Complete Transcript from telephone interview with Ryan Hall an Dave Bedford

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This blogger arrived from Chicago on Thursday afternoon, April 10 in London. After a long trip on a bus to the Tower Hotel, I headed to the Media Centre.

The media centre in FLORA London is the place to be for marathon geeks and media. At about a dozen work stations and the same number of tables are the cream of the British Sports media, as well as many of the top international sports writers. Sean Hartnett, geographer extraordinaire, Victah Sailer, PhotoRun impressario, were also there with Cary Pinkowski and Mike Nishi, from Bank of America Chicago, Richard Finn, ING New York and Mary Wittenberg, ING New York filling out the crowd.

In the early evening, David Bedford and Richard Finn conducted a very good interview with Ryan Hall, who is looking at his third marathon.

Here is the transcript, we hope that you enjoy it:


Transcript from the telephone interview with
American Ryan Hall and Dave Bedford

Speaker key

RF Richard Finn
DB Dave Bedford
RH Ryan Hall
JP John Powers, Boston Globe
PG Peter Gambaccini, Runners World.com
BF Bonny Ford, espn.com
DP Dick Patrick, USA Today
DM David Monti, Race Results weekly
DL David Powell
LE Larry Eder, Running Network
DU David Ungrady, wcsn.com
WN Weldon, Johnson, letsrun.com



Richard Finn

Thank you everybody for joining us on this World Marathon Majors telephone conference. We're here just a few minutes away from the Tower Bridge. We can see the Tower Bridge which is one of the signature mile markers of the Flora London Marathon which will take place here on Sunday, the opening race of this year's World Marathon Major series. On today's call, I will introduce Dave Bedford, the race director of the Flora London Marathon. Dave will say a few opening remarks, then we will have a few opening remarks from our special guest Ryan Hall, the leading American in the men's field in London, and then we'll open it up for questions to both Dave and Ryan. It's now my pleasure to introduce Dave Bedford, the race director of the Flora London Marathon. Dave.

Dave Bedford

Hi, everyone. We're obviously getting nearer the event now. Things are starting to hot up, getting quite exciting. We had our men's press conferences yesterday [Wednesday], our women's today [Thursday]; and tomorrow [Friday], we actually ease back a notch with our celebrities. You probably know that the Flora London Marathon is a mix of the finest athletes in the world, both men and women in wheelchairs, and then a festival of fancy dress and exciting ordinary people doing remarkable things. We feel that we've put together two great fields here. With my Flora London Marathon I would say that it would be difficult for these fields to be much stronger than they are, and we recognise that another of our Word Marathon Majors races will be Monday week in Boston and, of course, wish them luck. I think at this stage, we're wondering what the weather's going to do on race day. We hope that we have great weather. Being an island, we're always looking for a small window of opportunity, and we hope that for our elite runners the conditions are as good as they can be. Today's call is very much about Ryan Hall who, of course, came here last year and debuted his first marathon in seventh place; 2:08:24; however, he was right there with all of the other stars of the world, with just over a mile and a half to go, and learnt I guess an awful lot about marathon running in that first event. He, of course, dominated the USA trials, and I think when we saw the way that he dominated the conditions in New York in November, I'm sure he probably doesn't actually care whether it's cold and windy, or whether it's hot. I think we're going to see a fantastic performance from him. It won't be easy for him with the 2007 winner, Martin Lel, the 2006 winner of London, Felix Limo, the world champion Luke Kibet, the world half marathon champion, Sammy Wanjiru, Stefano Baldini, the Olympic champion, and it goes on and on and on. You can all see on the website who we have. It's not going to be an easy one to win, but then I don't think anyone's ever had an easy London, and it's my delight to welcome Ryan back to London. He's with us and I'm sure that most of the questions on this call will come to him.

