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LRC Coverage Of 2009 New York Half Marathon Pre-Race Media Day

by Robert Johnson

New York, NY - August 14, 2009 - On Friday, the New York Road Runners hosted a media luncheon in downtown in anticipation of Sunday's New York Half Marathon. LetsRun.com was there to get you ready for Sunday's race, which starts at 7 a.m. and will be streamed live on the NYRR site. The men's race features a ton of talent, including US Half Marathon record holder Ryan Hall, who will be running just his 2nd half marathon. The women's race features three of the all-time greatest female marathoners in history in sub-2:20 performers Paula Radcliffe, Catherine Ndereba and Deena Kastor.

We talked to all of them as well as defending men's champ Tadese Tola as well as Hendrick Ramaala. Highlights, pics and videos appear below.

Ryan Hall: Excited To Be In NYC And Excited To Be Racing
The great American hope, who has always seemed to thrive in the spotlight of the Big Apple (having won a US cross-country title here, as well as the 2008 Olympic marathon trials), was clearly excited to be back in New York and even more excited just to be racing again. "(I'm really excited to get to) practice competing. That's the biggest reason why I'm here. (As a marathoner) I miss racing and I want to try to race more," said Hall, who has only run two races all year.

"I just want to race more and practice being competitive. I like to do my hard training on my own to make sure I get the effort level right. But (because I normally train alone) sometimes I'm uncomfortable having people around me in races."

Hall said in the past it was probably a good idea for him not to race very often, because if a race didn't go really well, he didn't handle it very well. Now as a more experienced athlete, he's doesn't let subpar efforts get him down.

Ryan Hall Talks Prior To 2009 NYC Half Marathon

As to what to expected for Sunday's race, Hall said he doesn't know what to expect. "I don't have a great idea where I'm at. We'll sort things out when we're out there," said Hall.

Hall doesn't know exactly what to expect because he's changed his training up this summer. In the past, he's done a lot of 10-mile tempo runs in around 50 minutes at altitude, but this year, he's changed things up and run uphill for 50 minutes, going from 7,000 to 10,000 feet at a similar effort.

Even though Hall doesn't know where he is, as he hasn't done the same tempos as in the past, he is clearly pleased with the way his training has been going. "I'm excited with the way my training has been going," said Hall, who at a later point told another reporter his training had been going "really well." "But I'll move forward (towards the ING NYC Marathon) if I run 65 minutes or if I run 58 minutes."

Hard to believe that Hall has run only one half marathon race before and it came in the middle of some heavy training and that race went spectacularly, as that's when he ran the American record of 59:43. So Hall knows it's possible to run well in the middle of significant training, although he did admit that he did a "slight taper" for Sunday's race. But Hall understands that a positive or negative result doesn't necessarily mean anything. He cited the example of Marilson Gomes dos Santos, who ran a 59:33 half marathon in preparation for the 2007 New York Marathon, where he finished a disappointing 8th, but won in 2008 when his half marathon prep race was only a 63:11.

Hall then spoke at great length about his goal as an athlete to "help redefine success" for other athletes. He doesn't want youngsters to think that if they don't win a race, they are failures. He also said his biggest goal is to use his running to help others. Hall cited Lance Armstrong as one of the people he most respects in sports as he uses sports for a bigger cause. Hall and his wife Sara hope to effect change in a similar way for the poor in Africa.

For more info on how Hall is feeling, see the video on the left, which is three excerpts merged together.

Deena Kastor: Injury Scare Behind Her, Is New AR On Horizon?
American marathon record holder Deena Kastor is excited to race the world marathon record holder on Sunday. Kastor, who broke her foot in Beijing last year and then had an injury scare this summer with her foot again, which caused her to take off 3 weeks, said things have been going very well for her of late in terms of training. When her foot acted up, she thought she was "pretty much screwed" in terms of hitting her week-by-week training plan as outlined by coach Terrence Mahon, but has been pleased to currently be "right on track."

