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By LetsRun.com
August 23, 2009

Introduction from special guest Bob Kennedy:

Dathan, it's Bob Kennedy ... I know we had a chance to talk for a couple of minutes after your race but it was a little broken up. I wanted to call and take this opportunity to say congratulations. I had an opportunity to watch the race on video and it was a hell of a performance - gutsy and disciplined and ... congratulations on your record. I'm very proud of you.

Dathan Ritzenhein: Thanks so much, Bob. It was an awesome deal and I'm sure as you know the atmosphere in Zürich is just amazing and you just kind of get into your own world there almost and that was just so awesome to finally after 13 years see that amazing record come within grasp for American distance runners.

BK: Well, thank you and I will not ... I know that all these guys want to talk to you but I want to take that opportunity and, you know, I hope that this is just another step for you hopefully to break it again or other Americans down the road to keep moving American distance running forward. That's ... I'm certainly proud of you, I'm proud of American distance runinng, too. Congratulations and I'm sure I'll be talking to you soon again.

DR: Thanks so much, Bob.

BK: Thank you. Alright, take care.

Question: Dathan, along with what you did at the Weltklasse, you had a great performance at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, (you) finished 6th in the 10,000 meters, setting a PR and also ... your 6th-place finish is also the best ever by an American at a World Championships, so you've had a great run of success lately and ... what can you tell us has been the difference for you that has brought all this on this season?

DR: Well, yeah, to start out, I think I kind of started the year off slow but I've seemed to come into it at the right time and .for me ... just making the biggest change for me, coming in just after the London Marathon I was very disappointed with that finish there and thought that I was really ready and it was a big blow for me and so ... that's when I had to make a hard decision and ... that's always difficult to break out of your comfort zone and I think that was the biggest thing was just making that one step across the line and so when I went to work with Alberto, it just really breathed a new, fresh life into me. I just kind of felt stale and not as motivated or not as strong as I used to be. Things just didn't ... I wasn't happy doing what I was doing and really just I think the biggest change - we've done quite a few physical changes, too - but the biggest change I think has just been mentally being back happy doing it and wanting to compete, which is something I felt like I just lacked, I think, a little bit over the last few years. And so really Alberto has been able to get me excited about racing again and excited about running and actually believing that I can run with the best guys in the world, which is something that I kind of lacked over the last few years.

Question: Dathan, it's Peter Gambaccini from Runner's World. Just looking ahead a little bit, I know you've given some thought to doing a half marathon, maybe Birmingham on October 11th. Can you tell us a little about how firm your plans are? And the other thing is, I'm sort of wondering ... I know you can't stretch yourself too thin, or whatever, but given the shape you appear to be in now and the dearth of available fast 10,000s, would it be competely preposterous to suggest that maybe sometime in the next two or three weeks that there might be some point to trying to set up a fast 10,000 in Eugene or something like that?

DR: Yeah, so to start out with ... the next thing for me is going to be the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham on the 11th of October. The thought behind that is coming off from this season, we still feel that I'm the best suited over the longer distances, so ultimately, that means marathon and ... that's really what I love to do. Although, I've got to say I really have enjoyed track this summer. But I think Alberto wanted to avoid getting into the actual, full-on, big training of the marathon because we really wanted to take this next year to year-and-a-half to just really get efficient again and get fast and work on my form and technique and so to do that, we needed to not do a fall marathon, which was a hard decision. But at the same time, we didn't want to go for so long without doing a long, hard effort closer to that, so there was originally some thought about doing a different mara ... a different half marathon, maybe the Great North Run or Philly Half or something like that. But he said after the 10k that "You're one of the best runners in the world and you need to race the best runners in the world," and so the World Half Marathon Championships was just gonna be so deep and so strong that it's gonna be something that we can really mix it up and he said, "That'll give you the confidence for next time you step on the line in the marathon." And then that's the thought behind that, but as far as running a fast 10,000, I just don't see it happening. It was very difficult coming off from that race. I actually felt very good but I came home and had some epic travel and had a few really rough, long days and so really we just kind of ... needed to step back from evertyhing just for a minute with all the excitement and just to kind of get back into shape and settle back down again.