Ryan Hall

Thank you for having me, and super thrilled to be here, and back for the London Marathon. I had a great experience last year, and definitely, like Mr. Bedford said, learned a lot, and I'm just really excited to get back out there and compete. Training's gone really well, and feeling good and excited, and ready to get out there on race day.


Questions:

John Powers, Boston Globe

Hi Dave. The Kenyans have certainly dominated not just London, Boston, New York, elsewhere. Could you just say on balance what the pluses and minuses have been to have that many Kenyans dominating for so long?

Dave Bedford

Yeah, thank you. We recognise that we are an international sport, and there appears to be a constant, even endless stream of Kenyans, and indeed, Ethiopians who are dominating the top 20 marathon lists, both men's and women's, every year. I think we've prided ourselves in London in trying to make sure that we have that international feel so that the event doesn't just look like the Kenyan championships, or the African championships, and I think that's why we have gone out so aggressively to look at the champions from other countries. For us to have Ryan here, I have to tell you is great for us. It allows us to be seen as a world race as opposed to something other than that. The fact that he is here knowing that there are so many top athletes to compete against, and they don't get any better than Martin Lel and Felix Limo, these are people who have come and competed I would say probably the hardest city marathon to win. Many years we have fields here that, when you look back at what's happened at the Olympics or the World Championships, you can probably argue that the fields are actually stronger here than at times in those events. We will continue to make sure that the best athletes in the world are in London every single year.

Peter Gambaccini

Yeah, Ryan, you ran quite fast here last year, and you won in a very dominant fashion in New York, but I guess you haven't been in a race where you're contending for the victory in the final stages, which in London is often the case, and we can remember times when there's five people with 400 metres to go, and that sort of thing. And I know you're confident… I mean, your training is geared towards making you confident for all kinds of situations. Can you talk a little bit about what you and Terence have devised to make sure that you might be able to handle the Sammy Wanjiru, or Martin Lel on the last half mile of this race?

Ryan Hall

Yeah, we've definitely been practicing surging in workouts, and things like that that will prepare us to draw on some hard running in the later stages of the race, but I think what I really learned from the trials is it's just about getting as strong as you possibly can. If you're feeling good with half a mile to go, then you're going to be able to close really well, and that comes from strength, not just necessarily from doing a bunch of 800 metre repeats on the track or something like that. So our philosophy is to get as strong as you possibly can, and if you're feeling good, you can respond to people who [unclear] really well. So we've just been training really hard and I'm as fit as ever, so I think I'll be ready for whatever they throw at me after that.

Peter Gambaccini

Yeah, and as regards your performance at the US Cross Country Championships, obviously I guess you decided that's not something to worry about because that's just something that was occurring during a heavy phase of marathon training?

Ryan Hall

Yeah, marathon fitness is a lot different than cross country fitness, and 10K fitness or 12K fitness, and it's very difficult, for me anyways, to race off of marathon training, which is why I didn't race at all leading up to the trials. I really get more confidence from my workouts than the races leading up to it, because that tells me a lot more about what kind of fitness I'm in. So the workouts have been phenomenal. That was a good humbling experience for me. It's always good to go out there and realise that you're going to have to go out there and run hard and get a good practice run in competing, but everyone takes their lumps along the road.

Bonny Ford

Hi, Bonny Ford from ESPN.com. Ryan, I just wondered if you would fill us in just in general what you've been up to in the months since New York, and also comment on how you recovered emotionally and physically from what was on the one hand one of the better days of your life, and other hand, such a troubled and sad day with Ryan Shay's death.

Ryan Hall

It's been a really busy however long, it's been five months or so. I went from New York to Israel on vacation, which we had planned the trip a while before, and obviously, with Ryan Shay passing away, we went over there kind of needing some time to get away from things and reflect on things, and deal with that a little bit. And then we kind of travelled around a lot during the first months. I was taking off and resting and recovering, and then coming back, we actually went out to Flagstaff and lived with Alicia for three weeks and spent some time with her and tried to support her the best we could. And that was a really neat time for us to get to reconnect with her and I was really impressed by how she's been handling the events of that day. And then after that, went out to Big Bear, and then to Mammouth for a while, and just been training hard at altitude ever since then, and yes, things have been good.