Deena Kastor Talks Prior To 2009 NYC Half Marathon

Kastor had some time goals for Sunday's race but threw them out the window once It was announced this week that Radcliffe was running. "I had some time goals but now that the field has changed, I've (gotten rid of them). I am just looking for a good head-to-head competition," said Kastor, who will now simply just try to win the race.

Kastor said she is not at the "peak of her training" for Chicago so she may lack some race "sharpness" but said she is "very excited about the opportunity" of racing Radcliffe. More in-depth comments can be seen by watching the video on the left, which in reality is a merging of two different questions to save time.

Looking ahead to Chicago, Kastor said ideally she'd like to set a personal best in Chicago. "You can set yourself up for (a PR and new American record) in training and that's what we are trying to do," said Kastor before admitting that the weather will play a big role in whether a PR is possible in Chicago.

Kastor also told us that she has picked a Spring 2010 marathon already but she can't announce it yet. To get ready for that race, she plans on doing some serious cross-country training, although she's not sure if she'll run US XC or not. "My most successful years have come when I've had cross-country training in the winter."

With the talk about cross-country, we asked the seven-time US 8k cross-country champ what she thought about World XC going to an every two year affair. Kastor said it saddened her as "cross-country is the ultimate in the sport" due to its simplicity.

Paula Radcliffe: Ready For Berlin? We'll Find Out Sunday
The world marathon record holder was just added to the field this week. She's running NYC as a test to see if she's ready to try the Berlin World Championships next weekend.

It was clear that Radcliffe doesn't really know what will happen in terms of Berlin. Radcliffe had foot surgery on March 17. Some 6.5 weeks later, she had her first outside run but that proved to be too soon so she had to back off for a week. By the end/middle of June, Radcliffe said she was able to do her first track workout and start training in full.

She seemed pleased with her training, but her foot, which while feels better than it has in a number of years, still isn't fully recovered from surgery. Some scar tissue remains and that has effected her flexibility which in turn influences her push off. "My foot is healthier now than at any time over the last couple of years. It's just a matter of getting that flexbility back."

Radcliffe said she had a very good workout a few weeks ago on the treadmill but that can be misleading as, given the bounce of a treadmill, it's possible to run without the same push off needed to run on the roads. That became apparent last Friday when she tried to do her standard 10-mile hard tempo to see where she was ready for Berlin and she wasn't happy with the result. "It just wasn't quick enough," said Radcliffe.

Radcliffe felt her foot wasn't flexible enough for her to push off fully and that in turn was slowing her down. The encouraging news, though, for Radcliffe fans is that Radcliffe isn't worried about her fitness as she said, "It's never been a fitness issue."

Ater last Friday's run, It was at this point that media reports started surfacing that Radcliffe wouldn't run Worlds. However, her foot felt a lot better over the weekend, so she decided to come run New York and see if she's truly ready for Berlin. "(Since the surgery) the main thing was always to run a fall marathon and everyone (including myself) are keen for me to run in Berlin, but I don't want to go (to Berlin) unless I'm in shape," said Radcliffe, who said the recent injury problems for the whole British team have added to the pressure for her to run.

As for what Radcliffe is looking for on Sunday, she said the following: "I want to enjoy the race, run well and win the race to give me the boost (in confidence) that I need to feel really well (about running Worlds)," said Radcliffe, who said that her husband Gary Lough will be closely watching her toe-off during the final 100 meters to see if she's ready to race the full 26.2 miles in Berlin. "Unless I have a good run and get some confidence, I'm not going to go (to Berlin)."

LetsRun.com asked Radcliffe if she was worried about the possible negative reaction she would receive if she runs in New York on Sunday but doesn't show up in Berlin. Paula said that prior to Athens in 2004, she would have worried about what the press thought of her. But after the vicious attacks she received after DNFing in Athens, she said she is no longer worried about trying to appease her critics as a "lot of me has gotten a lot harder."

"I really want to run in Berlin. But I'm not going to risk it and do something stupid. I felt like I kind of did that last year (in Beijing). I won't do it (run in Berlin) if I'm not ready."

"You can't please all the people all the time."

One interesting thing to note is that Radcliffe did indicate that she will run a fall marathon after Worlds whether she runs Worlds or not. If she's ready to race Berlin, she'll likely race a later fall marathon like NYC. If she's unable to run Berlin, she might run an earlier marathon.