Question: Dathan, it's John Meyer from the Denver Post. Could you talk a little bit about growing up and as you were starting your professional career as a runner, what you thought of Bob's record and the significance of someone breaking it and then how it feels to be the person to break this record that's been out there for so long?

DR: Yeah, when I first started becoming interested in distance running and started really getting good at it, I was at that age, actually, right when Bob was at his real prime, when he ran that time and that was an inspiring moment for me. I remember watching at the Atlanta Olympics and he was an idol of mine for so many years and he still is and so that was a pinnacle moment, I think, for my interest in running, when Bob ran that record and so I always just kind of assumed when I started getting good that it would come easier and that it wouldn't be ...  I didn't think it would take all the ups and downs that it did for me, just being a young person who hadn't experienced all those things yet. I thought that ... you know, it didn't seem that hard, actually ... and that lasted around for 13 years, it was just a testament to how difficult that record is and there's been some great runners to go through and to have not approached that yet, and so for me to be that person to finally make the big jump and actually get it, I'm just so thrilled to be able to have that. And I think even in the future, should I hopefully continue to improve and have great races, maybe run faster than that, this will be one that will always stick in my mind because it just was like a turning point, I think.

Question: Dathan, this is Amby Burfoot at Runner's World. We've all recognized your talent for a long time, I think, here in the States, and yet even you seemed surprised by 12:56, and I don't think anyone was counting on it ... thought you'd run well, but not 12:56. Could you give us a couple of specific things you might have done with Alberto in recent months, that physical training that got you that much quicker?

DR: Yeah, I guess for me, I still did a fair amount of volume, didn't really bring it down very much, 'cause at the time when I first started working with ... when I stopped working with Brad right after the London Marathon, I was ... for about two months I was kind of um ... did my own training because we didn't want to change any dynamics of the group that Alberto had, so for me, he just kind of advised me on what to do. He told me, "You're as strong as you could possibly be from all this marathon training that you've done for the last couple of years." He said, "I wouldn't even worry about doing some of the other workouts that you had done in the past, I would just do a lot of fast stuff." And so I kind of was on my own for about six weeks or so and really just kind of had to trust some of the things that I had done before and kind of experiment a little bit. And it got me into good enough shape to make the team, but you can only do so much in a short period of time and it had been so long since I had been at the track or done any real fast workouts that I didn't want to hurt myself. And then that was the same feeling when we did start working together right afterwards - those two months - Alberto had to be really smart about not putting me completely into everything that we ... that he usually does because that would probably end up getting (me) hurt after not having done a whole lot of muscular, fast stuff for so long, so it was a gradual process. But once we went to St. Moritz, I was like - even before that, I started really getting into very good shape - but once we went to St. Moritz, I just kind of really took off big time, and I did a time trial 5k six days before the race in Berlin and I ran 13:44 at altitude. And so that was ... I knew that I was (in) very, very good shape at that point. And some of the other workouts, just some faster repeats that were longer, you know, 600-meter repeats and 800-meter repeats that were in 1:27 and two-flat and just stuff that I hadn't done in a long, long time. And I think that really brought some efficiency back to my stride and gave me a lot of confidence over the last few laps of the race.

Question: Dathan, this is Ron Bellamy at the Register-Guard. Are you back in Eugene now? And where are you in terms of your living transition from Eugene to Portland?

DR: Actually, right now, I'm in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I'm just stopped back through here for a few days to say "Hi" to the family and really we didn't know what I was gonna do after the track season. But I'm coming back to Portland later on at the end of the week, early part of next week, and to tell you the truth, as far as the transition, I feel like a nomad, I don't think I've been home in three months and I've been all over the place. We have .. our house is for sale in Eugene, and we're goona be ... as soon as the World Half Marathon Championships is over, we're gonna try to find a place in Portland and try to really settle into the full-on routine, but at this point, we just are really trying to figure out what would be the best for the next five weeks or so and what's gonna get me as fit as possible for the World Half Marathon Championships.

