Meb Keflezighi, RNR San Diego, photo by PhotoRun.net
Meb Keflezighi is a complete runner. Honing his skills on the cross country courses in Southern California, then, began to race high school track & field. In college, under the thoughtful eye of Coach Bob Larsen, Meb began to take that high school talent and truly hone it.
I became a believer when Meb broke Mark Nenow’s long standing AR of 27:13.98 in 2001. I was standing in the center of Stanford’s grassy field, watching Meb churn out the laps.
His 2004 Olympic silver medal was won the old fashion way. In absolutely hellacious conditions ( I was there), Meb kept to his plan with Coach Larsen and pursued his dreams through the streets of Athens..
In 2014, Meb Keflezighi gave all of America’s running fans what they had desired since 1983-an American win at Boston.
Now, as the runner looks at Forty, what has changed?
Nothing, as far as I can see….
I sat on the men’s pace truck for the half marathon in San Diego after less than four hours of sleep.
I had jumped on a plane after two days in Eugene, Oregon, worshiping at the altar of the gods of American athletics.
Now, I was off to see how Meb fared at the advanced age of 40, which he achieved on Cinquo de May (May 5).
Meb Keflezighi, like Jenn Rhines were here to run the USATF Half Marathon champs for Masters.
Meb rocks and rolls through San Diego, photo by PhotoRun.net
Meb had recovered from Boston pretty quickly, and his training was “at 80 percent.”
Coach Larsen, a man of many words, but more smiles, was quite open that Meb was in good shape.
The pace was fast and furious from the beginning. If anyone thought that Meb was going to sit back, they were sadly mistaken.
Meb and a group of five, including Matt Llano, Jordan Chipangama. They were running 4:43 per mile pace, hitting the 5k in 14:43, 10 in 29:27, and by six miles, Meb had an eleven second lead (he had been running up front after four miles).
Meb looked light and strong, his clean form just repeating as went down hills, up hills and around some crazy turns.
Meb told me after the race, he was looking back around the turns to figure out where everyone was.
It was not until 9 and a half miles that Jordan Chipangama caught up with Meb. Thirteen years younger than Meb, Jordan battled with Meb through 12 and one half miles.
” Meb asked me how I would like to end this race,” noted Jordan Chipangama after the race.
It should be noted that Jordan was hired to run the race as a pace setter for Meb, helping him reach the Masters US record of 1:03 and change. Jordan was to run up to eight miles. After that, he choose to finish, to the consternation of event staff.
Meb has been around the road circuit more than one and figured this young man had some wheels. In the end, it came down to a furious last hundred meters, with Jordan Chipangama setting a huge PB and win, in 1:02.27 with Meb Keflezighi in second in 1:02.29, nearly a minute faster than the current AR.
But, as the half marathon course does not qualify for records (the last three miles drop you downhill like a piano out a four story window), it does qualify for 15k and 10 miles. Meb should get those records, but no half.
He did get a Masters win in his first race, and came within two seconds of winning the whole caboodle.
When I spoke to Meb afterwards, I asked him how he had recovered from Boston. ” Well, from this race effort, I would say pretty good.” Meb said with a smile.
If you want to see why Meb Keflezighi is so loved, so adored by his fans, then, follow Meb around AFTER a race. In the VIP area, Meb stood for a dozen photos and signed autographs. He joined a friend and I at our breakfast table with his brother, Hawi, who has been his agent for as long as I have known Meb.
Meb works for his sponsors. His involvement in Skechers, a combination of great timing, luck and carefully developed visibility has given Meb huge cache in running. Skechers Performance, a division of Skechers has GoWalk and GoRun product, and they are crushing the walking category with a developing presence in running. Meb has helped with product, and his wins in Boston and NYC, plus his fourth in London (his second best performance, in my mind, only behind Athens), has given him a huge following.
Meb’s family with his Meb Fathead, photo by PhotoRun.net
Why is Meb so popular? He is the American dream, period.
Meb came over to the States with his family from war torn Eritrea via a couple years in Italy. His father and family worked hard to bring them over to the States. I first heard of Meb while he was in high school from one of his relatives, who drove taxis from San Diego airport in the early 1990s.
His development is a product of hard work, family support and an absolutely amazing relationship with his coach and mentor, Bob Larson. Bob is the merry prankster of coaching. A man dearly loved by his former athletes, Larson has devoted nearly two decades to the development of this American dream.
Today, in his first race as a Masters, Meb was happy. Would have liked the overall win today? Sure.
And here is the challenge with road racing. Nearly 30,000 people were running today in Central San Diego. But, because a name athlete, a name American athlete (Jordan is applying for US citizenship), did not win, it will not get past the agate in most newspapers.
Where does Meb go after this?
Probably Bix 7 miler, Beacon to Beacon and Falmouth this summer, and a fall marathon.
And then, if all pans out, we will probably see Meb at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
And, even as the runner embraces 40, count him out of LA next February at your own peril.
Meb Keflezighi is a championship racer. He is best when all the marbles are out and it is winner take all. His fourth place in London should have been a lesson for all.
In fact, Meb Keflezighi is the Rodney Dangerfield of marathon racers. The guy has an Olympic medal, NYC and Boston wins, and a track pedigree that can peel paint.
My final rant: Meb’s wins are never about times, it is about racing all the guys in the field that day, and Meb churns it out.
Meb guts it out.
In his Boston win, Meb was about to churn up stomach contents with less than a mile to go and a man with a three minute better PB was moving up on him.
That is how I judge an athlete.
When the chips are really down, and you are on global TV, about to be eaten alive by a very fast marathoner.
What do you do?
Well, Meb Keflezighi digs in, and wins.
A runner looks at 40, and it must look pretty good from Meb’s viewpoint.