Meb Keflezighi
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Meb Keflezighi brought back to marathon running by special email

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BOSTON — As a hurting Meb Keflezighi hit the halfway point of the 2017 Boston Marathon, and the leaders pulled away, the 41-year-old started thinking he made a mistake by not retiring after the Rio Olympics.

“A year ago, if you asked me if I would do the Boston Marathon [again], I wouldn’t have said that,” he said Friday.

Yet the 2014 Boston champ joined the elite runners at the pre-race press conference three days before he runs his 27th marathon. Keflezighi will not try to keep pace with them on Monday (8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

Instead, the 122nd Boston Marathon will be Keflezighi’s first 26.2 miler in a non-competitive capacity.

Keflezighi is starting a second marathon phase as a charity runner. He’s representing the Martin Richard Foundation, in honor of the youngest victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

He plans to enter the New York City Marathon for Team for Kids in November and, if the cause is right, more marathons in future years. Maybe even one in the name of his own Meb Foundation.

“I still love running,” Keflezighi said. “I don’t miss the pain.”

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Keflezighi always planned to continue running, even pacing races up to half marathons, but nothing longer than that. He was satisfied with 13th- and 11th-place finishes in Boston and New York City last year to complete a career that also included a 2004 Olympic silver medal (among four Olympic teams overall) and the 2009 NYC Marathon title.

Then his brother received an email from Bill Richard, whose 8-year-old son died in the 2013 twin bombings on Boylston Street. Keflezighi met Bill and his wife, Denise, before the 2014 Boston Marathon. He gave them a hug, prayed for them and said, if there’s anything you ever need, please reach out to me.

Bill remembered. The email to Keflezighi’s agent and brother, Merhawi, before the New York City Marathon last fall asked if Keflezighi would be interested in running for the Martin Richard Foundation.

“I know Meb is a man of his word,” Bill wrote, according to Keflezighi. “I don’t want to control him, but he said this, so can he do it?”

If it was a 5K or 10K, Keflezighi would have accepted immediately. But he needed some time to consider another marathon. Ultimately, he signed up. Keflezighi said his longest training run was only 17 miles. His goal is to break three hours.

“I’m counting on my 120,000 miles that I’ve done over the years and my talent to get me through this one,” he said.

Keflezighi hopes to have the opportunity to enjoy the world’s oldest annual marathon in a way he didn’t as an elite racer. Maybe stop at the Scream Tunnel to hug Wellesley College students.

“I was planning on taking my phone and taking pictures,” Keflezighi said, “but with the [forecasted] rain I probably won’t do it.”

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Erin Hamlin to run New York City Marathon

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Erin Hamlin, the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist and Team USA flag bearer at the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony, will run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Hamlin, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who retired after her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang at age 31, is running to fundraise for the Women’s Sports Foundation. So is Marlen Esparza, who in 2012 became the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing medalist (flyweight bronze).

Hamlin has no marathon experience, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“Being challenged in sport is something I am very familiar with,” Hamlin said in a mass email Wednesday, according to TeamUSA.org. “Long distance running is something I most certainly am not!! It will be difficult, mentally and physically daunting, but a way to test my abilities in a sport so far out of my comfort zone.”

Many Olympians in non-running sports have raced the New York City Marathon.

Bill Demong, the 2010 U.S. Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer and only U.S. Olympic Nordic combined champion, ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 2:33:05, crushing eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno‘s 3:25:14 from 2011.

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Softball set to return to Olympics as first event on Tokyo 2020 schedule

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Softball, returning to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, is scheduled to kick off the 2020 Tokyo Games, two days before the Opening Ceremony.

The preliminary master schedule for the Tokyo Olympics was published Wednesday, with the first softball game scheduled for 10 a.m. local time on the Wednesday before the Opening Ceremony.

The first game is scheduled to be held in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the Games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster

Traditionally, soccer has been the first sport to have action at a Summer Olympics, one or two days before the Opening Ceremony. While soccer is again scheduled to have matches that same Wednesday, they start later than 10 a.m.

The Tokyo 2020 schedule is subject to change and certainly not a final version — swimming, diving and synchronized swimming schedules are still to be determined, but those sports do not typically start before the Opening Ceremony.

Softball was added in 1991 to the Olympic program to debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The U.S. won the first three gold medals before softball and baseball were narrowly voted off the Olympic program in 2005/06 (a 52-52 IOC vote for softball, with a majority needed to stay in the Olympics), with the 2008 Beijing Games being the last edition. Japan won the last Olympic softball gold medal 10 years ago.

Then on Aug. 3, 2016, baseball and softball were among five sports added for the 2020 Tokyo Games only, at the request of Tokyo Olympic organizers. Baseball and softball are not guaranteed to remain on the Olympic program in Paris in 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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