Meb Keflezighi, photo by PhotoRun.net
Meb Keflezighi ran a fine race last weekend in New York, as he prepares for the 2015 BAA Boston Marathon. Elliott Denman caught up with Meb, and notes that shortly after his run through Boston, he will reach the age of 40 on, of all day, the fifth of May.
NYC Half Marathon Story updated by Editor, March 21, 2015
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
May Day, May Day, May Day !!
The fifth of May, actually, and for devotees of the running game it will be time for the remarkable Mebrahtom – just call him “Meb” – Keflezighi to celebrate his 40th birthday.
The celebrated Meb will have worlds to smile for on May 5, 2015.
There’s been so much cheer in this man’s life – after an uphill fight all his early years.
His arrival in the USA (via Italy) after enduring childhood refugee horrors
in beleaguered Eritrea; his stardom as a runner at San Diego High School and then UCLA; his four NCAA gold medals, followed by a 12th place in the 2000 Sydney Olympic 10,000-meter final; his fourth place in his second Olympic marathon, at London in 2012.
And, as memorable as any of his career achievements, his 2009 NYC Marathon win, 27 years after the last American men’s triumph over the Big Apple’s five boroughs, followed by his emotion-charged triumph at the “one year after-scarred” 2014 Boston Marathon.
But, magnificent as all those achievements surely have been, Meb has never been one to look in life’s rear-view windows, either.
“I was healthy coming in and I came out of this one healthy, so that’s
pretty encouraging to me; I know what I now have to do to be ready for Boston (April 20),” Meb said after running eighth, as third American finisher, in the 20,000-plus United Airlines NYC Half Marathon last Sunday morning.
After running with th
e lead group at least half the way around the 13.1-mile Manhattan route, Meb settled back into the solid rhythm that got him to the finish line at Water and Wall streets off the lower East River in one hour, two minutes and 17 seconds, just 1:11 back of over-all winner Leonard Korir of Kenya, the former NCAA champion at Iona College, and only 13 seconds and three finish-line places behind the top USA citizen, ex-Georgetown star, 27-year-old Andrew Bumbalough.
“Boston, being what it is, and what it represents, will certainly put a whole lot of pressure on me.” said Meb.
“That’s why I’m looking forward to it so much. That’s the kind of pressure I love.”
Check this for pressure: Until Meb led the way in 2014 (running 2:08.37), no American male had won the run from Hopkinton to Boylston Street since Greg Meyer’s triumphant run down Boylston in 1983! And if you’re searching the archives beyond the dazzling deeds of Boston Billy, who, before Grey Meyer, won four Boston marathons, (1975, 1978, 1979, 1980), you’ll see that the last American to score a repeat Boston win was the famed Clarence DeMar in taking the last of his six titles in 1928.
So, with this one under his belt, Meb jetted back to his California training base to double down on preparations for his Boston title defense and the attack on what may seem an age “barrier” to some but is merely a number to him.
When he makes his stretch run down Boylston Street on April 20, he’ll be reminded early and often that the next age bracket opens to him just 15 days later.
The American Masters marathon record for 40-somethings? That’s the 2:13.52 clocked by Mbarak Hussein at Minneapolis back in 2006.
Of course, the most critical date circled on all of Meb’s calendars is the 13th of February, 2016.
The most important marathon run in The City of Angels since the 1984 Olympic Games comes to L.A. with the staging of the USA Olympic Marathon Trials on that 13th of February next year.
Meb will be running for his fourth trip to the Olympic Games and anyone downplaying his chances of placing 1, 2 or 3 on the Road to Rio DeJaneiro will be making a very bad mistake.
Only a very tough break back in November 2007 cost him yet another Olympic opportunity.
Running the USA Olympic Trial Marathon in New York’s Central Park, Meb somehow broke a hip yet still finished in eighth place. But the real sadness came later when he was told that very good friend and training partner Ryan Shay had collapsed and died earlier in the race.
“Yes, a fourth Olympics for me would be wonderful,” said Meb. “Sure I’ll be 40-plus but that shouldn’t make any difference. I’m not going to let it.
“Everything’s going well right now, I don’t expect any problems with the age thing.”
“Sure, there are all these great young guys coming up, like Andrew (Bumbalough) here and a lot of others.
“They inspire me, but maybe I can inspire them, too.”
Needless to say, inspiring all calendar-watchers is Bernard Lagat.
Already a four-time Olympian (and twice a medalist at 1500 meters), Lagat continued running brilliantly this winter indoor season.
After marking his own 40th birthday on Dec. 12, 2014, the remarkable,
resilient Kenya-born Arizonan went out and raced to two brilliant World
Masters records – with his 3:54.91 in the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games at New York’s Armory Track and Field Center on Feb. 14, and 7:37.92 3000 meters at Metz, France 11 days later.
At the other end of the age spectrum in the NYC Half were Alex Whitney of Binghamton, N.Y. and Delphine Thiripais of Liege, Belgium.
Whitney, 17, led all teen-age men in 1:21:51. Thiripais, 18, outran all teen-age women in 1:25:40.
And sparkling as brightly as any in this giant-sized New York Road Runners
production were Jesus Jimenez and Erika Yamazaki.
While Leonard Korir, and women’s winner Molly Huddle (1:08.31), et al, were having it out and up front over the 13.1 miles, Jimenez, Yamazaki and a flock of elementary-schoolers,middle-schoolers and high schoolers were doing their thing in the concurrent NYRR Times Square Kids Run.
Other than New Year’s Eve festivities, the very core of The Big Apple is
never closed to auto traffic.
But NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg got this done, too, and the youngsters had themselves a heck of a time. Jimenez raced his 1500 meters in 6:04, Yamazaki hers in 8:04.
He attends the Manhattan School of Science and Mathematics, she LaGuardia High School.
“I want to be a dentist,” said Jimenez. “I want to be a pediatrician,” she said.
There was no running away from the obvious – there’s room in the running game for Keflezighi, for Korir, for Huddle – and for Jimenez and Yamazaki, too.