Abdirahman, Culpepper, Hall teleconference excerpts


Tom Surber
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field

INDIANAPOLIS - USA Track & Field, the U.S. Olympic Committee and New York Road Runners on Thursday hosted a national media teleconference with two-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman (Tucson, Ariz.), 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials champion Alan Culpepper (Lafayette, Colo.) and American half-marathon record holder Ryan Hall (Palo Alto, Calif.). All three 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 Thursday's call.

Q: Could you discuss your readiness for Saturday's race?

RH: I'm just really excited about this opportunity. I've been dreaming about this for a long time and it's exciting to finally have the opportunity to make my first Olympic team. I know whatever team is selected here on Saturday is going to represent well in Beijing.

AC: Like Ryan said, we're all excited about this event. We're excited about the build-up and the excitement of making an Olympic team and it being here on the largest stage in New York City. I'm thrilled to be a part of this and thrilled to get out and run on Saturday.

AA: I'm glad to be a part of the USA Olympic men's marathon trials. My preparation has been going well leading to this race. Everything's going well, I'm healthy and I'm ready to race. The three men that will be selected Saturday for the U.S. Olympic team will represent our country well at the Beijing Olympics.

Q: Alan, what is the difference in running a loop course in a marathon and a point to point course?

AC: That's a good question. Tactically it allows you to stay a little more in touch with where you are on a course and how much further you have, and to not be as daunted by the distance quite as much. I think it'll feel maybe more like a cross country style race or a European type criterium style race, where you're always aware of where you are and people are going to be giving us constant information, so hopefully it'll make it mentally go quicker and physically, hopefully, it just kind of takes that level of the distance edge off a little bit.

Q: The weather in New York on Saturday will be quite different than what it'll be in Beijing. Alan, do you think the trials conditions should replicate the conditions found at the Olympics, or does it make a difference?

AC: I would not agree with that type of criterium. We already have enough challenges in just facing the distance, and in the U.S. the way we have the trials set up where it all boils down to one day. That's enough, in and of it self. Once you've made the team then you can prepare accordingly, which is what we did in 2004. To mimic those conditions now would be impossible almost, and would really not be our best way of selecting the appropriate team members.

Q: Ryan could you talk about the pressure of the one day trials?

RH: It definitely makes you pretty nervous the weeks leading up to the race in terms of watching out, like you might get sick or little nagging things that can happen in your final preparations for a big race like this. It's really great for us to bring our A game on one day and that's what being a great athlete is all about being able to have your A game on a particular day, and that's what I'm hoping Saturday will be.

Q: Could you all speak about the quality of the field?

AA: I think the quality of the field, if you look at the history of the U.S. marathon, this is one of the best fields that have ever been assembled for an Olympic trials marathon. You have like five or six guys that have run under 2:10, and then you have another 15 or 20 guys that are capable of running fast times. Look at the history of USA running where we were four years ago and where we are today is like totally two different situations.

AC: Not in any way to take anything away from the mid-80s or '84 or '88 trials, those times when the U.S. clearly had a huge number of athletes running under 2:20 and under 2:15 more importantly. In no way would I want to take away from what those guys were doing then. I do think now that due to the professionalism of the sport the level, of competition now is raised to a whole new level worldwide, just with the progression of the sport as a whole and I think that's clearly the case now. The three that make the team will, in my mind, clearly be ones to look out for in terms of sneaking in there to get a medal at the Olympics, and Meb (Keflezighi) proved that in the last Olympics. He didn't win our trials, but he went on to win a medal. I would say we're definitely at a new level.

RH: One thing that makes this race exciting in terms of the quality of the field is the range of guys we have out there from a previous world record holder (Khalid Khannouchi) you have guys that have never run marathons before but are extremely talented on the track, so you got guys that you really don't know what to expect, and guys everywhere in between. It's going to be interesting to see how everyone does.

Q: What is your strategy going into the race?

RH: I did learn some things in London that I'll use here. I think patience is a big part of a marathon and learning how to spend your energy, and I think I learned in London that as much as I wanted to press at 10k out there it was a little too early for me, I needed to wait a little bit later. I'm definitely going to draw off that experience and I can learn from these guys while we're out there in the race. I'll definitely be looking to Meb (Keflezighi) as a fellow training partner up in Mammoth (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) to kind of lead me out a little bit and be looking to see what some of the older guys are doing because they have more experience than I have, so I'll be looking to learn from them.

AA: To be honest, I usually do make a strategy but the strategy just goes out the window once the race has started. We'll see how everything goes once the race starts. To be honest, I can not tell you what my strategy will be on Saturday. My strategy is to be competitive and stay by the top and just make sure your in the top three always.

AC: I would concur with Abdi. We all have run a lot of races for a lot of years and you kind of just know on the day what you need to do. You trust your instincts and you trust your intuition. That's what I'll be focusing on for myself, but also not ruling out the fact that that there are some things that I thought about ahead of time that could possibly happen.

Q: How do you prepare for doubt that might enter your minds during a competition?

AC: We all have our own way of dealing with it, and we all deal with doubt at some level when things aren't going well, but there's other times when you don't doubt at all. It all depends on how you're feeling and depending on how the race is going. There's a lot of self-talk that goes on and that you practice at home, maybe unknowingly during your training. There's a lot of times when you push through a lot of hard workouts and hard days where you've kind of been doing it unintentionally and come race day you just do the same thing. I know that with the marathon one thing is you keep going, you don't give up because anything can happen.

AA: There's a lot of things that go through your head when you're running races, but at the same time I would say you practice things, like when I'm hurting and when things are not going well I think about my background and what I've been through in life. Because I have family members back in Somalia and I think of what they are going through in life, so it's just little things like that are something to motivate you and wake you up, and that's what I basically do for motivation.

RH: I think personally sometimes there's a lot of doubts and negative thoughts that come into my mind because my perspective is wrong. When I start thinking like that I try to remember why I run, and for me it's about praising God out there. When I get into that state of mind I never have any doubts and I really enjoy the race. That's an easy key for me to think about on the starting line and out there racing, just remember why I'm doing what I'm doing.

Q: Are you considering trying out for the Olympic team in other events if you don't make the team on Saturday?

RH: There would be no reason not to. I'm definitely not banking on that. The marathon is my best event and my best shot at a medal, so I'm not really thinking about that at this point, but I wouldn't see a reason not to try.

AC: The last thing you want to do is come into this race with a back up plan. I think the guys who are going to run the best don't have a back up plan but we all want to make the Olympic team, so if something doesn't happen the way we hope we'll move forward and make the next best step.

AA: Regardless of the outcome of this race I'm running the Olympic Trials 10,000 no matter what.

Q: What time do you think it'll take to win the trials and to make the team?

AC: I don't think any of us want to lollygag around because that allows guys that maybe shouldn't be up in there to be in there, but we also don't want to sacrifice. To be honest I don't think it's going to be as slow as we all initially thought, or like when I first saw the course, I thought man, I'd be lucky to run 2:15. I don't think that's necessarily going to be the case. For me personally I made that mistake in the Olympics in limiting what I felt I could run on the course. You don't want to over think it too much.

RH: I haven't even thought about what kind of time it's going to take. A better question is what kind of 10k time is it going to take at the end of the race. I think that's where the team is going to be decided, during that last 10k. That's kind of been my thought process.

AA: It'll take a 2:04:25 (laughter). I wish I could tell you a time but we're going to take what the course gives us on Saturday. We're just out there to run and finish in the top three. It might take 2:15, it might take 2:20, it might take 2:10, you never know. Expect the unexpected.

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