Forum Spin Doctor
NEW YORK - Lance Armstrong will get a little help from an all-star cast of distance runners past and present when he makes his marathon debut Sunday.
Armstrong, who relied on the support of teammates to win a record seven straight Tour de France titles, will be paced by former marathon champions Alberto Salazar and Joan Benoit Samuelson, as well as reigning Olympic 1,500- and 5,000-meter gold medalist Hicham El Guerrouj, in the New York race.
"I wouldn't do it for anybody else," said Salazar, the last American winner of the New York City Marathon, way back in 1982. "I just wanted to spend some time with him."
The 48-year-old Salazar will run the first 10 miles of the race with Armstrong. The 49-year-old Samuelson, who won the first Olympic women's marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, will run the next 10. El Guerrouj then will do 6 miles with Armstrong, who will be on his own for the final stretch of the 26.2-mile race.
The three will try to keep Armstrong, who ran triathlons as a teenager but never has attempted a marathon, to a 7-minute-per-mile pace.
Salazar, who works in the running department at Nike, resumed training when given the chance to run with Armstrong. He has been running 5 miles a day, six times a week, and is confident he can get through the first 10 miles. But that'll be it for the three-time New York winner.
"I'm kind of the slow link in this group, I'm an old man now," Salazar joked in a telephone interview Thursday from his Portland, Ore., office. "To try to go the full distance would be tough."
Armstrong has said he hopes to finish the race in under 3 hours. He will be running in large part to raise awareness and money for his foundation and for cancer research.