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Thursday, August 13, 2009

New York, New York

I've been debating whether or not to come up to New York for the NYC Half Marathon for a few weeks now. Last year I came up with a crew and we filmed Catherine shopping at Niketown, one of her favorite activities :) I also filmed her at a Q&A/Autograph session but I was not here for the actual race. So I really wanted to be here but I was torn between obligations at home and this. With both of my sons leaving for college in a week, there is much to be done to get them ready. To top that off, the younger of the two had his wisdom teeth out yesterday at 3pm. He was feeling REALLY good immediately after it was over, but once the novocaine and anesthesia wore off, he reassessed and was definitely NOT feeling very well at all. I won't go into the details but let's just say that he was quite under the weather. A few weeks before, he was urging me to go to NY and do what has to be done, assuring me he would be fine to take care of himself after the "minor" procedure of having all four wisdom teeth out. I finally agreed and scheduled the trip. I was very excited knowing that the field for this half marathon was excellent to begin with, and at the last minute Paula Radcliffe announced her entry as well. But after seeing my son around eleven last night, I was not so sure he would be ok. After a bout of hugging the toilet bowl, he began to feel better around midnight and I knew my trip was still going to happen. After all, he could always call his father, my friends, his grandmother or if need be, I would only be 90 minutes away. So after finally getting to bed at 2am, 5am came all too quickly! (should I have gone to sleep at all?)

Well, I got packed and ready to go and headed out to the train. Fortunately, traffic was good to me and I caught the intended train and off I went! I arrived in NYC around 9:20 am and hopped a subway to the Warwick hotel where Catherine, Lisa and Hosea Rotich were staying (as well as the other elite athletes). I ran into Catherine just as I arrived and she was headed out for a nice pre-race massage. I hung out with Lisa for a bit and we stopped into the hospitality lounge to say hi to some of the NYRR organizers and then I headed down to pick up my credentials for the press conference. Originally, the women’s elite runner press conference was scheduled for Thursday August 13th, but since Lornah Kiplagat had to withdraw they moved it to Friday along with Deena Kastor and Ryan Hall who were originally scheduled to have a separate press conference on Friday anyway.

It was a small group of reporters and the elite runners in an informal, round table format. There were three tables; one athlete at each table; Catherine Ndereba, Hendrick Ramaala (South Africa) and Tadese Tola (Ethiopia). Later, Deena Kastor (USA), Ryan Hall (USA) and Paula Radcliffe (UK) joined as well. It seemed a lot of the reporters were interested in asking Catherine (as well as the other athletes), what they thought of Paula running the NYC Half Marathon this week and then potentially the marathon next week at the World Championships in Berlin. They also seemed very interested to know how Catherine felt about the fact that Paula was running. As usual, Catherine graciously stated that it doesn't matter to her; the better the field the happier she is to be among good competition and that it would not change the way she races at all. She runs her own race no matter who is in the field.

What I found most interesting was what happened after the press conference was officially over and the athletes left the room and went about their business. I was having my lunch at a table with some journalists and I overhead a discussion between two journalists about Catherine's career and her consistency and how there isn't anyone else out there right now that has the consistency to sustain a career over such a long period of time the way Catherine has. I wanted so much to grab my camera and ask "uh, excuse me, could you repeat what you just said and oh, can you look into the camera as you do?" I refrained but it was interesting to listen to them discuss all of the current women on the racing circuit and agree that Catherine’s ability to maintain such a high level of competitiveness over such a period of time in this sport is highly unusual.

After the press conference, I met up again with Lisa and Catherine and Catherine relaxed for a bit and spoke on the phone with her husband, Anthony. They were not speaking English but the conversation was very jovial and filled with a lot of laughing and smiling. Soon it was time to head over to the Hilton where Catherine sat for an interview for a local television station. While there, we met Liz Robbins, author of the book A Race Like No Other which is about the NYC Marathon. She was very nice and seems to be a big fan of Catherine’s.

Once the interview was finished, we headed back to the Warwick again and just chatted until it was time for Catherine to go to her technical meeting. It was at that point that I decided to bid them farewell for the day. I filmed her at a technical meeting last year and from there they would go to a dinner which I know they would not spend much time at because Catherine was itching to get to Niketown! I didn’t mind getting back to where I was staying (my younger sister’s place) early; it was a very long day on only 3 hours sleep! I found an excellent sushi bar and grabbed dinner and called it a day. It looks like the weather all weekend will be nice but by Sunday it will be much hotter and more humid so it’s a good thing the race is early!

Deena Kastor

L to R: Deena Kastor, Catherine Ndereba, Paula Radcliffe

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