Keflezighi and Khannouchi teleconference excerpts

10-30-2007

Contact:
Jill Geer
Director of Communications
USA Track & Field
317-713-4663

USA Track & Field, the U.S. Olympic Committee and New York Road Runners on Tuesday hosted a national media teleconference with 2004 Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi and American record holder Khalid Khannouchi. Both men will compete Saturday in New York for a spot on the 2008 Olympic Team, running in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon.

Below are excerpts from Tuesday's call.

Q: How is your fitness entering Saturday's race?

MK: Training has been good. I've been at Mammoth Lakes training. I tried to go to San Diego for a day but the air quality was too poor with the fires. I'm happy to be in New York.

KK: I feel great. I've been training hard the past two months.

Q: Meb, you've had great success here in the ING New York City Marathon, and Khalid, you live in the New York area and have done several training sessions in Central Park recently. How do you feel about competing in New York?

MK : I've done the 8k, 10k and many marathons here. I've had a lot of success here. Central Park is awesome, and we'll see how it goes on Saturday.

KK: I don't have to take a plane to compete. I feel like I'll be running in front of my home crowd. There's a lot of hype here, and everybody's cheering me on.

Q: Khalid, how close are you to your 2:06, 2:07 form?

KK: I really don't know how in shape I am right now because I haven't performed well in my races. But I feel good about the home-court advantage, I live in New York, and I'll try to do the best I can.

Q: How much regret do you have that injury kept you out of the 2004 Olympic Trials?

KK: Injuries are part of our game and you have to be able to accept what you get. You have to do the best you can to treat them and get back. I wasn't really lucky to be in shape for the Olympic Trials.

Q: Khalid, what was your injury in 2004?

A: I had a strain in my right foot. I did a couple of MRIs and it showed an inflammation there. I just found out the past 3 months that I have a neuroma between the second and third metatarsals that causes a lot of pain when I run. Right now I'm using specially designed orthotics and shoes from New Balance. It's going to be a very important test for me. To be honest I feel great about the training I've done and that I'll have some good results - to be top 3 and to be honored to represent the United States in the next Olympics.

Q: Meb, are you healthy?

MK: For the most part. I had a little calf strain 5, 6 weeks ago, but I've recovered and I've been training.

Q: Meb, can you talk about how much deeper this field is than 4 years ago?

A: The field is very challenging, just because four years ago you could point to four people or three people who could make the team. Now you're talking about six or seven or more. It's definitely a lot more depth and more challenging.

Q: Could you each talk about the trend in American distance running and marathoning? A lot of people said there's a renaissance now.

KK: I think it's true. If we look at the athletes we have right now, or if we compare the U.S. Olympic trials of before to now, there is a lot of progress. The [training] groups out there really do a good job, and if you look at our high school and college programs, we are improving. We are going to have a lot of bright young athletes to take this torch. There has to be great coaching out there and people who can guide you through a long career.

MK: I couldn't agree more with Khalid. It's just whenever you have a high school team, college team, professional team, the team aspect of it takes it to the next level. A lot of distance runners do not mature at the high school level. Khalid, myself, [Alan] Culpepper, Deena [Kastor], we didn't peak when we were in college. So a program having a team aspect after college is very important. We've all had success. Now people say if they can do it, why can't I? ... Ron Tabb, who was a great mentor for me when I was in high school, said you'll be a great marathoner and you're going to win a medal. You need to hold on to those people.

KK: When you talk about group training, you have to contain yourself. I do all my training on my own, but I get to a point where mentally I'm tired. When you have a training partner, you break down that boredom of distance running and you can have a better person than you training with you. You just have to know you are training, not racing. You have to be smart doing it.

MK: Khalid said it right. You have to understand what the mission is. It's to work together and accomplish the goal. Sometimes you have to exchange leads so everybody is on the same page.

Q: Khalid, I was looking at your website and your last race was listed as May 9. What have you run since May?

A: I did an Atlanta road race on Labor Day. Then I did the San Jose Half-Marathon three weeks prior to the marathon date [Olympic Trials]. I ran 1:05:04.

Q: Meb, was your plan to come down from altitude to go to San Diego?

A: I had my flight booked from San Diego, but because of air quality I didn't go.

Q: How do you see the race Saturday playing out?

KK: It's very difficult to talk about that. The marathon is always unpredictable. Right now, to be honest, I don't have a tactic that I'm going to use for the race. I assume there will be a slow first half, but that's not something for sure.

MK: With that much talent, people have training partners who are going to help each other out. It's unpredictable.

KK: This is not like a city marathon where you need to win. A lot of guys here, we want to make the team. If you ask me if I want to work hard and win or to make the team, I want to make it easy for myself and try to make the top 3. We know we are improving and we can take the U.S. marathon into another level.

Q: Do you guys still have the drive to put in the training and hurt?

KK: Not as much as it was before. To be honest, we still have the drive. This is still a dream for me. Meb is an inspiration to bring home the silver medal from Athens. I am honored to be in the same room as him. For me it's a dream to represent my country and do the same. I've worked as hard as I can. I did the best I can and I feel I can do as well as everybody else.

MK: Deena and I have accomplished a lot, but Khalid is also an inspiration to me. I still haven't won a major marathon yet. In terms of driven, I am still driven. I want to run as fast as Khalid says I can run. I want to win a marathon. I don't want to retire and be the guy who never won a race.

Q: Who are top 3 favorites for Saturday?

KK: Don't ask me that question. It's very difficult. There are probably more than 10 guys who can be in the top 3. Anything can happen. For sure there is going to be a lot of drama.

Q: Khalid, how fast do you think Meb can run?

KK: I think Meb has the qualities to run under 2:07 without a problem. It's up to him if he wants to get the American record, but he has the quality with the speed he has over 5,000m, 10,000m on the track. He can do that and I wish him the best.

MK: It gives me chills to hear that. A lot of people say you can run fast, but I haven't done it yet.

Q: Talk about the course.

MK: It's a challenging course. When you add a competitive field, it's anticipated, by the media, the fans and the runners. I hope we send our three best to represent our country. Hopefully the two of us will be part of that.

Q: Khalid, how did you manage training during Ramadan?

KK: It was pretty difficult because I had to make some adjustments. I didn't do as many miles as I usually do before a marathon. This is the first time I had to train through Ramadan, in the past I would do easy runs and easy workouts. I think I did a pretty good job. If the race is a tactical race and I don't have to run 2:07 to be on the podium [it will help him]. I would do my first run at 5p.m., two hours after breaking the fast, and I would have to wait until midnight to do my second workout. My wife was with me all the time, every day. That's the motivation and sacrifice you have to do if you want to achieve your dream. All the talk, all the bad articles that I get that I wasn't able to participate in the [2004] Olympics, people put that on my shoulders but I still believe I can make it. I am still fighting to make my dream true. I hope I can rise to the occasion and do my best and make the top three.

Q: What has your training been like?

KK: I was averaging about 17 miles, 18 miles a day. That's all I could do, it was really tiring [fasting during Ramadan]. Sometimes I would do a track workout before breaking the fast, then I'd feel like I had no energy. I could do 100, 105 miles a week, but I usually do 130 miles preparing for a marathon.

For more information on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon, visit http://www.usatf.org/events/2008/OlympicTrials-Marathon-Men/