New York City Marathon Runs Sunday The New York City Marathon takes place Sunday, with 37,000 runners touring the city's five boroughs. Americans have not challenged for a win in New York for years. But former Olympic marathoner Frank Shorter tells Steve Inskeep that could change in coming years.
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New York City Marathon Runs Sunday

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New York City Marathon Runs Sunday

New York City Marathon Runs Sunday

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

On Sunday, 37,000 runners will compete in this year's New York City Marathon. Three Americans are among the favorites to win, and if they did win it would be big news because the last American to win that race was Alberto Salazar. In the early 1980s, he won consecutive marathons in New York. To find out more about the race, commentator and former Olympic marathoner Frank Shorter joins us from our New York bureau. Good morning, sir.

Mr. FRANK SHORTER (Commentator, Former Olympic Marathoner): Good morning.

INSKEEP: I hope we're not interrupting your morning run.

Mr. SHORTER: Oh not yet. I'm on Mountain Time.

INSKEEP: Okay. Good. Why has it been so long since an American has won the marathon?

Mr. SHORTER: Well, the talent pool kind of cycles around the world, if you want to think of it that way. It's been many, many years since the Americans have been on top, as you say. And it's I think because of the success of the running boom. Many Americans lost psychological confidence in their ability to compete and at the same time there are many, many races of a secondary level that they could go to. And so they just kind of left the pool for a while...

INSKEEP: What parts of the world have been on top?

Mr. SHORTER: What?

INSKEEP: What parts of the world have been on top?

Mr. SHORTER: Well, it cycles around the world. And for example, the last Olympic champion on the men's side is Stefano Baldini from Italy, who's also in this race. And there aren't many good marathon runners in Italy.

INSKEEP: So I interrupted. You were saying that now Americans are more confident, why?

Mr. SHORTER: I just think it does cycle back and it takes individuals. You know, it's one of those cases where - a marathon is such a difficult race to predict because you can run so few. And many, many marathoners don't really mature until they're older. In fact, most of the favorites in this race are in their 30s.

INSKEEP: Who are a couple of Americans that we should be watching for on Sunday?

Mr. SHORTER: Well, on the youth side, Dathan Ritzenhein. This is his first marathon. He's 24 years old, and I think he is probably the best talent to come along in American distance running, oh, in the last 15 or 20 years. His difficulty is he can't stay healthy, but he's been healthy for over a year.

Deena Kastor, on the women's side, is the bronze medalist in the Olympic games and she always runs well. But the uncertainty there that comes with age. She's in her 30s. Her last race - and you run races to show yourself you're in shape. The last half marathon she was in several weeks ago, she had to not really run very well.

And on the men's side, the same thing happened to Meb Keflezighi. He had to actually to drop out of a half marathon. He's the other American favorite, the silver medalist from the Athens games. He had to drop out with a leg cramp. So the training and the racing you do to show yourself you're in shape neither of these people has really been able to do.

INSKEEP: How old do you have to be as a marathoner before age really starts taking a toll?

Mr. SHORTER: Well, it's more a question of having about five good years orthopedically of being able to sustain the training and the pounding. And then the other is the luck of injury. You get what I call the big kahuna. And eventually you're going to get the big kahuna injury, and it's a question of whether or not you can recover from that and come back.

So in the New York City Marathon, indeed since Joan Benoit Samuelson and Alberto Salazar in the 80s, finally we have two Americans - if they can stay lucky, stay in that pool of ten that will be running this race with the ability to win and then have a lucky day and be in the top three. And that's as close as you can call it.

INSKEEP: Just very briefly, the field will also includes celebrities like Lance Armstrong, the Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee. What is it like when you start off in that pack of thousands and thousands of people?

Mr. SHORTER: It is a feeling not like any other. If you don't believe in extra-sensory perception and just sort of the mental electricity, hang around the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and just feel the energy of those racers at the start.

INSKEEP: Well, Frank Shorter, thanks very much for your comments.

Mr. SHORTER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's former Olympic marathoner Frank Shorter. And the New York City marathon is coming up on Sunday.

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