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NXN Interview: Dathan Ritzenhein

11/17/2008 - 14:35

RitzenheinOlympics08.jpg November 17, 2008 by Larry Eder. As part of the build up to the Nike NXN meet, top Nike athletes will be appearing at the regional qualifiers for the NXN. Dathan Ritzenhein [file photo] is coming into his own. A very capable 10,000 meter runner in college, a fine cross country runner as well in college and high school, Dathan has gotten better as the distance has gotten longer. His ninth place Olympic showing in the marathon showed some guts, and gave him a certain level of confidence, running very close to his best in less than ideal conditions.

My first recollection of Dathan was when Jason Hartmann and Dathan went one, two in the Foot Locker Regional during Jason's senior year and Dathan's sophomore year of high school. The UW Parkside course was tough, and Jason and Dathan ran just over 15 minutes for the tough course.

Dathan is one of the elite Nike athletes helping to promote the Nike NXN 2008, where the regional determine both the top regional teams, but also, for the first time, top individuals who will compete December 6, 2008 for bragging rights as the best prep cross country runners and cross country teams in the US.

Here is Dathan's interview:

1. What was your first experience in cross country?
My first experience with cross country was the summer before 8th grade. I had done only road races and track before. We meet with the local running club and all the high school cross country runners were there. I went on a trail run with them and then I was hooked and went out for cross country that fall..

2. What was training like in high school?
I was very serious about training in high school. I ran up to 100 miles a week, doing workouts five days a week plus a long run.

3. When did you make a commitment to running?
I first made a commitment to running when I was around 11. I started going to the local running club and just began running local 5 and 10k's. The winter of 8th grade is when I got very committed and trained very hard, giving me huge breakthrough.

4. What was college training like?
In college we trained only once a day most of the time but it was high volume. Also the long runs were very intense, which really helped to develop me into a marathoner.

5. What is difference between running in high school and running in college?
In high school I was the top guy by far, but when I went to college I had to learn how to get my butt kicked. I still was one of the best guys in the NCAA as a freshman but training day in and day out with guys who are older than you can be difficult.

6. Tell us about your experience in the Olympic Trials?
I was fortunate to run the Olympic trials marathon a year ago, and it was great. I was able to qualify early and the pressure was off for the summer. So I ran the Olympic trials 10k just for fun. I had already qualified in the marathon and so I trained through the race and just enjoyed being able to race in my own backyard at Hayward Field.

8. Tell us about your high school experiences in cross country? How was it in College and then open?
Not to sound arrogant but in high school I dominated cross country, but we weren't so lucky as a team. We always had great teams but we were second at our state meet three times in a row until we finally won my senior year. As an individual I was able to win two national titles as well as get a bronze medal at the World Jr. XC Championships. In college I only ran two seasons but I was 4th as a freshman and won asa Senior, capping off an undefeated season, My freshman year we also won the NCAA Championships as a team. As a professional cross country is a little different, but I have won two US titles and I have won or placed third in some IAAF professional races.

9. What keeps you sane during training? Favorite music? Favorite books?
I have an amazing wife and one year old daughter that keep me sane during the in between time. I train a lot so just being able to hang out with them keeps me relaxed. I love to read as well, I am a big history buff.

10. Do you train with a group or individually?
I train mostly on my own. I do this for a couple reasons. First I think I beat up my training partners, but mostly I am able to focus my energy more. I usually need to be held back so if I train with other people daily I tend to do more damage to them and myself.

11. Do you have a favorite quote or a favorite song that gives you inspiration?
I love Whitesnake, "Here I go again". I love it because I feel like I am out there on my own and that I am the master of my own destiny.

Dathan Ritzenhein has always been a great sport about questions. He allowed us to do a live interview at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon this past month. We thank Josh Rowe for tracking Dathan down.

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