 8-K will only be his third serious road race).

"Alberto and I have discussed it," he said.  "I think we're gong to wait and see how my (track) season goes.  I'm definitely game for it."

Wittenberg also announced that in addition to Goucher, she had secured the participation in the 8-K of two-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, and reigning U.S. 10,000m champion, Jorge Torres.  Torres won the U.S. 8-K title in 2005.

"This 8-k is all about a meeting of the best athletes from the mile to the marathon in the middle," said Wittenberg.

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