Meb Keflezighi in familiar spot as New York City Marathon underdog

Meb Keflezighi
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NEW YORK — Two elite marathoners are targeting the New York City Marathon course record Sunday. Meb Keflezighi, the inspirational Boston Marathon winner, is not one of them.

And he’s OK with that.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself, but my career has been solidified as 110 percent complete,” Keflezighi said Thursday.

Keflezighi became the most recognizable U.S. marathoner when he triumphed in Boston on April 21, one year after twin bombings rocked the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race. He became the first American man to win Boston in 31 years.

It was an incredible upset in a race where the winner almost always comes from a small number of pre-race favorites. Like with Boston, Keflezighi is not part of that tiny group going into Sunday. The group may be as small as two.

Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai and Wilson Kipsang said three weeks ago they intend to break the course record of 2:05:06, set by Mutai in 2011. Mutai is trying to win his third straight New York City Marathon, something no man has done in 32 years. Kipsang held the marathon world record up until September, a mark of 2:03:27.

“If they’re going for 2:04, 2:05, I cannot do that,” Keflezighi said.

Keflezighi, who has run the New York City Marathon eight times before and won it in 2009, owns a fastest marathon time of 2:08:37, his clocking in Boston six months ago. It’s hard to expect much better at age 39 in New York, where his best time is 2:09:13. No man that old has won the New York City Marathon.

Of course, Mutai and Kipsang could be too confident, go out at a record pace and falter in the second half of the race. Or, the Kenyans might not have it in their legs come Sunday, like the Boston favorites who couldn’t catch Keflezighi’s break on April 21.

If Keflezighi finds himself with a chance to win, he could join exclusive company. He would be the second man in the last 12 years to win Boston and New York in the same year. The other was Mutai in 2011. The last U.S. man to pull off the double was Alberto Salazar in 1982.

Keflezighi finished so far back at last year’s New York City Marathon, 23rd in 2:23:47, that it sparked retirement questions.

There is no talk of quitting now.

Keflezighi hopes to compete at his fourth Olympics in Rio in 2016, should he make the team at the Olympic Trials. He would be the oldest U.S. Olympic runner of all time, according to sports-reference.com.

“Whether I win [New York], awesome, if I don’t win, I’m still going to be Meb,” he said.

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