Hendrick Ramaala: 37-Year-Old Felt Like He Failed Tactically In London
Hendrick Ramaala, at age 37, is one of the grand statesmen in the sport. In 2008, Ramaala only had a 2:11:44 marathon seasonal best but this spring, Ramaala showed that he's still got some real racing left in his legs, as he was 5th in London in 2:07:44. While the 2:07 at age 37 may have surprised some, Ramaala actually felt like he should have finished higher.

"I could have have done better in London. Next time I'll run a smarter race. (When a move is made) I'll follow the move slowly. This time (when Sammy Wanjiru threw down), I tried to follow (instantly) and I could feel my hamstring tighten."

"It's always better to wait but I'm not the waiting type," said Ramaala.

When asked about his fitness for the race on Sunday, Ramaala said, "I'm in better fitness than the last two editions (Ramaala was 8th in the New York Half last year and 12th in the marathon). The last two years have had a very fast start and I'm hoping for a reasonably paced start. I don't want to be lactic at 5k."

"I really want to do well and have trained really well. I'll just try to hang on as long as I can. The main thing for me is not get dropped in the first 10k. I can make it 10k (with the lead group), (I'll be ok as) I normally feel good after 10k. If I can make it 10k, then I can make it 15k. If I make it 15k, then I can make it 20k."

That being said, Ramaala wasn't overly concerned about winning here on Sunday. Ramaala, who is hoping to run the ING NYC marathon in the fall, realizes that it's very early in the year and there is a big difference between the half and full.

"The guy who wins here on Sunday ... it's not like he will win the marathon in November. I used to win half marathons all the time and then I ran my first marathon and it was a big wakeup."

Tadese Tola: 21-Year-Old Plans On Defending His Title Prior To Making Fall Marathon Debut

LRC spoke with defending race champion Tadese Tola briefly thanks to a translator. Talking to someone through a translator is tough, but Tola gave us some good nuggets of wisdom.

Tola said that he will make his marathon debut here in New York this fall. He seemed happy to be back in New York, where he set a Healthy Kidney 10k course record of 27:48 on May 16th. After getting DQed at Peachtree, Tola went back to Ethiopia to train and is excited to start his build towards November's marathon.

"This half marathon is a test for me but I plan to win it, although I'm focused on the marathon and am training for that."

We asked Tola if he is familiar with Rigassa, who beat Tola at Bolder Boulder and just last week dominated at Falmouth. Tola said that he and Rigassa are part of the same club and train together. When asked if he was surprised by how easily Rigassa had won Falmouth, Tola shockingly responded with the following quote:

"Actually we thought he'd do a lot better and expected him to win by a larger margin," said Tola about Rigassa, who was already celebrating 3 miles into the 7-plus mile race at Falmouth. Tola also said Rigassa is planning to a marathon in the future and has no plans to try the 10,000 meters at major championships.

Catherine Ndereba: Two Silvers = 1 Gold
Two-time Olympic silver medallist Catherine Ndereba, who won last year's New York Half Marathon in 70:19, was her normal optimistic self on Friday. She started off her comments by saying she was expecting to do well on Friday, as she said, "I'm expecting to do a good race."

As the Q&A continued, it was easy to realize that Catherine might be the most positive runner on the planet. When asked by Amby Burfoot if she had trouble finding the motivation to come back after her 2nd Olympic silver last August, Ndereba responded as if she was almost surprised by the question. "I'm never disappointed about a race. When I go to a race, I realize you can either win or you can lose. So whenever I go to a race, I go there with a positive mind. (I think) 'If I don't win, I'll win the next time.'"

Ndereba also added that she definitely doesn't view her career to be missing anything if she never wins Olympic gold. "My two silver medals are equal to a gold."

The most interesting thing about the interview may have been the end, when Ndereba was asked if, at age 37, she still has any big dreams or goals that she feels she needs to achieve.

"Nothing," said Ndereba, who is clearly someone that enjoys the process of training. "I just keep going because I like running and have fun with it."

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