Tuesday, November 2, 2010

mzungo exclusive: Hendrick Ramaala interview

Hendrick Ramaala: The honorable emperor will be in town!

mzungo: Haha, indeed, he [Haile Gebreselassie] will. What does the presence of Haile mean for the NYC Marathon?

All the pressure will be on him. It will be different than in previous years. Everybody will be watching him. It’s good for us.

What’s Haile gonna do?

I don’t know. It’s his first unpaced marathon. I don’t see him leading the race. You can’t just run away in this race. You might get caught in a terrible headwind on a bridge on your own. You have to respect the hills. And the potholes.
Haile can’t just let the race go. There’s too much at stake for him.

What about Meb?

Defending champion. He knows how to win this one. Meb has always done well in NYC. He will try hard to defend. There’s also a lot at stake for him.

What’s your plan?

Some of us will do their own thing. In NYC you can run your own race. The gun goes off and you can do whatever you want. No rabbits, no pacemakers. Nothing is holding you back. You can race fartlek style if you want.
My training has been good. I know what to do. I’m not worried. I’m ready to go and very excited.

Who else do you consider a contender?

Marilson Dos Santos. He kept a very low profile this year. But he knows how to win NYC. He’s not great at other races but NYC is his thing.

What about the Kenyans? Kwambai, Kirui?

Very dangerous. They have ridiculous speed, just like Haile. But they won’t be able to use it early. It’s a different game. Changing the pace in a marathon is not easy.

Can you and do you train specifically for these pace changes?

Everybody is fit. It all depends on what you can do on the day. Some guys sit and wait but you need a winning strategy. You can’t just sit and wait in NYC. You absolutely have to take charge.
But then again, you never know! Maybe someone pulls a "Cheruiyot". You know, the younger Robert Cheruiyot when he just went for it in Boston and ran a 2:05. If that happens, I think we're all dead! [laughs]

Speaking of dead: I still remember the pain I had in Central Park last year. What would you recommend to a recreational runner like me to better deal with it?

Enjoy First Avenue because the Park is not fun. You hang on for dear life. Stopping is not an option. Being passed by another runner is not an option. We are runners, we can take pain.
You ask yourself: “Am I soft or what?”