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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Meb Keflezighi to run Boston Marathon

Meb Keflezighi
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Meb Keflezighi isn’t coming out of competitive retirement, but he will be running the Boston Marathon on April 16.

Keflezighi, who won the 2014 Boston Marathon one year after twin bombings rocked the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race, will run “on a non-competitive basis” representing the Martin Richard Foundation, in honor of the youngest victim of the bombings, according to the foundation.

The foundation “provides opportunities for young people to learn, grow and lead through volunteerism and community engagement,” according to its website.

Keflezighi retired after finishing 11th in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 5, fittingly his 26th career 26.2-mile race. The 42-year-old raced in four Olympics and is the only person to win an Olympic medal and the New York City and Boston Marathons.

When Keflezighi won Boston in 2014, he did so with the names of three bombing victims, including Richard, and a slain police officer written on his bib. Last April, at his final Boston Marathon, Keflezighi embraced Richard’s family in the finish area on Boylston Street, feet away from where Richard, then 8 years old, was killed at the 2013 race.

This year’s competitive fields are loaded with elite Americans, headlined by 2017 New York City Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan and two-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp.

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In Meb Keflezighi’s final marathon, he shares in the joy

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NEW YORK — There was a moment, about halfway through, when 42-year-old Meb Keflezighi thought he could win the final marathon of his career.

“I knew there was going to be a big deciding factor at one point,” Keflezighi said afterward, referencing his time in a leading group of about 12 men as the 26.2-mile race snaked from Queens into Manhattan.

Keflezighi, the only person to win an Olympic medal and the New York City and Boston Marathons (in 2009 and 2014, respectively), then began to feel his age.

He faded about 15 seconds behind the pack in the 20th mile entering the Bronx and another minute and a half in the 23rd as Central Park came into view.

“When the turnover is fast, I just can’t do it,” he said. “There’s no way. … I stopped four times probably, four or five times, same old usual thing. When you are 42 years old and competing against the best of the best in the world, your body is not right.”

Keflezighi was 11th in 2:15:29, 4:35 behind Kenyan winner Geoffrey Kamworor, ending an incredible career that included four Olympics. Kamworor was born in 1992, when Keflezighi was a California high school junior.

Watch Keflezighi’s finish here.

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A small percentage — if that — of knowledgable track fans would have predicted that Keflezighi would win Sunday. Eleventh place in his 11th New York City Marathon, he’ll take it.

In typical fashion, Keflezighi spent the last uphill half-mile in Central Park fighting the grimace and acknowledging cheering fans. Waves. Thumbs-up. Blown kisses. Fist pumps.

He collapsed in exhaustion at the finish line, sprawled out on the pavement where he made his marathon debut 15 years ago and swore he’d never run 26.2 miles again.

Keflezighi lay there for five seconds. A man dressed as a race official and his wife and daughters came over to drag him up.

“Today was a struggle, but to get to that finish line was a magical moment,” said Keflezighi, joined by dozens of family members in Manhattan this week. “It was a beautiful victory lap, you could say.”

Keflezighi knew that he would race Sunday with the support of thousands of fans along the route.

What he didn’t know was that perhaps his biggest source of inspiration would be Shalane Flanagan. Also a four-time Olympian, she became the first U.S. female runner to win New York since Keflezighi was a 2-year-old in Eritrea.

“I heard that she won at [mile] 24, and I think I did a jump with both hands in the air,” Keflezighi said.

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