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Deena Drossin teleconference transcript


Jill Geer
Chief Public Affairs Officer
USA Track & Field
(508) 520-1529

On April 13, Deena Drossin ran 2 hours, 21 minutes and 16 seconds to break the American record in the women’s marathon at the Flora London Marathon. With her time, Drossin broke the previous record of 2:21:21, held by 1984 Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Along with her 10,000-meter American record of 30:50.32 set last year, Drossin’s performance on Sunday makes her the first woman in history to simultaneously hold the American records in both the 10,000m and the marathon. In U.S. men’s history, only Frank Shorter and Alberto Salazar have accomplished the feat.

Drossin has had an amazingly successful two-month span: On Feb. 15, she won her sixth consecutive U.S. long-course cross-country title; On March 8 she won her fourth consecutive U.S. 15km road title, breaking her own American best time for the distance with 47:15; on March 29 she won her second straight individual silver medal at the World Cross Country Championships in Switzerland, leading Team USA to the team bronze; and on April 13 she broke the American marathon record in London.

USA Track & Field on Wednesday hosted a national teleconference with Drossin. Below are excerpts from the call.

USATF CEO Craig A. Masback: Deena, congratulations. I’ve just been so thrilled for the entire season. I was literally checking the wires and going online to check Lausanne [World Cross County] and London. I know how hard you have worked for this and the sacrifices you have made. It’s a great model for others and exciting to watch. I appreciate all you do for USA Track & Field, especially at the World Cross Country Championships, where you helped deliver another team medal.

Q: How do you feel about owning a record previously held by Joan Benoit Samuelson?

DEENA DROSSIN: It’s pretty incredible. I said in my previous two marathons that in order to run as fast as I wanted to at this distance, it would have to perfect day. Definitely it was that. It took 17, 18 years for anybody to touch Joan’s record. She’s still an icon of the sport and a legend. I guess I like to keep things in perspective. Yes, I ran a fast marathon on a great day, but Joan’s record stood for a long time, and she’s the Olympic gold medalist. She’s given back to the sport so much.

Q: How do you feel now after your race, emotionally and physically?

A: I feel great, both emotionally and physically. It was just a fabulous weekend. I was coming off of a couple of good races, which left me going into London feeling confident. I got to train in London in Hyde Park for two weeks leading up to the marathon, so everything seemed perfect leading up to it. I feel great now. I’m basking in my parents’ home in Southern California before heading back to the mountains [of Mammoth Lakes, in Northern California, to train].

Q: Tell us how you were feeling in the final stages of the race, when you knew the record was in reach.

A: I think anyone will tell you that marathoning doesn’t feel good. I guess you have good moments in the race, but really it’s a psychological battle, because the pain of the marathon is physically there, no matter what pace you’re running. The biggest lesson I walked away with Sunday was just how mental the sport of marathoning is. With about 10k to go, I was about 40 seconds off of American record pace. I had some K splits marked down on my arm to give me some guidelines, and I was 40 seconds off. Instantly, when I saw those numbers, my legs got heavy and I heard my feet slapping the pavement; my face was tightening up. For about a half mile I was thinking ‘I can’t do this, I’m not on record pace.’ Then I kind of woke myself up and out of it and said even if I don’t get the record, I’m on pace for a huge personal best right now. I was thinking about my training – long runs in the mountains, track workouts at the [ARCO Olympic] Training Center [in Chula Vista, Calif.], the weight training, all the miles logged on my legs. So I thought, it’s not worth it to give up this easily. That had me feeling more exuberant and excited, and I thought, I can make this up in 6 miles. Sure enough, the next mile that came around, I was running faster than the pace I had wanted to run. It was an ugly sprint to the finish line to dip under that record, but the mental aspect was the greatest thing I walk away from that race with.

Q: When did you know you had the record?

A: I really didn’t know. I was coming to the finish line and I saw the clock, and I thought, gosh can I cover this territory in this short amount of time? It was about 30 seconds. Andrew [fiancé Andrew Kastor] said he hasn’t seen me sprint like that, even on the track. I crossed the finish line, and Andrew said, ‘by five seconds!’ I said, ‘I missed it by five seconds?’ He said, ‘no, you got it by five seconds.”

Q: Will you run a fall marathon?

A: I am getting married in the fall, and I am going to honeymoon and won’t be taking my training shoes. I’m going to be Deena Kastor in the fall, and I’m pretty excited about it. [Note: Drossin and Kastor will wed September 14 in Mammoth Lakes, and will honeymoon in Napa Valley.]

