Q&A with Bernard Lagat

Sports Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 16, 2011



The men’s and women’s indoor track squads crossed paths with an all-time distance champion, Bernard Lagat, at the New York Road Runners Saturday Night at the Armory last weekend. In a time of eight minutes, 10.07 seconds, Lagat, 36, captured his fifth American indoor record. He has won two Olympic medals in his career, in addition to seven gold medals at various World Championships. Lagat started his career competing for his native Kenya, but became an American citizen in 2004. The Herald caught up with Lagat after his record-setting race.


Herald: At what age did you first start to run seriously, and what did it consist of at that time?


Lagat: Well, you know, the thing is I started running seriously after high school. I started training seriously but competing — I wouldn’t even call it competing because I was a college student and didn’t know much about anything … I was 21 when I started competing, I would say, seriously. And then, of course, following up, coming up to Washington State (University), meeting my best coach, James Li, who has been my coach up ’til now. So everything has been so good, because from one coach who is really good in Kenya to another one who is even better in terms of coaching collegiate athletes and also professional runners.


Why did you decide to become a naturalized American citizen and compete for the United States instead of Kenya?


What made me decide to do that is the fact that I was looking at my career and because what I’m going to do after my career is over is stay in America and, you know, work and raise my family in America. … I want to settle down, so when I start my family I could be able to stay in one place. And of course, being a runner, I would like to represent the United States to the best of my abilities, which I’ve been able to do in so many outings that I’ve been able to go, like world championships and even Olympics — even though I could not make it to the finals of the 1500, but made the finals of the five in 2008. Every experience I’ve had running in a 10-year period has been of great importance. So that’s one of the things that I actually enjoy in my career — representing the United States.


What does your training consist of today?


Well, it is a little bit changed. I used to concentrate more on not long on the distance, in terms of doing the mileage, but now I can do longer mileage. So I am doing longer now, but I am concentrating on doing longer but also faster. If I do long, sometimes I split it into two, almost like I have a tempo run in there. I have to go all out, but still, at the end of it, I’m running 13 miles. And then we do track session once a week, sometimes twice a week, do purely tempo runs twice a week. So it’s those kind of workouts I do more than I used to do before. So it feels like my workouts are more distance now, more endurance paced because of my 5000-meter races.


And so what should we expect from you in the future? What races do you have your eyes on?


I have my eyes on the world championship 5000 meters. I’ll be running with strong guys now, young guys. There’s a guy from Kenya who ran 12:53 in 5000 meters last week. So those are the guys I’m expecting to meet, you know, the guy’s 20 years old and he’s running superbly fast right now. Very strong. So it depends who I run against, but hey, I am out there pushing myself 100 percent in training.


And do you have any thoughts on the 2012 Olympics?


Yes — same thing and same approach as I’m doing for 2011 world championships is the same approach I will also be doing next year in 2012 as I prepare for Olympics. Of course, the more important thing is to be healthy, to be strong and to train well. At the same time, just pray that all goes well at the trials, that you make the team, because now the United States team is getting stronger. … They know that in order for them to be the best in the world, they have to race against the best. And you see the American guys going overseas competing at the very best level, and they do the best job. I’m proud of them all, and I’m happy that I’m in the mix of the American athletes that are doing well so far. So I’m going to be doing that knowing that it’s important, first of all, if I want to go to Olympics to run strong and to qualify for it.