maandag, mei 20, 2002

Khalid on London:
Leading up to the London Marathon I felt like I was the underdog. The last year and a half consisted of injuries and disappointments and even though I was the marathon world record holder, I was no longer the object of attention as I had been in the past . Haile Gebrselassie was the main person on the men’s side that was getting attention. His great career with all his world records made that somewhat deserved, but I kept thinking that he still had not yet run a marathon. I was hearing a lot about Paul Tergat being his main competition. Since Paul had a run a marathon before I knew that he understood what a humbling experience it could be.
I must admit that at times my feelings were hurt by the lack of attention. I was the most consistent marathoner in the race and I was feeling as if I wasn't getting the kind of respect that my record deserved. I felt I needed to show the world that I was still a great marathon runner. Except for my horrible race in Edmonton at the world championships, which was very depressing, my marathon record is the best ever. I was not angry at Haile or Paul, since they deserved all the credit for the great things they had done in the past. But again, the marathon is another story, entirely.
I began to realize that the lack of attention was helping - there was much less pressure. Usually coming into the marathon I am very nervous. More so as the race gets closer. In England, during the interviews and press conferences which usually make me more nervous, I was loose and less tense. I could focus more on the race. Sandra was very nervous. She was the one that couldn’t sleep. I slept well. I did have some of my usual nightmares about forgetting my racing shoes, but I was very focused on the race.
Before the race, the decision about the pace that would be set by the rabbits was interesting. Mouaziz, Pinto and Geb were asked about the pace they would like to run. Geb asked for the fastest pace, 62:30. His coach talked him out of asking for 62 flat. The others wanted to go at 63 or 63:15. So two sets of pacers were set up. Geb would be in the fast group with anyone that dared to go at that pace. Most of the rest of the elite group would go out with the slower group. I was in the middle, not sure what would happen. If geb went out at 62:30, would I run alone behind him or try to go his pace? In the end, he went out at a more reasonable pace, allowing one group to form behind the pacesetters. It was comfortable in the pack. There was some surging, but I tried to stay at the same pace. I would move up when they slowed down and fall back when they surged. For some runners, it was a brave decision to stay at that pace. The pacesetters are paid to run a certain distance. But if they can continue further, they get paid additionally for the extra miles. Two rabbits from Portugal stayed in front for about 17 miles. Then the race began.
After the rabbits dropped off, Haile went in the front a little, then Mouaziz, then Haile again. Around 20, Haile put in a little surge and split us into 2 groups, with Paul, Jifar and I with Haile. A little later, Jifar fell back and the three of us were left to run together.
To run with these two runners was very special. When I came to the US, in the early years when I worked in Brooklyn, they were an inspiration to me. I watched them and admired them. Now I was running alongside them in what would be called the greatest marathon ever. To beat them would be something unbelievable.
In the next few miles, Haile and I ran side by side, each surging a little. Paul ran smartly behind us. At 24 miles another surge dropped Haile and it was just Paul and I. At 25 miles I surged again and Paul started to fall back. He had beaten me in the four previous times that we ran together and I had joked earlier that it was time he let me win. I looked back several times and he was falling further back. You don’t know if you will win until you cross the finish line, but I was growing more confident every step of that last mile. The finish in London is fantastic. The crowds are great and Buckingham Palace is a beautiful sight to see. As I got closer to the finish line, I saw the clock and realized how close I was to the world record. I pushed even harder taking no time to wave to the crowd as I like to do. It was another world record. And to beat Haile and Paul is something unbelievable.
The marathon is about yourself. You go out there to prove yourself. There are many great marathons and many great marathoners, but on any given day, the best man wins. I wanted to defend my world record. I was able to do that. Paul and Geb ran great races, too. So did others behind us. Paula Radcliff was amazing. It was a great day for all of marathoning. That day, I was able to prevail. Another day, it might not be so.
I have many people to thank.
First of all, I want to thank God. It has been a tough hear and a half dealing with the injuries and disappointments, but I kept the faith. I was able to stay patient throughout the training and that was the key to my success.
My wonderful wife, Sandra. A lot of people think it is great to be the husband or wife of a professional athlete, but in fact it is a great responsibility. Usually it is the runner that has all the aches and pains before the marathon, but it was Sandra this time. I am luck that she is as understanding during the good times and the bad times.
My brothers and my running partners-for being there in the truck and on the trails, giving me the support that I need.
My masseuse, Robin Russow and the Walton’s for keeping me healthy.
Gerard Hartman, my killer physiotherapist (the only person who makes me cry), for treating all my injuries.
My fans-for all their great support-I am proud to be able to give you the kind of performance you were hoping for in London.
And finally, my sponsors. New Balance, for being patient and understanding during recent times. They never put any pressure on me to race or perform well. Instead, they trusted me to come along in time. And Clif Bar, for supplying me with their wonderful energy bars that I use every day.