Bonny Ford

Just a follow-up. I'm actually curious about why Israel for vacation; not always a common vacation spot. And also, if you could tell us about your plans immediately after the London Marathon too.

Ryan Hall

Yeah, so I went to Israel because I figured we like to go places on vacation where we don't usually get to go, and I didn't figure I'd be doing any racing in Israel any time soon, and it's a place that Sarah [his wife] and I have always wanted to go being Christians, having read about Israel our whole lives. We'd always were just curious to check it out and go walk where Jesus walked and see some of the sights over there. So that's why we chose that.

Richard Finn
Any plans for London?

Ryan Hall

Yeah, it's going to be kind of taking care of business after London in terms of recovery. I think that's going to be really important and I want to do a good job of taking care of my body, and then I'm really excited to go out to Boston and watch the women's trials. We have a couple of girls in our team that I think are going to have really runs out there; Kate O'Neil and Deena [Kastor]. So I'm excited to go and watch them and get inspired.

Dick Patrick
Ryan, could you just talk a little bit about how much different you may feel now as a marathoner as compared to a year ago?

Ryan Hall

I feel a lot stronger in general. I've felt that every time I've prepared for a marathon it's not like the previous marathons. I wasn't able to continue to build on that strength, so every time now, I feel stronger and stronger. And, obviously, I've learned a lot from the racing. I learned a lot about when the race actually starts last year, and a little bit about tactics, and how that works out when the rabbit drops off. And then in New York, it kind of opened up my eyes to what's possible in the later stages of the race for me. It's a really exciting way for me to run and got me really curious about what's possible for me. I remember after the race talking with Glenn Latimer and he used to tell me about the rabbit's going to go to 20K here in 62:30, and I was still thinking about the trials, so I was like man, so I'd be really excited. I wasn't even planning on doing a string marathon but the moment he said that, my interest just really perked up, and this is the race that I can get most excited about in terms of build up for Beijing, and in fact, Mr. Bedford saying the field out here is arguably just as competitive as the one in the Olympic Games, so to win this would be very special.

Dick Patrick

Yeah, just the follow I had was, was it difficult to decide on London? And I guess what I'm getting at, with the trials London and the Olympics, that would be three marathons in about nine months. Did that give you any cause for hesitation?

Ryan Hall

We were just looking at something that would get me excited. It's too long to do a marathon in November and then it's like what am I going to do in the meantime all the way to the summer time? And like I was saying, this is the race that gets me the most excited out of all the races during the year. And there are a lot of reasons why London to me is a perfect race. Obviously, the field, getting a good look at practicing against racing the marathoners in the world will be a huge learning experience for me on Sunday and one that will help me a lot in Beijing. So yeah, when you look at trying to get a medal, if you can do well in this race here, it really would go a long ways in preparing me for the Olympic Games. And I think that if I can… even if I don't do well, what I'll learn out there on the roads will definitely help me, not only in the Olympics, but in my career in general in marathon.


John Powers

Ryan, we mentioned earlier about the Kenyans, and one of the theories actually in the States has been that because they have raised the bar, it has pushed the Americans to raise the bar with some good results. I'm just wondering if you feel that has been so, and also, what your experience in London last year lining up with the Kenyans for so long did in terms of your confidence.

Ryan Hall

Yeah, I think any time anyone's running faster, it definitely makes you raise your game. And then also it shows you kind of what's possible. So they've definitely raised the bar, and it's exciting to see the Americans starting to close that gap down and answer their level of competitiveness. And then last year was really huge for me, because it definitely showed me that I belong up there with those guys, and I feel at home competing with them now. And so that will really go a long way for me on Sunday because going out with them won't seem as daunting a task as it would have if I'd never tried to run a marathon with them.

