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The Wisdom of Bob Kennedy

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During the darkest era of American distance running in the 1990s, Bob Kennedy was a shining light running 7:30 for 3K, 8:11 for 2 Miles, and 12:58 for the 5K — all American records in his day.

Recently, I was forwarded a segment of an impossible to find interview with him by dulation.com in the late 1990s or early 2000s. I could find Part 3 of the interview, but parts 1 and 2 seem to be lost.

When an informed person speaks, it is wise to listen.

Below is the interview segment I received, unaltered, with my favorite parts in bold font

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duathlon.com:  What has been your most disappointing race?

Bob Kennedy: A couple. Going back to the end of 1997 when I dropped out of the Berlin 5000m and dropping out of the Zurich 5000m this year. Up until those 2 races I have never dropped out of a race.

duathlon.com: The Zurich 5000m was 4 days after setting the American Record in the 3000m.  What happened?

Bob Kennedy:  A combination of things. I didn't recover as well, and it was abnormally hot and humid. It was over 90 degrees. I don't think I was focused. I had a problem this year for most of the year in the sense that I trained as hard or harder than I have ever trained before. I put in more miles, I was running faster in the interval sessions. So when I stepped on the track in places like Zurich and Paris and all these places I expected to perform better than I ever had. And what I forgot was that you still have to go out there and focus and run hard and hurt and go through the pain and make the decisions to keep going and not back off.   I forgot that. I just expected to step on the track and have it happen.

And so I think that is part of what happened in Zurich. I was able to correct that in the last week of the season [a 13:03 5000m in Berlin and the Grand Prix Final in Moscow, a tactical 3000m in which Bob ran 7:52] which was really the only positive going into the next year. That kind of retooled my mind back to the old Bob Kennedy where I was always tough.  Maybe I got beat or I didn't run quite so well, but I always ran tough every time out. I kicked myself in the ass and chewed myself out before I raced in Berlin and hopefully I got that taken care of.

duathlon.com:  Before you refocused in the last 2 races of the 1998 season, how would your races go?

Bob Kennedy:  Mostly during the races I would step on the line and feel great for the first 3 or 4 laps, which is the easy part. As you know, the pain goes in waves.  It really hurts and then it gets better, and it really hurts and then it gets better, and as long as you keep sticking it out through the parts that really hurt, you end up doing alright. But as soon as it got to the point when it really hurt bad and I had to make that decision to get through it, I would just bale, because I think I was asking myself 'Why isn't this working? I have trained harder than I ever had'.  But it was working.  The physical part was working but the mental part wasn't. I forgot to combine them both.

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Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm 

Jonathan Marcus