Posted by: Joe English | February 13, 2008

Interview: Khalid Khannouchi on the US Olympic Marathon Trials and his plans

Last month at the PF Chang’s Rock N Roll Arizona marathon I conducted a number of interviews with elite athletes. Here is the last in the series – the one that I’m most excited about.

At a media briefing before the event, race organizers planned to introduce the elite athletes that would be running the marathon. But before they did that, they went around the room and introduced some of the other “dignitaries” in the room. As they pointed people out in the back, I heard the name “Khalid Khannouchi” and just about jumped out of my seat. I swung around to see the former two-time marathon world-record holder standing near the back of the room.

When the briefing wrapped up, I practically sprinted up the stairs to make my way towards him to ask him a few questions.

Khalid Khannouchi RNR SJ Half
<strong.Khalid Khannouchi at the Rock N Roll San Jose Half Marathon in 2007
Photo Credit: Elite Racing

Khalid Khannouchi’s marathon running career has had its ups and downs. Over the last few years, he has struggled with injuries that have kept him running at his best. But in his early career, he was an amazing, phenomenal, incredible marathon runner – you pick the adjective. His marathon debut in Chicago in 1997 was then the fastest marathon debut in history (2:07:10) and was the fourth fastest time in the world. In 1998, he set the world record for 20KM on the road in 57:37 (this is just shy of a half-marathon). And then in 1999 he set a world record in the marathon at the Chicago Marathon, running 2:05:42.

Shortly thereafter he became an American citizen and when he won the Chicago Marathon in 2000, his time of 2:07:01 became the new American Record at the distance. In 2002, he had his most amazing year, breaking his own world record at the London Marathon (2:05:38) and then runnnig 2:05:56 at Chicago that Fall – becoming the first athlete ever to run a sub-2:06 marathon twice in the same year.

In 2003, he began to struggle with injuries and has since run times in the 2:07s and 2:08s, but has not been able to recapture his earlier speed.

Most recently, Khalid had hoped to earn a spot on the US Olympic Team to represent the USA at the Beijing Olympics in the Marathon. He finished fourth in the US Trials in 2:13:34. This finish was both good news and bad for Khalid. While only the top three finishers made the team, sitting in the fourth spot means that he still has a shot if one of the top three decides not to compete in the marathon or is not able to due to an injury or illness.

We started by talking about the Trials and his experiences there.

Coach Joe: Let’s start by talking about the Trials. Tell me a little bit about your experiences there.

Khalid Khannouchi: It was a fun experience – you know with all of the problems that I’ve had to go through – being able to compete was truly and honor and I came very close to making the team. I was lucky being able to finish as well as I did with the amount of time that I had to train. It was truly an inspiring experience for me.

CJ: So you finished fourth at the trials, which means you’re the first alternate to the team. Is there still a possibility that you’ll be able to compete in Beijing?

KK: Yes, there is. There is a slim chance that one of the top three might decide to compete in the 10,000M instead of the marathon, if he did qualify (in the 10,000M). So we just have to wait.

CJ: It must be hard to waiting. . .

KK: Yeah. But for me I’m thinking that I’ve decided not to run a spring marathon just in case I have the opportunity to compete – that way I can be really well prepared. If not then I’ll do a full marathon in the fall.

CJ: When will you know whether you’ll be competing in Beijing or not?

KK: Sometime right after the 10,000M trials in June.

CJ: Does that give you enough time to train for the Olympics?

KK: Well, I’ll continue training now [as if I were competing]. With six to eight weeks notice then I can really get prepared and be ready if I get the chance to go.

CJ: Could you tell me a little more about how you were involved with PF Chang’s Arizona Marathon?

KK: Yes, I had a very close relationship with Elite Racing and since they came up with the idea, a couple of elite athletes endorsed the race and have been involved since. And when you look at what Elite Racing has done in many states [bring the Rock N Roll series of marathons to those venues], the results speak for themselves. I feel blessed to have been able to work with them and continue to be involved today.

CJ: What are your plans for the remainder of the year?

KK: It depends on if I’m running in the summer [at the Olympic Games] or not. If I run in the summer than I will not have time to be ready for another fall marathon. If I don’t run in the summer then I will run a fall marathon.

CJ: Any idea which one?

KK: I haven’t decided which one yet, but it would be New York or Chicago – one of the biggest ones.

CJ: I want to thank you for taking time to talk to me. Your career has been a big inspiration to me and many runners.

KK: Thank you for that.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon USA
Running Advice and News


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