Bonny Ford

I'm wondering if your life has changed personally in the months since New York. Do people recognise you on the street? Do you feel that there are considerably even more expectations coming from fans of the sport when they talk to you or if you have contact with them? Just how New York changed things for you.

Ryan Hall

It's been kind of fun. I've definitely received a very warm welcome in my home town in Big Bear Lake where I grew up. They've started a campaign for me actually called moveamillionmilesforryanhall.com, and they're trying to total as a community a million miles by the time I run in the Olympic Games. So it's been kind of a neat thing that's been, and there's banners up around town, so I'm doing my training and running by these banners and fixtures about me that says Run Ryan Run on it and things like that. So that's been a really special thing. For me, I've competed in the World Championships before, and that doesn't seem that different than the Olympic Games, but to everyone else when you say the Olympics, they really perk up and it's been neat the reception that I've received from my community. And then in the running world, I'm starting to get recognised more and more. I wouldn't compare myself to Michael Jordan at running or anything. I still go for jogs and people don't have any idea who I am in the States, but it's been exciting just to be qualified for the Olympics this early in advance and to have people know that.

Bonny Ford

Just to be clear on that campaign, Ryan, people are sort of totalling up the miles that they run in order to try and get a million before you go to the Olympics?

Ryan Hall

Yeah, like if you go to the web page, moveamillionmilesforryanhall.com, you can go on there and you log your miles; like how many you did that week. On anything, so a bike, skateboard, running, whatever will work. And it's kind of interesting for the fact that they're like how many miles everyone in the community is going to have to run for us to meet the goal, and it's going up and up and up. Now, like everyone has to run 16 miles a day 'til the Olympic Games for us to reach our goal. It probably won't get there but it's kind of a neat idea, and it's really a cool thing for people in Big Bear because fitness is not a popular thing to do out there. Like, we never see people running when I was around home, and we see someone out jogging, we're like, whoa, there's a runner. So it's been kind of neat to get the community involved like that. And we're starting to see more people out and more encouragement rather than people yelling at me for wearing short-shorts, and things like that.
Richard Finn
If I might, Ryan, could you just tell everybody on the phone about big a city or town or village it is?

Ryan Hall

Yeah, I don't know. You'd have to Google it, but I think the population's around 16,000 I would say. But yeah, it's not a real big community; we have about 5,000 kids in our high school.

David Monti
How much of an inspiration is Deena?

Ryan Hall

Deena has been huge for me. Running a marathon, I've just been totally off banking off her and coaching Meb and people in our group with experience, because I'm still… this is just my third marathon. So I still know I have a lot to learn. And when people ask me questions, like how are you going to get ready for the heat in Beijing, I'm like, I'm going to do what Deena did in Athens. She went out there three weeks early; she got herself as fit as she could up in the heat of Athens and it seemed to work really well for her and Meb. And so I've been picking her brains for a long time, and she's definitely inspired me a lot, and when you talk about running with Africans and doing things like that, she's definitely shown me that's possible. It's a little different in the women's side. In the men's side, they're not quite as dominant, but they're still out there, and she's shown that Americans can run with anyone, and she's broken some barriers that I don't think anyone expected an American woman to break for quite a while. So she's paved the way for me.

David Powell

Ryan, your 29:02 in New York got a lot of people talking about how fast that might have been if it had been on a flat course. It was a pretty tough course and we were all pretty open mouthed at the performance. Do you try to churn the figures through and work out what that might have been worth say if you'd run the same kind of race on this course?

Ryan Hall

No, I don't really count any numbers or anything, but I was curious. Like I said, it really sparked my curiosity as what's possible for me, and that's what I hope to find out on Sunday; how fast can I run on a flat course? That's only in equal or better as I was before the trials, so that's what we'll find out on Sunday.

