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University graduate Bob Kennedy, the most heralded distance runner
in America over the past 15 years, will make his marathon debut
at next month's ING New York City Marathon 2004. Kennedy is the
U.S. record holder in the 3,000 meters (7:30.84) and the 5,000 meters
(12:58.21) and in the latter event is responsible for 14 of the
15 sub-13:10 performances ever recorded by Americans. As a collegian,
Kennedy collected four individual NCAA titles and an astonishing
20 individual Big Ten Conference titles.
Kennedy, originally of Westerville, Ohio, has the unique distinction
of winning the Kinney (now Foot Locker) High School Cross Country
Championship and the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship
in consecutive years (1987 and 1988). Kennedy represented the US
in the 5,000 meters in both the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and the
1996 Games in Atlanta, finishing 12th and sixth, respectively. He
is a four-time national champion at the distance.
now 34, had an auspicious start in 2004. This spring, he set a personal
record in an event he has run sparingly, the 10,000 meters (27:37.45),
a performance that followed on the heels of his 12K win at the USA
Cross Country Championships (Kennedy was also the U.S. champion
on the turf in 1992). But poised to make his third Olympic team,
Kennedy was felled by an achilles injury and stepped off the track
nine laps into the Olympic Trials 10,000.
His achilles healed, Kennedy who in recent years has overcome
other similarly ill-timed injuries and health problems (bruised
vertebra he sustained in May 2000 helped pre-empt his chances at
making the Sydney Olympics squad; anemia and hypothyroidism hampered
him in 2001) is training for his maiden 26.2-mile voyage
a mile above sea level in Boulder, Colorado, under the guidance
of Dieter Hogan.
is co-owner of The Running Company, a running store in Broad Ripple,
Indiana (an Indianapolis suburb). He and his wife Melina, the deputy
mayor of Indianapolis, are expecting twins in February. MensRacing.com
caught up with Bob with two weeks before he and approximately 35,000
others planned to toe the line on Staten Island.
First of all, were you able to get back into regular training soon
after the Olympic Trials?
I took two weeks off after the Trials. I was able to begin crosstraining
in the second week and resumed full training after three weeks.
A recent article in the Denver Post noted that you've never
done an extended stint at altitude. I had thought, however, that
you'd trained in Kenya in the mid-1990s, but maybe I'm confusing
Africa with Australia.
For some reason, most people think that I trained in Kenya. I think
there was an article years ago that incorrectly said this. In the
'90s, I trained with the Kenyans extensively but never in Kenya
or at altitude. In Melbourne, Palo Alto, and London mostly. I spent
a few weeks in Albuquerque in February 2003 then did three stints
in Boulder this year.
In spite of your achievements this year, the Post article
made references to your best days being behind you, with passages
such as 'Nearing the end of his career...' '[When] in his prime...'
and so on. Does hearing this sort of thing provide extra incentive
a boost obviously not applicable six or eight years ago?
The reality is that I'm 34 years old and I am nearer the end than
the beginning, but I still have the competitiveness and tenacity
in training and racing that I've always had. I have found that physically,
with some slight adjustments, I can do the same things that I used
to do. One of my strengths has been my ability to recover quickly
after intense workouts and races, and I find that I still have that
strength available to me now. I'm hoping that is a big bonus in
preparation for the marathon.
You've been rumored to be eyeing the marathon for some time. What
finally made you commit?
In an ideal world, I would have run my first marathon in 2002. Injuries
and illness prevented that from happening. This was the first time
that I was able to get into the type of condition that allowed me
to train properly for the marathon.
Have you been training mostly alone or with others? If you train
with others but not daily, do you join them for specific workouts
or for maintenance runs or long runs?
I'm training with Dieter Hogen and a group of African (mostly Kenyan)
athletes. We all share the same agent, Tom Ratcliffe, in basically
the same agency that [the late] Kim McDonald developed. We do all
the intense efforts together and some of the recovery running together.
Sometimes each of us just feels like running easy on our own.
Boulder is filthy with knowledgeable runners and their ilk. Have
you been able to train in relative peace?
Boulder does have a ton of great runners living and training here.
To be honest, though, I really haven't seen anyone out training.