Question: Dathan, Dick Patrick at USA Today. In Friday's race, was there a point where you had a realization like, "Hey, I'm feeling pretty good and the pace is pretty good here, maybe I can get Bob's record."?

DR: Yeah, I was nervous going into the race because they had talked of a very fast pace and they went and they did the pace that they said they were going to and so, for me, I just had to hold on for dear life 'cause Alberto told me beforehand, he said, "Now, you can't go out at 4:02, 4:03 the first mile, but you can't get dropped either, because if you get dropped, you just cannot run solo and run fast." So I just had to hold onto the back and it was so fast that at a few points, it would open up a little bit, but I just had to really stay focused and bring it back slowly and just try to run a fairly even pace, and so once ... and that was really difficult for me at first because it was so fast, I felt awkward through the first half of the race. But really through the middle part of the race, I started to catch people, feel good, and then with about four laps to go, I realized that I had a very good shot at breaking Bob's record because I felt great at that time and I had been running an even pace, I hadn't fallen off at all. And with teo laps to go, I was like, "I can really break it." I had to keep telling myself over and over again, and I knew that I had ... that I was going to break it with 200 meters to go 'cause I saw the clock and I knew that I would have to really, really fade. I think I was 12:25, so I knew that I would have to run 33 seconds for the last 200 and I still was feeling good enough at that point that I knew I could hold it.

Question: Dathan, Ron Bellamy again. Is it sobering to run that fast and not win?

DR: Ummm, no. I mean, I was so ecstatic at that point because I was really just thinking ... I was trying to think about competing as much as possible and when I got into the later stages of the race, especially, I saw Bekele actually close enough to me that ... the greatest runner in history was not that far ahead and I was closing on him. And so I know that I ran as good as I could. I ran an awesome race. And so, of course, I didn't win the race, but that doesn't happen that often with how strong and deep distance running is, so that would be really greedy for me to say that I was disappointed at all because I didn't win the race. I think that I ran an amazing race and even if I didn't break Bob's record and I still was able to get in there and compete, that's really the step in the direction that we're trying to take.

Question: Hey, Dathan, John Davis, preracejitters.com. I have kind of an off-the-track question for you. How old is your daughter now?

DR: She's 23 months, so she'll be 2 at the end of this month.

Question: Okay. That's about what I thought. And when I first heard about your record, I actually saw it on somebody's Facebook status message and I'm like, okay, you know what? I have an interesting theory and I'm thinking ... and I know when your daughter was first born, it was pretty hard, you know, taking turns, taking care of her in the middle of the night. How has that affected you, the older she's gotten? Have you been able to get more rest and things like that? 'Cause I know that's really big, you know, in running a fast time like this.

DR: Well, I really have a very, very supportive family and my wife has been amazing. My wife and daughter were there, they came over to Berlin, they came to St. Moritz with us and they have just been there supporting us and they're as much a part of it as anything. For me, just having them there made a huge difference and my wife, I mean, she's just a saint, traveling all across the world with a two-year-old baby. And luckily, our daughter has just evolved to our lifestyle and she just kind of goes with the flow now and she travels so much that she just is great. So we just have been blessed that we've had the opportunity to do that ... to be able to ... both of us take her everywhere and just be able to have this great opportunity.

Question: Hey Dathan, any idea how that 5k time might translate to the marathon? Do you have a lot more ... I guess, optimism about the 26.2 than you did after London?

DR: Well, yeah, I mean I have no idea what that means for a marathon and I can tell everybody that, from experience, the marathon is a different animal from anything else. So it's hard to ... even from a half marathon, there's such a difference. But running is, to a certain extent ... is running. As long as you finish, you figure out the small things to make the big differences. And so I'm lucky that I've experimented with it already, that when I do get into it again now I have this extra confidence from this new level of fitness that I'm at, but I also have a lot of experience with the small things that make a big difference in the marathon as well. And so I'm excited that ... I feel like when I do try a marathon again, it's like a debut again for me because I'm gonna just ... I feel like I'm at such a different level now that the next time I do run it, it's gonna be ... it'll be just as exciting as the first time because I'll just have this whole new experience, really.

