.US National 12k Press Release
Featuring Kim Conley, Sam Chelanga, Molly Huddle, Tyler Pennel and Sara Hall
Sam Chelanga speaking, photo by RacePacket
By Chris Leyen
Alexandria, VA --Elite USATF athletes Kim Conley, Sam Chelanga, Molly Huddle, Tyler Pennel and Sara Hall shared their goals for the upcoming Olympic Trials, insight into their training regimens, views on doping and the IAAF ban on the Russian athletic team, and their aspirations for tomorrow's .US National 12k during the pre-race press conference at the Crowne Plaza in Old Town Alexandria.
The panel was moderated by Jill Geer, USATF Chief Public Affairs Officer who opened and closed the afternoon's session and also featured a brief address by Crystal Peterson, Director of Registry Services from Neustar, the primary sponsor of the .US 12k donating $100,000 in prize money.
The underlying spirit of the athletes' opening statements was one of excitement. From Molly Huddle, who set a world record in the inaugural event, to Chelanga in his first .US National 12k, every athlete was enthusiastic about the event, and about having the chance to compete.
The fast course may see more records broken in 2015, but the spirit of the panelists was distinctly focused on the upcoming competition, not the times. Kim Conley spoke to her personal philosophy to "let the time happen" because "when you get caught up racing each other, that's really when the excitement gets going." This sentiment was echoed amongst the athletes as the mic was passed along. Huddle stated "I find that when everyone is putting in an honest effort to win or finish as high as they can, you'll see everyone's best...I know that when people are competing, it's much more fun than when people are just going out there to run fast".
Each athlete offered their own unique perspective on the race and their aspirations for the future, individually or collectively fielding questions from the press.
Kim Conley spoke to the difficulty of coming back to compete after an injury and "chasing Molly and Shalane [Flanagan]". "Competing is just very different from anything you do in training", she said, highlighting the importance of recuperating and adjusting both mentally and physically.¬¬ After progressively stronger performances however, Conley is excited to move forward and is looking toward the 10k for the 2016 Olympic trials.
Chelanga was confident and in good humor, joking about "sizing people up" in both his training for the marathon distance at the Olympic Trials, where the Kenyan native will get to compete for the first time at the marathon distance as a US citizen, and having a "staring contest" with Pennel.
Huddle, the three-time veteran of this race and winner of five USATF road racing titles spoke to her dominance in the sport, highlighting momentum as the key, crediting "volume in workouts" and the subsequent confidence for her consistently strong performance.¬¬ The theme of momentum was echoed again as she spoke to the importance of training for a spring marathon and that this would allow her to "carry some strength through the year". Huddle will be seeking to qualify for the US Olympic team in the 10k as well.
Panel, photo by RacePacket Tyler Pennel gave insight into the strategies that standout USATF middle-distance athletes used to compete at a broad range of distances. Pennel recently broke four minutes in the mile, but is also currently training to seek a spot on the US Olympic team at the marathon distance. Both he and Chelanga credit their strong aerobic training for their success across different distances, but Pennel also highlighted the importance of "having a little touch on faster paces and faster-twitch muscles [as it] helps to recruit them later in races".
Sara Hall spoke to balancing being both a mother and standout athlete. She remains "passionate about competing", noting the main difference is that she "spend[s] a little more time on Facetime at meets" but values sharing running and the values of the sport with her girls. Coming from a "culture that wasn't very empowering for them", it was important that Sara show them "sometimes what mommy has to do is hard" and that "when you really want something you have to work hard at it". Sara and her husband Ryan also share running with them. "They did their first race a week ago, and they really enjoyed it."
The athletes also addressed scandal in the sport, commenting on the IAAF ban on the Russian national team from International competition. Every athlete on stage supported the ban. Hall supported it on the grounds that this kind of drastic action is "getting to the root of really bad seeds" and hopes that with this increased pressure, fans will see that there are "people at the highest level doing it clean". Chelanga supports the strong message, noting it will be nice to compete without "looking around to see who's clean, who's not" and implored "don't let good people stand by". Conley backed IAAF stating that with "transparency everyone stands to benefit", and Pennel echoed this stating "clean athletes benefit from a level playing field". Huddle pushed for even stronger regulation, suggesting a lifetime ban for cheaters.
The athletes at the forefront will make for exciting competition, but a road race is more than just those at the front of the pack. The 12k is also the USATF Masters Championship. This should be an exciting race as, as pointed out by Geer, "especially in road racing, the masters demographic drives road racing on a participatory level...most of the athletes out there tomorrow will actually be over the age of 40 running either for fun or personal fitness, as well as to compete." Geer also praised the efforts of the Masters LDR Committee that has "really gotten behind this event to make it a really first-rate masters event."
Though at the front of the pack, the athletes are driven by Olympic aspirations, the participation of community is what shapes the character of each road race and makes the event unique. This 12k offers local athletes a chance to run along the GW parkway, and to line up with some of the best athletes in the country. We hope to see you out there tomorrow, but if not, you can catch updates from us at RacePacket by following us @RacePacket ¬on Twitter, or check out the race highlights and results on RacePacket.com. Make sure to visit the Extras page
Transcript of today's press release courtesy of USATF
Press Release Photos