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Press Conference: Marla Runyan

Marla Runyan runs on Regina Jacobs' shoulder during the 2001 Millrose Games.
(Photo by Alison Wade)

In a 2-12-01 press conference, it was announced that Marla Runyan will attempt to break the indoor 5,000m American Record at New York City's Armory Track & Field Center on Sunday, February 18 as part of the New York Road Runners Record Challenge Series. Runyan spoke to reporters via telephone from her home in Eugene, Oregon.
Press Release | Official Marla Runyan web site | Runyan Bio

General thoughts on the race:
I'm really looking forward to the race and I feel I'm ready. A friend of mine and I came up with this idea last fall and we thought this would be a nice way to have a goal for the indoor season -- something to really focus on and that would be really fun and keep me motivated and keep me focused on breaking a record... It's finally here so I'm really looking forward to it.

Who will rabbit the race, what will the target splits be:
Alisa Harvey is going to be pacesetting. She's run everything from the 800m to the marathon (laughs). She's going to look at trying to go to 3k. I'm probably looking to run it finishing faster than I start. So yeah, maybe even splits, maybe even a little bit slower in the first 2k. I imagine once Alisa steps off that I'll pick it up from there.

On her racing history over 5,000m:
[I ran} my first 5,000m last spring in May outdoors (at the Oregon Twilight Meet in Eugene) -- I ran 15:07. And that's actually my one and only 5,000m on the track.

Has she been training for the 5,000m:
Yes, I've been training for the 5,000m, it's probably going to be my focus outdoors as well this year.

On how her life has changed since the Olympics:
Since the Trials, basically, I've received a great deal of support in terms of the letters and mail and e-mails. Also, after the Olympic Games another several hundred e-mails came through. Even though I didn't medal or place really high up in the finals, a lot of people were happy for me that I made the finals and that I took the lead and made an attempt to get in the race and make it a fast race or make it a faster race... The support has been great, the response has been really great but I pretty much have just been focusing on my running and training more than anything else.

On her coaching situation:
My coach is Margo Jennings and she's here in Eugene, Oregon. She's been Maria Mutola's coach (a gold medalist from Mozambique in the 800m) since she was in high school, for over 10 years.

Is it true Jennings had to ask Mutola's permission to coach Runyan:
Yes, Margo asked Maria if Maria would feel okay with it because Margo puts a lot of energy and time into her coaching and she likes to coach one athlete at a time locally. Maria was actually really excited about it. Maria is training in Africa right now. Margo sends her her workouts via fax and e-mail. They've been together so long that they've been able to work out a good long-distance relationship.

On the Armory's track facility:
I hear that the Armory track is a beautiful track... Everyone who's run there has run so well on it. Regina's 4:21 mile, Alan Webb's 3:59, Amy Rudolph ran a great mile there this year. Everyone has told me that it just feels like a great track, it feels smooth when you're on it. So I'm really, really lucky and happy to be making this attempt on that track.

On her current fitness:
I'm not going to make a prediction, I'm going to hopefully surprise myself. I can say that I think I am just as fit as when I ran 15:07 outdoors. I think I'm right around there in fitness level. But I also think this is a different race, this is a race where we're racing the clock. When I ran 15:07, I was racing my competitors. This is indoors, that was outdoors, this is winter, that was spring... So there's a lot of differences here and I just think if I have a good one, I should be well under the record, hopefully.

On her health since the Olympics:
I've been training really consistently and I haven't had any troubles. I learned my lesson from last year and years previous so I really take care of myself and get in my recovery days and make sure that nothing interrupts my training.

On whether or not the record (15:22.64 by Lynn Jennings) is a soft one:
I think it is because the 5,000m just isn't run that often indoors. I believe our performance in the 3,000 nationally, historically and internationally are more competitive than the 5,000 one because it's not an event that's raced at the World Championships indoors so it's just not run often. That makes it less likely that there would be a really fast time for the 5. I think it's still a challenging record though. That's a lot of volume to be running on a banked track, it's definitely harder than outdoors.

How does her vision impact her racing:
It's not a problem at all. I don't have any trouble leading a race or running solo. I train train pretty much alone, so it's not a problem at all. I can see the railing of the track, so I'm not going to step on the infield. I feel very comfortable outdoors and indoors. Just like everyone else, when you start to fatigue on a banked track you can lose balance or stumble... For this race in particular, I don't have to worry about that, it's really just me and the clock.

On her move up to the 5,000m:
I guess I felt that my first race in that event, as a debut, was pretty good and I feel I have a lot of potential in that event. I also feel in the process of training for the 5,000m, I will still run 1,500s in meets and races along the way and expect to improve in the 1,500 as well. Right now, my goals are set on the 5,000m at the World Championships.

Ian Brooks on who else will be in the race:
Ian Brooks: This weekend is also the USATF Cross Country Championships so anybody who's anybody is there, apart from Marla. Alisa Harvey is hoping to go through 3,000m somewhere between 9:07 and 9:12 and after that it'll be Marla against the clock before a capacity crowd of 3,500 high school athletes with me on the microphone and Walt Murphy alongside me urging Marla on. The other confirmed competitor is Danielle Thornal from Great Britain who won an 800 this last week in 2:08.5 and ran 4:42 (mile) at the New Balance Games, but no one can go with Marla, to the best of my knowledge.

On whether she prefers running indoors or outdoors:
I prefer outdoors because outdoors is always the primary focus for me. Indoor season you're kind of in a conflict with your training because you're trying to race but you're also trying to develop your base for your outdoor season. For me personally, there is a difference in my fitness level -- I'm going to be fitter outdoors than indoors no matter what because that's my focus... I also want to do well at indoor nationals in the 3,000m and go after this record to kind of keep me kind of focused, on my toes and have some good races this indoor season to complement my training.

What her plans are for the indoor season:
The plan right now is to run the 3,000m at indoor nationals. At this point I have a previous commitment (a speaking engagement) so I may not be going to Worlds, even if I make the team, but I still want to run very well at nationals.

On her Millrose mile and whether or not it's indicative of her fitness:
God, no (laughs), not at all. There was no pacesetter so that set the race up to be a very slow and tactical, bumping, stepping on each other, falling down kind of a race. It's hard to even call that a race, it was more of a game, I guess you could say, but when you don't have a pacesetter and no one in the field wants to take the lead then that's kind of to be expected. I'd kind of like to live and learn from Millrose and move on from there because that didn't really indicate my fitness level.

What her training will consist of between now and the race:
My training right now, obviously, is focused on recovering and just being well-rested for the race. I have one more training session... it will probably be a race-pace simulation or a little faster than race pace, but it will not be something that will break me down very much at all. That's planned for Tuesday and then I'll focus on easy runs, recovery runs, or just taking a day off entirely. I'm getting to New York late on Thursday night. I'll have a restful day Friday, maybe some easy jogging and strides on Saturday and race Sunday.

On her vision:
It's called Stargardt's Disease, it's a form of macular degeneration, I've had it since I was nine and my visual acuity has been affected so I have about 20-400 vision in both my eyes which can't be corrected with lenses or glasses. But I've been living and running and training and competing with this for over 20 years so I don't feel it slowing me down at all.

On the media's focus on her vision:
I don't think everybody has made a big deal out of it. Some people do, some people don't. I guess I don't feel either way about it. I just feel as though I don't want it to take away from my running or my accomplishments as a runner, in and of itself. And I also don't want it to overshadow the accomplishments of my competitors in any given race -- if they've run well and they beat me, and yet the focus is on my vision, I feel a little self-conscious about that. I just don't want it to become more of a big deal than the race and what's being performed on the track.


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