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Posted: January 30, 2009  :

Athletics: Milers ready for Millrose

NEW YORK - Event organizers on Wednesday hosted a press conference in advance of the 102nd Millrose Games, which will be run Friday evening at Madison Square Garden. On hand for Wednesday's press conference were defending women's mile champion Kara Goucher, the 2007 World Outdoor Championships 10,000m bronze medalist and third-place finisher at the 2008 ING New York City Marathon; Nick Willis of New Zealand, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 1,500m; Bernard Lagat, the six-time defending Wanamaker Mile champion, two-time Olympic 1,500m medalist and 2007 World Outdoor 1,500m and 5,000m champion; and Eamonn Coghlan, the "Chairman of the Boards" who won seven Wanamaker Miles from 1977 through 1987.

Below are excerpts from Wednesday's press conference.

I'm very excited to be at Millrose again. I had so much fun here last year. It's a great way to start the year. I'm very excited to be back again. I am training for the Boston Marathon, but as you can tell, I like to do a lot of different events. I don't like to get pigeonholed into one event. This is a great chance for me to come down in my mileage for a couple of weeks and really just have some fun. I have done some speed work and I think I'm ready to defend my title on Friday.
I am running 95 miles a week, which is backing off a little bit from what I'll do two weeks from now when I start my long drive to the marathon. I'm resting a little bit today and tomorrow to feel a little bit quicker on Friday.
I just love running in New York. It's just electric. Whether it's on the roads or on the track, people are really into it. I love the city, I was born here, so I love it and any opportunity I have to run here, I jump at it.

Just like Kara, it's a real privilege to come back to New York City. It seems I have three races here each season now. Last year I was really left with an awesome experience at Millrose. I came away ever so close but ever so far, finishing third behind Lagat and also Craig Mottram. I had a sense that I wanted to come back here and maybe give myself an opportunity to start establishing myself on the U.S. scene, and New York is the most important place to do that. I have a huge, huge respect and regard for the history and tradition of this race. Eamonn Coghlan is a really famous guy back in New Zealand because John Walker is one of the most famous athletes, in any sport, in New Zealand (and the two competed head-to-head, sometimes twice each weekend, in their heyday). For Lagat to come along and challenge that, the last few years he's had to race (Kenenisa) Bekele, Alban Rotech, Craig Mottram, Ivan Heshko, many of the greatest runners in the world, and he's managed to come out on top. He knows a thing or two about how to run around an 11-lap-to-the-mile track. Having won a bronze medal last year, I've got new things and new goals I want to aspire to. So it's really important to me to come against the guys I think are at the top of the world to help establish myself as one of those guys also. My goal this year is to win as many races as possible, but my wife says, no your goal is to win every race this year. So that is my goal. Friday night, I'll give my absolute best to make sure Bernard doesn't get that record. I think that will make the race that much better. What fun would it be if he just got an easy stroll? That's why I'm here, to give myself a chance to do something Bernard has done. It's going to be a pretty exciting race. I think last year, head-to-head, not that I'm counting, Bernard and I were 3 and 3. There have been many more times he's taken me down in the past. He's someone I want to learn from. I want to have a long career into my 30s. Some things I've learned along the way I have learned from the current master of our sport (Lagat) and hopefully I'll start filling in some of the shoes he leaves behind, if he ever retires!

You know it's always fun coming to New York. I've been here for quite some time now. The people in New York always cheer for me, they always support me. I have to believe they really love the Wanamaker mile. I get a lot of support from so many fans at Madison Square Garden. Like Nick said, it's going to be hard this time around. Let me go back to 2008, I started well and beat him (the first three meetings), then he got the best of me at the end. Hopefully that will start the same way this week and I will win again. It's going to be tough. I am looking forward to that for sure.
These races have had so many meanings in my life. This is a special race for me. I've run so many times and I've been able to win a few. Trying to tie the record of Eamonn Coghlan is really something that has been in my mind. I remember crossing the line last year and I thought man, this is the sixth one. The seventh one is going to be another challenge. At the press conference, I said I am the first one to confirm my participation in 2009. I am here because I know that I need to see if I can get to where the respected athlete, Eamonn Coghlan, did. It is a privilege for me to be here again and be able to run and try to push to see if I can get that record. It's not going to be easy but I will try my best.
From here I'm going to run in Stuttgart, the 3000m, I am hoping to run something close to the American record of 7:32. Then another race in France, Lievin, the 1,500m. On the 21st I run in Birmingham, UK, and I want to close the season by running in Boston in the U.S. indoor nationals (at 1,500m). I thought why not do it (run nationals)? I've been training so well, I hope I can win all my races.
I am running 45 miles a week right now, that's half what Kara is running. But it's what I feel like I can handle now, and every mile is a quality mile, every time when I run on the road. The shorter the things I do, the better.

It's a pleasure to be back in New York, particularly here, across the street from Madison Square Garden, which was my home for many, many years. I was thinking as the lads were speaking, Bernard was only about 2 years old when I won my first Wanamaker, and Nick was only about 2 or 3 years old when I won my last Wanamaker Mile. The quote I heard Bernard make last year, that he was going to come back this year to become the Co-Chairman of the Boards, but then he'd come back in 2010 and become the President of the Boards. I have no doubt in my mind that Bernard is one of the greatest indoor milers ever, and I think that he has pursued the chase of trying to outdo what I did all those many many years ago says a lot about the respect that he has for this particular event and for the sport in New York. With all due respect to you, Nick ... with experience and youth, I have to go with experience. Actually I have a plan with the Irish carpenters at Madison Square Garden to have the turns loose so maybe they will trip up (Bernard), so (Nick) can go on to win his first Wanamaker Mile.
In the 22 years since I last won the race, I have been referred to the Chairman of the Boards every single day of the week. I think that's because of the respect for the Wanamaker Mile. It's really a fantastic opportunity for me to come back here to really witness history being equaled and perhaps surpassed next year. It couldn't happen to a finer gentleman, should he do it. It's also a great thrill to know that if he does become the 7-time winner of the Wanamaker mile, he will equal something else that I have done. We both will be a seven-times Wanamaker winners and we both will have been world champions at 5,000 meters. It's not going to be easy for Bernard. It's his first race out - I would have liked to have been 2 to 3 races out on the antiquated board track of the Garden. Because it's both of their first races, I think it's going to make it more mysterious as to who is going to win. It'll be a really fantastic thrill if Bernard matches what I have done, because we really need that now. It's a long time since I've been around and it couldn't happen to a nicer gentleman.

Tickets for the 2009 Millrose Games are now available at Ticketmaster (call 212-307-7171, visit or at Ticketmaster outlets); at the Madison Square Garden box office or on-line at USATF welcomes you to pay with your Visa.

About USA Track & Field
USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, some of the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States.

For more information on USATF, visit

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