David Powell

Yeah, it's unrelated to the last one, but you spoke briefly just now about how you're going to prepare for Beijing, but how did you react to the comments from Haile Gebrselassie? You will recall that he thought it was a pretty risky business going to Beijing to run a marathon. And I guess Haile knows what he's talking about; he's been around long enough. Did that put a little bit of fear into your heart, or do you kind of just toss it off as if it doesn't matter?

Ryan Hall

Obviously, you've got to respect Haile and what he's saying. He's been around for a long time. I think all of us when we heard that, we were kind of taken aback a little bit, but at the same time, Haile's in a lot different position than I'm in. Haile has a couple of medals around his neck and world records, and doesn't have that much to prove. For me, the Olympics is a golden opportunity for me to shine on the world stage and it's hard for me to think about passing that up having dreamed about it all my life and obviously just thrilled to go out there and compete. So yeah, we'll definitely take note of that and prepare the best we can, but I'm really optimistic that they're going to get things cleaned up in good condition for us to run.

Dick Patrick
Ryan, I just have a couple of questions here. The first, you mentioned Deena. How do you think she'll run in the trials?

Ryan Hall

She is going to be tough to beat. She's run quite a bit faster than anyone else in the field, but in the marathon you never know. Obviously, her experience at the trials four years ago will play into this race, and she won't be just expecting to go out there and jog to a victory, but she's trained well as always and she's definitely ready to go.

Dick Patrick
Are there any similarities between London and Beijing as far as the topography of the course?

Ryan Hall

I've seen a video of the course in Beijing. I understand it's pretty flat. I'd imagine they're about the same. I haven't been there myself.

Dave Bedford

This is Dave Bedford. I'm not certain there's anyone around this table who can pop the answer to that question. All I can say for everything that I've read is that it's going to be a very different experience. Even if we have the best day possible here, the conditions will be so significantly different from those in Beijing, it's the conditions that runners are going to have to face the heat and the humidity in Beijing which is far more of an issue as opposed to whether the course is flat. If I could also just say, ladies and gentlemen, I have to go to an internal meeting, so I'm going to have to leave this conference call now. On behalf of the Flora London Marathon, I thank you for your interest; on behalf of World Marathon Majors also, and we will continue to share with you whenever we can what's going on here in London and here at the other World Marathon Majors meetings. Thank you for your interest.
Larry Eder

One of the things you were saying, you are coming to this event as the US marathon champion. You also must be very, very competitive. One thing we know about Beijing, it will be very, very competitive too. Do you have more confidence after last year in your ability to deal with the last 4K in London?

Ryan Hall

Yeah, definitely. The last couple of miles in London is really tough for me. I really struggled out there, but it showed me that I can deal with it, and so I'm going to hang on okay. I wasn't thrilled with my last couple of miles obviously, but after New York and how I felt there, I felt like a whole different runner. So it just kind of showed me that I shouldn't expect to feel totally trashed at the end of every single marathon; that it is possible to feel well if you've been prepared well. So I'm hoping that I feel more like at the end of the trials than I did at the end of the London Marathon last year. But I'm excited to see how it goes.

Larry Eder

One follow-up. Tell us about the 4:32 mile you ran in the Central Park during the trials for the marathon. Did you know you were running that fast?

Ryan Hall

No. I had no idea. I was just trying to just kind of open up my legs a little bit, and when I went down and found my watch, I was like, whoa, take it easy a little bit. I had no idea, and most us, but I was surprising myself. I didn't know I was running that fast. It felt really easy.

Peter Gambaccini

Ryan, in the past, Terence has mentioned about how to get the full stress that he wanted at altitude with you that he had to take you up to 9,000 feet, which was 1,000 feet above where we were, and I would imagine that first of all, you did spend some time in Flagstaff which isn't that high, and I also imagine in the winter that maybe you can't really go up to 9,000 feet. So I'm just wondering if the altitude component of your training was a little less this time than it has been in the past.

