The Race As It Happened | Post-Race Recap | Race Photos | Complete Results
The Trials: Complete Qualifiers/Entrants List | The Course |
Olympics Trials Complete History
Profiles/Interviews: The Favorites | The Contenders | Khalid Khannouchi Interview | Up Close with Abdi | A chat with Meb
Extras: Video Coverage
USA Marathon Trials - Up Close & Personal With Abdi Abdirahman
by Sharon Ekstrom
Abdi Abdirahman, 10,000 meter USA Outdoor Champion and two-time US Olympian, is a favorite to win the 2008 US Olympic Trials - Men's Marathon. Looking back into where and how he built the foundation for his running, it's always amazing to discover that such a talented runner did not start running at an early age like many other elite athletes.
"I was never really good in sports as a kid. I played soccer." It wasn't until college when he gave running a shot. "A friend convinced me to go see a track race, a 3000m race and he came in last, but he convinced me to come to practice. I showed up in jeans and boots. We ran 5000 meters and I came in second place! The next day I went to see the coach who gave me running shoes and a track suit and I joined the team." Abdi's career was born.
Abdi's progression in the sport came rather quickly. He was recruited by University of Arizona where Abdi began to excel at track and Coach Dave Murray not only molded him into the runner he is today, but remains his coach.
When you were younger, you mentioned that you didn't know you were a runner yet and it took a while to find your sport. Did u dream of being a fireman or an astronaut?
Yeah, and industrial engineer. My dad was an engineer and my brother was an engineer.
Who has inspired you as a mentor/role model?
Bob Kennedy and Billy Mills.
When did you decide to become a professional runner?
I actually didn't plan on it, it just happened in 2000 out of college.
How did you get into road races?
It's been rather recent. I'm still new to road racing and marathons.
You have done a bit of x-country a few years back. Any plans to do more?
Cross country is fun and it's something that I do in the right season.
Why the marathon distance?
I think every runner always thinks about the marathon distance (as an ultimate goal). I'm still learning about the distance.
Tell me about your FIRST Marathon experience???
[Debuted at the 2004 New York City Marathon in a 2:17:09]
I thought that was the most challenging marathon I've done. I knew my preparation leading for the marathon was great, I trained well and I had a little injury and I didn't know how the injury would affect me, and I just fell apart 20-21 miles. I did not respect the distance and I didn't know what to expect, so I just went out hard.
Why did you choose the New York City Marathon for your debut?
New York Road Runners did a great job of recruiting me and I never ran before, I have not regretted it. It was a great event. I tried my best. It was a tough one to do, a challenge (had never done a half yet).
What's your favorite marathon?
Chicago and New York were both good, but I haven't run my best marathon yet.
In terms of training - you train in Flagstaff. Is it at altitude?
Yes, about 8000 ft above sea level.
Do you train with a group or train alone?
I train with a group - Ryan Shay, Peter Gilmore, Brian Sell (Shay and Lauren Williams are his roommates). There are a lot of guys in Flagstaff but most of the time I run with Ryan Shay for a lot of my runs.
Before training with the group in Flagstaff did you train alone?
Yeah, I do train alone most of the time. I do the long runs with them. My intervals and my track work I do by myself.
What's your favorite training destination having traveled everywhere?
Flagstaff. There's nothing like home. When I'm in Flagstaff I feel like I'm home. You know the trails, there's no replacement for home (trails go from urban to country and you can go for many many miles right from the city).
Do you train a lot on trails?
For the non-elite runners - what is your Favorite track workout?
10 x 1,000 meters in 2:42-2:45s with one minute recovery/jog.
In terms of weather, you do well in the heat. Do you do well in cold weather?
It depends, if it's extremely cold I won't do well. It's bothers me below 20, but I think it would bother anyone.
If u weren't a professional runner, what would you be doing?
That's a good question. I'd probably be marketing somewhere or work at a marketing firm.
How do you prepare mentally for a race?
The night before the race is all about getting rest, relaxing getting focused. Keep your eyes on the prize, it's all about getting rest, having a good dinner.
Carbs, pasta, bread, pizza. I wish I could eat any food I want.
Are you really careful about your diet?
Sometimes I watch what I eat. I should eat good food.
What's the worst food you enjoy eating?
I don't eat McDonalds. I enjoy pizza and french-fries though. I don't eat it that often. I think the worst food is pizza with all the cheese.
With the trials coming up I'm sure everyone is asking this. How are you preparing mentally and physically?
You definitely have to prepare. The New York course is going to be difficult. To train on this course you have to train on the same terrain. Hills up hill and down hill rather than uphill and flat. Run up hill and then down.
In terms of the competition, who will you watch out for?
I don't know. I know it's gonna be tough. Meb, Ryan Hall, Gilmore, Ryan Shay, Brian Sell. It's gonna be tough. You can't focus on one person, you just try to do your best…
So with all this press and media, how does it feel to be a celebrity?
It just comes. It's what happens when you run well. I just stay humble and focus on what I need to do - keep my eye on the prize and make sure it doesn't distract me.
Training or strategy
Do you have any superstitions before the race? What kind?
Lucky socks. Nike socks. I only wear them once inn a while. I've had them for a while. I had them since the Chicago marathon.
We briefly talked about this before we were taping. Do you take rest days/time off?
Yes I def do. Rest is a part of training if you don't rest you are beatig your body up. I'm gonna sleep all day tomorrow rest/relax then sat I'll take it easy.
Marathons for the average marathoner. What advice would you be able to give them?
Don't do a marathon unprepared. If you never ran a step in your life and your friend told you to do that, do a couple of runs before you do a marathon please. You don't have to train a lot like elites do, but it'll be more enjoyable.
Do you train early in the morning?
Yeah, about 6 am.
Do you eat before (you run)?
No, I eat after I run.
Do you drink coffee?
About 1 cup of coffee per day. Sometimes I drink it in Flagstaff.