I tend to hibernate, in a sense, when I go into preparation like
this and that's been easy to do here.
Alberto Salazar is reputed to have said that the basic difference
between 10K training and the marathon is the weekly long run. Other
coaches harp on the importance of threshold work, particularly long
tempos. What's significantly different about your own prep for the
ING New York City Marathon, as opposed to that for a 5K, 10K or
cross country race?
going to try to answer this, but remember, I have not run a marathon
yet, so I think I have an idea but that may change once I experience
believe that you have to train very specifically for the event you
are focusing on. Training for 5,000m should involve a lot of work
at that speed and faster, which extends beyond 800m intervals. For
the marathon, I'm not doing much work at 5,000m speed, some work
at 10,000m speed, a ton of work at long tempos, and longer long
runs faster than what I would do them when I was training for the
track. I think it's important to understand which physiological
systems are most important for the event you're preparing for and
to work those systems the most. That doesn't mean you ignore the
other systems, but the emphasis changes.
Now that you're at altitude, I imagine you're scaling down the paces
of your faster sessions correspondingly. If so, has this demanded
a significant mental adjustment as well?
I have always had a great feel for the proper effort. That hasn't
changed at altitude. The pace has slowed depending on the altitude,
but the effort has stayed the same.
In laying out the specifics of your marathon buildup, how did you
and Dieter personalize things? That is, how was the plan tailored
to take into account your particular strengths, quirks, what have
The only personalization in the program is the pace. Each of us
has to find the pace that is correct for us during a specific workout.
Dieter does a great job of explaining how the effort should be in
each workout and I feel that I have executed those efforts well
In large measure, your higher-profile competitions have featured
you as the sole American in a sea of Africans. It looks like it
could be a different story in New York.
It's great that there is going to be an awesome American field in
the marathon this year. Meb [Keflezighi] is obviously the big draw
with his well-deserved Olympic silver medal. I hope we see good
performances across the board [for the Americans] on November 7.
For me, as always, it won't be about me against the Africans or
me against the other Americans, but about me performing at the highest
level that I can. I have always approached all competitions that
way, and when I can perform at that level, it usually is a positive
experience for me.
While the marathon is riddled with runners in their middle 30s,
cross country is widely considered a young man's game. Yet you won
a second XC title this year, 12 years after your first. What motivated
you to go after this distinction this winter?
Cross country is a great fit into a training cycle. It was also
great that it was in my hometown of Indianapolis this year.
There are few competitive scenarios you've never faced. One of them
is the late-race grind of the marathon the insidious transformation
of 5:00 pace from something that feels like a solid training run
to a speed athletes cling to with grim determination, even desperation.
What are you doing to replicate this, mentally and physically, in
I think Dieter Hogen is the best marathon coach out there now. I
guarantee that his training program addresses this! After all, the
marathon is essentially about the distance. Certainly, the race
situation will be new, but I am confident in the way we have prepared.
For the time being, you've obviously got your own competitive endeavors.
At the same time you've spent a good many years at the top of the
heap and have a rare wealth of experiences domestic and international.
Your co-ownership of The Running Company aside, have you thought
about opportunities in the sport once the curtain closes on your
has taught me so many things through both positive and negative
experiences. I look forward to helping others have great life experiences
through running. This can be done through interactions with customers
at The Running Company and continued involvement with young runners.
don't know how yet, but I would like to be involved in advising
young athletes coming out of college and transitioning into professional
athletics. There is so much going on at this time and I feel like
many of the athletes in this situation are under-informed on many
issues. The areas that I think these athletes need help in are choosing
an agent (and what they should expect from their agents), choosing
a coaching and training situation that best fits their goals, and
the business side of being a professional athlete (self-employment,
budgeting, taxes, investing for retirement, etc.). It can be hard
for 21- or 22-year-old athletes to switch from a situation in college
where everything is dictated for them to a situation where they
are now in control. It's up to the athletes to dictate their situations
and surround themselves with agents, coaches, sponsors and others
that are going to help them achieve their goals and not be involved
conducted 10/23/2004, and posted 10/27/2004.)
Kennedy trains in Boulder, Colorado, in 2004.
(Photo: Sean Hartnett)
competes in the 10,000m at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Track &
(Photo: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)
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