Q. How has training at Mammoth shaped your career these last few years?

A: It’s just been incredible to work with the other people in our group [Team USA California]. We’ve got a mature group. Everybody has their own personality and different things to offer to the group. We’ve had newcomers who share new ideas. It’s been great that we can work together and feed off each other.

Q: How important is a track background for the marathon?

A: I think it’s critical for an athlete as a distance runner. You need the variety so you don’t get stale, you need the leg turnover of the track, and the distance running gives you strength you need on the track. I don’t think they should be separate – if you separate them, you’ll find yourself getting stale in the marathon. I think it’s incredibly important to balance the disciplines throughout the year.

Q. What are your plans for next year?

A: I’m definitely doing the 10km on the track this year, for Paris [World Outdoor Championships]. As far as Athens goes [2004 Olympics], I’m pretty sure I’m doing the 10,000 meters. There’s only about a 10 percent chance that I’ll run the marathon. I guess what turns me off from running a marathon in Athens is I don’t see the times there as being very quick, and I don’t want to waste my time running 26 miles if I’m not going to get a time out of it. The heat in Athens at that time is going to be tough to run a good marathon anyway. I feel I can still get a good time in on the track, even if the conditions are warmer.

Q: What do you think your performance can mean to other American marathon runners? Will it cause them to reconfigure what ‘elite’ means?

A: I hope that it acts as an inspiration, just like Paula’s performance did to me. [Paula Radcliffe’s world record of 2:15:25.] You could either look at it as ‘I can never do this’ or as ‘wow, these barriers are being broken. What do I have to do to better myself?” I hope it acts as an inspiration.

Q: Is Paula Radcliffe untouchable?

A: The last couple of years have been spectacular for marathoning. Just a couple of years ago, it was incredible to break 2:20. Those are huge chunks to take off in just a couple of years. It’s an incredible feat, but it shows that it is her mental strength that is her greatest asset. It’s not her form – her head bobbing, her toe running. It shows it’s mind strength that gets you to break those barriers. Hopefully other people can do that, too.

Q: Where do you get your toughness and grit from?

A: I don’t know. My parents are very strong people, so I must have gotten it from them, but I can’t overstate the influence the Coach [Joe] Vigil has been on me. I’ve learned so much about life and training through him. He’s probably the biggest optimist on the circuit. He’s sacrificed so much. The fact that he’s as dedicated as he is makes it more inspiring for us.

Q: Paula Radcliffe skipped Worlds Cross Country to focus on London. You opted to run. Any affect on London, pro or con?

A: If anything, it was a positive. Cross-country training make me extremely tough, and I wouldn’t pass up the cross-country season for anything. It’s my biggest passion. For me, it’s critical that I run cross-country. I think it helps my marathoning tremendously.

Q: How low can you go in the marathon?

A: I don’t know, but I’m really excited to get another one under my belt. I loved the event in London. I learned a lot from the race, and I look forward to utilizing a little more of my knowledge next time I’m out there.

Q: Will sub-2:20 be a goal?

A: Yes.

Q: When will you start your track season this year?

A: The national championships are going to be my first race, the 10,000 meters. Then, I’m going to go to Europe. I’m going to do two 1,500s, a couple of 3,000 and possibly a couple of 5,000s. … I’m lowering my mileage considerably. I was doing about 140 miles a week for London, and now I’m going to be around 80 miles a week for the track season. My personal best in the 1,500 is 4:07; I’d like to run at least 2 to 3 seconds faster than that.

Q: London was a hefty payday for you.

A: It doesn’t affect anything for me. I still have the same exact lifestyle now as I did when I lived in Alamosa, Colorado and had to work at a café for 15 hours a week to be able to pay my rent. It’s just that I’m not serving coffee for those few hours a day.

Q: Do you need an Olympic medal to cap off your career?

A: Getting a medal is definitely one of my higher hopes, but I don’t think of anything in this sport as being career capping. There’s always something else to aspire to.

Q: By the standard of the clock, you are greatest American distance runner of all time. Who do you think is all-time greatest?

A: I would have to say that Joan Benoit Samuelson is. Looking at this past year, I broke the 5k world record on the roads, and one year later it’s been tied. Records come and go so easily, and the fact that Joan held this record for 17 years I just incredible to me, that she set the standard so far ahead of anybody else.

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