The 2008 Olympic Marathon gold medalist will compete in the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon on Sunday.
Interview by: Matt Fitzgerald
Constantina Dita was considered one of the better–but not one of the best–marathon runners in the world before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her resume included a victory in the 2004 Chicago Marathon and a personal best marathon time of 2:21:30. But the Romanian-born resident of Boulder, Colo., proved to be the strongest woman on the day of the Olympic Marathon and won the race at the age of 38.
Now 40, Dita is still in the game, with hopes of defending her Olympic title in London in 2012. Her next stepping stone on the way there is Sunday’s Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. She spoke to us by phone shortly before making the eastward journey for her first Rock ‘n’ Roll racing experience.
Competitor.com: What have you been up to since the Olympics?
Constantina Dita: After the Olympic Games I ran a few races, but I was traveling a lot, going to many races as a guest. But I was still training and still running and very competitive. This year I ran the London Marathon and after London I took a little break. I got back into training and now I want to run Virginia Beach because everybody said it is a great race, like Nuta Olaru [a fellow Romanian elite runner], who has run many times there.
After the Olympic Games I was very busy, you know. Before I had the Olympic gold medal I didn’t know what happened when somebody won the gold medal in the Olympic Games. I was back in my country after the Olympic Games and I met the president of our country and the prime minister.
Have you been healthy? Have you had any injuries?
No, no injuries.
What was your most recent race?
London. I ran 2 hours 41 minutes for the marathon, and that was not a good time for me. I started to be a little sick before the race. Two days before the race I caught a cold. I had a problem with my nose, my throat, everything. In the race, my mindset was just finish the race.
How is your fitness now?
I’m training every day. I feel my condition is good. But after four months of not running any races I don’t know how fast I’ll be now. I think I can run really well now. I want to come in the top three in the Virginia Beach race. I want to see how I’m feeling after four months of not racing. I want to see which level I am at now. You never know; a race is a race.
Are you planning to run a fall marathon?
I don’t know yet if I’ll run a full marathon in the fall. I’m thinking of trying more shorter races, like half marathons and ten thousands, in the fall. I did a lot of mileage in June and July. I did two-hour training runs every weekend. But I don’t have the speed I want for the marathon. I could run a marathon, but not very well the way I want to do.
When do you think you will be ready for another marathon?
If I don’t do one in the fall, and I do shorter races to build more speed, then maybe in the spring. I don’t know.
You’re 40 years old now. Do you feel that age has begun to catch up with you yet as a runner?
I tried last year to train the same way I did before and it was not working. After London I changed my training a little bit because I’m getting older. My mind is the same. I want to do the same training, but my body is not listening to me! Maybe because I have a lot of years of running [in my legs]. Maybe my body is telling me it’s not the same as it was before. I’m trying to do the same times in my training, but I don’t know if I can run like I did before. I think for me it’s not about the age, it’s about too many years of work.
What are the changes you’ve made?
I’m not doing Sunday training all the time anymore. Before I did Sunday training all the time. I did a long [run] on Sunday. Now I’m doing a Thursday [long run] and Sunday I take a break. I’ve gone down a little in my mileage, and it’s good for me.
Have you thought about retiring, or do you think you will continue to compete as a master’s runner?
I’m thinking of running until the Olympic Games in 2012 in London. I still want to run very well. It is still in my mind, you know? I don’t know what I will do after 2012. I’m [already] a master, but I want to compete stronger than the masters! We’ll see.[sgi:MattFitzgerald]