Question: Is the spring likely your next marathon?

DR: I have no idea, really, but I would say I'll probably wait through ... I want to do one more full track season and give it a real good go at running some fast times again. But things always change day-to-day with Alberto especially, so we're just ... I'm just enjoying this right now and I'm enjoying racing again so, in all likelihood, I'd like to do it sooner than later because I'd like to pass and trade on that for the London 2012 Olympics still, so I'll have to get back to it, but at the same time, I really want to give it as best a shot as possible to run fast this summer.

Question: Does part of the equation become now, "If I could go out and get the American 10,000-meter record and hold both records at one time, that would be pretty special ..." Does that factor into your thinking at all?

DR: Definitely. I mean I think that I never really was someone to shoot for records so much; I like to compete more. And the hardest thing about 10ks is there's not a whole lot of them, but at the same time, I think that sometimes it doesn't work to go out and try to break a record. Sometimes it has to happen in the race and so when you don't have a whole lot of opportunities like in the 10k ... like the 5k, you could run one almost every weekend if you wanted to. The 10k, you just don't have that opportunity really and so if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, then maybe it'll have to wait another year, but just being ... trying for me to go out and say I'm going to break it at this race, I don't think it's good to put that kind of pressure on myself and so I know after these past couple of races that I'm capable of it, but I just have to get it in a race and when it happens, it'll happen.

Question: Didn't you set an NCAA 10,000-meter record at Stanford at one point?

DR: It was an American collegiate record.

Question: American collegiate record. Hey, could you talk just a little bit ... you talked about Alberto and what he did for you this summer, but could you talk a little bit about your previous two coaches - Mark Wetmore and Brad - and what they contributed to your development as a runner?

DR: Yeah, I'd actually like to go back even before that. I was really blessed in high school to have a very devoted coach as well. And it started for me all the way back then. And ... a lot of attention I think can be paid to the last four years or five years that I had with Brad spent developing my aerobic capacity and things like that, but to tell you the truth, that's something that's happened for me ever since I was very young - 15, 16 - even before that, when I started working out with my dad. I started doing triathlons and we would swim, we would bike, we would run, and so ever since I have been 12 years old, really, I've been doing massive amounts of aerobic-type training. And when I was in high school, I did do a lot of volume and stuff, but we did a lot of racing, a lot of fast stuff. We experimented with a lot of things that were non-orthodox, you know, kind of plyometrics-type things and the same things at ... with Mark at CU ... I ran a lot of volume - that's what Mark was really known for. But Mark really did have some hard, fast, fast races and he really thought that it was important to develop under ... you know, like faster overspeed-type training and racing. And so I had that for those three years as well, and then when I went to Brad, we spent a lot of time developing what he called like fat-burning and long, hard aerobic threshold-type training. And so when I came to Alberto, I had had so many years worth of training behind me at that point that I just was able to, with that focus back in on some speed, I had the huge, huge development over the last couple of months.

Question: Dathan, this is Peter Vigneron from Running Times. One of the reasons, if I recall correctly, that you moved to Eugene was to get away from altitude. Does it sound like there's maybe some altitude ... more altitude training in your future?

DR: Yeah, I think that that was a ... that was something that we were looking for as a reason for the injuries that I had had and really I don't think there's a whole lot of correlation between the two now. At the time, I thought maybe there was. We kind of figured well, this is something that we had changed but now that I look back at it, I just ... there's no real evidence to say that, I guess. There's definitely ... it can be harder to recover, but it wouldn't give you specific injuries that I had, I don't think. So I think that Alberto's very big with altitude training, so that something we'll keep in very now, I think, and that'll just be one more component that helps us hopefully keep going to the next level, 'cause if you look at what the East Africans do, they hate to be out of altitude. Ryan, he hates to be out of altitude and so all these great runners, I think it's not a coincidence that everybody uses it.

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