Ryan Hall

Yeah, it's definitely different compared to the winter time. We do try and get up there. Actually, they have cross country skiing up there, and slap on some [unclear] which are like chains in the bottom of your shoes and we go and run up there, but it's not quite the same as doing intervals session around the lake up at 9,000 feet. So it's definitely a little bit different, but it's kind of fun to experiment with that. We can do the live high, train low type of thing where when we're up in Mammouth sometimes, and we're doing our workouts at 4,500 feet, which isn't at quite sea level, but you can run a little bit quicker down there and work on your turnover a little better. And I think that could be a good thing for a faster course where maybe there will be some points in the race where you'll have to be turning over a little bit. So it's been kind of fun to experiment, but the weather's really cooperated quite well, both in Big Bear and Mammouth for us to be able to stay high and do our long runs at least 7,000 feet or so. So I've been very pleased that I have been able to stay high as much as I have.

Peter Gambaccini

And just quickly, could you fill us in on your brother Chad's progress? Has he been running, or has he been competing? What's the situation?

Ryan Hall

He registered in cross, and he competed indoors. And I think he ran a personal best at a mile in 4:07. And he's doing well. He's starting to make some tough adjustments, leaving a small town and going up to Eugene, and our family's really tight. It's not easy to leave the situation we have in Big Bear, and kind of everyone in my family has experienced that where it's kind of tough in the first couple of years in college. But he's really matured a lot and I'm really proud of him and he's definitely getting in good shape and hopefully will run well this outdoor season, but we've already been talking about how we're going to train together after college and I'm excited to see him develop both as an athlete and as an individual.

David Ungrady

Thanks for taking the call. Ryan, what did you learn from being in London last… the final few days of preparation, if you learned anything that you may do something differently this year that may help you this year?

Ryan Hall
Just for the last final days?

David Ungrady

Yes, so are you kind of doing anything differently while you're in London, or anything? You had a good race last year, but did you learn anything from last year that may help you this year before the race, the last few days?

Ryan Hall

I don't know if there's much I can do in the last few days besides just not totally stressing out, and mentally to try and stay loose and relaxed. And it's really a kind of easy thing to do out there with the competitors here. They're so laid back and we had a pretty chilled press conference yesterday, so the atmosphere is not very stressful. And so that's kind of a neat thing, and a unique thing, because I find that with races in the States, sometimes I get a little bit tense a couple of days before the race, but here everyone's just really relaxed. So it's a nice atmosphere to compete in.

Richard Finn
Ryan, there's some family here that's coming in. Can you just tell who's coming in to watch?

Ryan Hall
Yeah, my parents are coming in, and then my grandfather and his girlfriend are coming in as well.

Weldon, Johnson

Ryan, everybody's talking about the second half of the race and what you did in New York. No American's ever gone out in 62:30 for the first half. So what are your thoughts on that?

Ryan Hall

Yeah, that's a pretty stiff pace, obviously. It's going to be tough and I'm not expecting the first half to feel easy, but at the same time, I'm a guy who gets excited to run fast, and so if I start I see some fast times taking off, I think I'll just kind of build up the momentum there. And yeah, I realise it's a stiff pace, but I feel very prepared and ready for it.

Richard Finn

Follow-up’s? Good. Again, I'd like to thank everybody for joining us on this special call with our special guest, Ryan Hall. Again, thank Dave Bedford for joining us. Just as one stat that could be of interest to us, especially come on Sunday, there's only been two other American male winners of the Flora London Marathon; Dick Beardsley who tied in the inaugural race here in 1981, and then Khalid Khannouchi in 2002, so that would be some company if Ryan comes out on top on Sunday. I'd like to thank everybody again for joining us. And again, we wish Ryan the best of luck come Sunday.

Official link: http://www.worldmarathonmajors.com/UK/news/161/

This transcript came courtesy of the FLORA London Marathon and World Marathon Majors. Special thanks to the World Marathon Majors for their support of the sport!

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